Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: "RIDE 'EM / COWBOY" (30D: With 27-Down, western cry) - four theme answers features phrases whose final words are also the names of famous horses
The horses and their riders:
- SILVER - Lone Ranger
- TOPPER - Hopalong Cassidy
- TRIGGER - Roy Rogers
- SCOUT - Tonto
I have only one problem with this puzzle. Tonto is not a "COWBOY." Other than that, genius. This is an exemplary Wednesday puzzle - themed like a Monday or Tuesday, but executed with originality and panache in ways you don't often see on early-week puzzles. The phrase RIDE 'EM / COWBOY, as well as its placement in the grid, takes this puzzle from good to great. The non-theme fill is fine - occasionally brilliant - but that doesn't matter, because today is all about the theme (which, frankly, I didn't get til after I was done with the puzzle - "QUICK, CHART, HAIR, TALENT ... what do they have in common?").
- 17A: Mercury (quickSILVER)
- 11D: #1 on the Hot 100 (chart TOPPER)
- 25D: Discoverer of stars? (talent SCOUT)
- 60A: Easily set off, as a temper (hair TRIGGER)
Started off badly in the NW, as I had no idea what 1A: Low pitch symbol (F clef) could be, and 1D: Help page rubric was equally mystifying ... despite the fact that this blog has one: FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions). The easy-to-get QUICKSILVER, however, gave me that precious "Q" and took care of all of my NW problems. Tried to go straight down the West coast but was thwarted when I could not think of a three-letter OIL for 23A: What French fries are fried in. Never would have considered the rare and exotic HOT OIL. Why does the capital "F" in "French" feel wrong to me when it's applied to fries? Anyway, moving on - IN A STIR (29A: All riled up). Ick. This and BOARDS (54A: SATs) were the most irksome answers of the day, the former because I don't know who would say it (certainly not a cowboy) and the latter because I've never ever ever heard the word "BOARDS" applied to that stupid high school test. Medical BOARDS, yes ... are SATs "College BOARDS?" So many much better non-SAT clues available for BOARDS. Be creative!!! Also didn't like the clue for TOADY (57A: Courtier). Way too harsh an answer for a simple descriptive clue like [Courtier], which means simply "an attendant to a monarch or other powerful person". I see that a secondary definition of "Courtier" involves obsequious behavior and insincere flattery. OK. Still don't like it. Boring clue for such a deliciously ugly word.
Where was I? Oh yeah, [All riled up] = IN A STIR. I should say that the first answer I entered there was SPASTIC (shares four consecutive letters with IN A STIR). Answer felt wrong (morally wrong), but it fit and seemed at least ballparkish, meaning-wise. The had me wondering why the word I wanted to be ONUS (24D: Big burden) could only be OPUS, which thus kept me on the fence about whether 33A: Listing in Hoyle's should be RULE (which it is) or GAME (which it isn't). From there, I ventured into the middle of the puzzle, uncovered the fabulous RIDE 'EM / COWBOY with just the RI- in place (couldn't believe my great fortune when my first guess was right - I had my fingers crossed). From there, I just radiated out in all directions, in what particular order I can't remember. Possibly down the tried-and-true ISOBAR (39D: Weather map line) past the fantastically colloquial pair of NO DICE (50D: "I ain't buyin' it!") and OKAY GUY (46D: Nice enough fellow) into yet an another BOARD exam - GRE (62D: M.A. hopeful's test), and then ... it's all fuzzy from there.
- 21A: Where to spend time with moguls? (ski run) - this is a perfectly good phrase, but it seems somehow to hover on the margins of legitimacy, as does HAD A BIT (38A: Ate, but not much), which makes me desperately want to add an "E" to its end.
- 47D: Soap alternative (sitcom) - Nobody makes this choice: "Let's see ... 'As the World Turns'? ... or 'My Two Dads'?" True, with cable, SITCOMs are likely on opposite soaps all the time, but these two genres technically belong to two completely different parts of the TV schedule.
- 28A: Other, in Zaragoza (otro) - here's a case of trying (too hard) to Seuss up the clue for a very ordinary answer. Pet peeve about this word (as far as its puzzleness goes): stupid gender! OTRO or OTRA? Dunno. Gotta wait.
- 34A: Tower-top attraction (view) - weird. Good, but weird. I was trying to imagine part of a tower. TURRET? SPIRE? ARROW LOOPS?
- 36A: Bear, in Bilbao (oso) - Why not [Bear, in Zaragoza]? "Donde esta el OTRO OSO?!" (exclaimed the Spanish zookeeper).
- 40A: "Bill Moyers Journal" airer (PBS) - I should add "airer" to my list of "Only In Crossword Clues" words.
- 45A: Archer who aims for the heart (Eros) - wanted ANNE, as I used to have a minor crush on her. I remember seeing "Fatal Attraction" and thinking "Why would anyone cheat on such a hot wife with such a scary, scary lady?"
- 47A: Part of the Kazakhstan landscape (steppe) - one of my favorite geographical words. I learned it from Mrs. Mc... Mc... dang, what was my 7th grade Geography teacher's name. I had a crush on her daughter when I was in grade school ... Ugh. Memory ... fading. I remember I did a massive project on Tanzania. Mrs. STEVENS! Woo hoo, Memory, back. I thought her name was McSomething because the boy that her daughter liked when I liked her daughter was named McConnell. Freudian!
- 52A: Type measures (ems) - learned this and its counterpart, ENS, from xwords.
- 59A: Barracks boss, for short (NCO) - another common, important xword word.
- 65A: Bygone French coin (sou) - had the "U," but that didn't help, as the answer could just as easily have been ÉCU.
- 2D: Premier _____ (wine designation) (cru) - helped a lot that this was an answer in a recent late-week themeless puzzle.
- 7D: Pinball stoppers (tilts) - like the word, but not in the plural.
- 12D: Prognostication (augury) - so so proud of how quickly I got this - off just the "R," I think.
- 35D: Wave catcher? (ear) - yeah, OK. It catches sound waves.
- 56D: Sister and wife of Hyperion (Thea) - no idea. None. What myth is this from? Ah, I see, they are both Titans, the son and daughter of Gaia and Uranus.
- 58D: Former newspaper publisher _____ Chandler (Otis) - no idea. None. As I have likely said before, there is only one Chandler I care to know:
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld