Friday, May 2, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium
How does a puzzle manage to work in two Zs, a Q and a K, and still manage to be kind of ho-hum? Answer: RLSTNE density. OVERSEERS, SLOGANEER, ENTERED IN, EELERS, HENNAS (38A: Leatherworking dyes), EROSE, and on and on. The Zs were effectively neutered - after their exciting CHEEZWHIZ (28D: Kraft brand) start, by being crossed by short proper nouns. Ditto the Q. The puzzle is actually quite solid, with no real weak spots, only one or two icky stretches, and a genuinely compelling NE corner. But I was surprised by how monotonous most of the fill felt. Not that it was easy. I nearly rated this Medium-Challenging; RAL, TANIA, GWEN, IMIDE, and ANEMO all gave me fits at some point, as did the NEWS part of CBS NEWS (!?) (28A: "See It Now" producer of 1950s TV), and I couldn't decide between BRACHIA and TRACHEA (21D: Bronchoscopist's view) for little while (yeah, I got BRACHIA - the upper parts of your arms - confused with BRONCHIAL, I think). After giving the completed puzzle a once-over, however, I thought it was pretty close to average difficulty for a Friday.
My first two answers in the grid were QUITO (42A: Capital just south of the Equator) and ON END (46D: Without a break), after STOP SHORT failed to pan out for 51A: Declare "I will go no further than this" (draw a line). But due to the high density of stuff I've never heard of before down there in the SE, I had to abandon that corner in search of warmer and more hospitable climes. The SE ended up being the penultimate quadrant that I solved - I finished the puzzle somewhere in the NW, possibly with the "V" in PAVER (2D: One of a lot of workers?). I have no memory of ever seeing two of the long Across clues up there, as MANHATTAN (15A: Cousin of a Rob Roy) became obvious before I ever saw its clue, and OVERSEERS (17A: Heads) came together as I fought for Downs up there. I really should have looked at those Acrosses. They're ... long. Very inefficient of me. Oh well.
The rough stuff:
- 24A: 1960s Elvis-style singer _____ Donner (Ral) - never ever ever ever ... ever heard of this preposterously named person. "Elvis-style?" (here's video => "Hey, nice hat" - HA ha).
- 44D: Ammonia derivative (imide) - another word I've never seen; not surprising, given my chemistry-deprived education.
- 45D: "Lost" actress Raymonde (Tania) - I know I've seen her in xwords before, but ... I resent having to know anything about "Lost"; we get it, you're Lost, now get off the @#$#@$ing island, Gilligan.
- 49D: "Jubilee Trail" novelist Bristow (Gwen) - had OWEN. Thinking OWEN Wister ("The Virginian"). At least I think that's what I was thinking.
- 40A: Philosopher Mo-_____ (Tze) - wanted MONEY or SZYSLAK.
- 3D: Wind: Prefix (anemo-) - so ANEMOnes are full of ... wind? Weird prefix that applies to no common or semi-common words. ANEMOMETER measures wind speed.
- 30D: "I Wish" rapper _____-Lo (Skee) - a gimme for me, but I'm guessing not for many of you.
- 10A: Showing shock (agasp) - had AGAPE (4.9 million Google hits, vs. 14.4K for AGASP, ugh).
- 20A: Charge (tutelage) - love it. One of my favorite words in this grid.
- 15A: Cousin of a Rob Roy (Manhattan) - Bart Simpson makes a killer MANHATTAN during the brief period wherein he works for the mob.
- 16A: 1972 top 10 hit that's seven minutes long ("Layla") - the radio version tended to be abridged. Nice to have this title lady in the puzzle with RHONDA (25A: Beach Boys title girl).
- 18A: Purification process, briefly (decon) - as in DECONtamination. I think of "Silkwood," though I've never actually seen that movie.
- 23A: "And their lies caused them _____": Amos 2:4 ("to err") - flirted with TO DIE and TO END.
- 33A: Couple seen in a restaurant (Shakers) - and I thought they just made furniture.
- 34A: Ice relative (sherbet) - I like ice cream. Every other frozen dessert treat is a sham.
- 36A: Sonata that might not sound good (used car) - "... perhaps"; I see the cutesy play on "sonata" that you're going for here, but the clue - answer relationship is a mess.
- 47A: Famous finger-pointer's declaration ("I Want You") - Uncle Sam! My third favorite Sam, after Toucan Sam and Sam I Am. Oh, and Sam Malone. So fourth favorite. Wait, no, forgot Sam the butcher from "The Brady Bunch" ...
- 49A: Torpedo (gunman) - I'm not familiar with this weapon-to-human transformation.
- 53A: _____ Wafers (Nilla) - have strange urge to sing this word to the tune of "LAYLA"...
- 55A: George _____, longtime Cleveland Orchestra conductor (Szell) - gimme for me, which is weird, as few classical music clues have achieved gimme status in my brain. I just put on R. Strauss's "Sinfonia Domestica," conducted by Szell. The opening is very ... horny. You know what I mean.
- 1D: Gooey goody (s'more) - loved these, but am not exactly sure when I had them, as it's not as if we camped much when I was a kid ... I'm pretty sure these are traditionally made with HERSHEY's (26D: City where Chocolate Avenue crosses Cocoa Avenue) chocolate bars.
- 4D: Rock on a stage (Chris) - he's funny. Can he please do a routine about all this Jeremiah Wright nonsense, like, now? Please, Chris. Please.
- 5D: Bay Stater of Garden Stater (easterner) - was expecting a much more provincial / strange word.
- 7D: Took sides? (ate) - cluing = :(
- 10D: Tree with catkins (alder) - My "MRS. MINIVER" moment ("3M") of the day - I could barely remember what "catkins" were and yet ALDER was the only answer I wanted.
- 11D: Iona College athlete (Gael) - fool me once, shame on you, etc. GAEL was not going to pwn me a second time.
- 12D: "Sheesh!," south of the border ("Ay Caramba!") - I'd have preferred [Bygone Bart Simpson exclamation]
- 13D: One whose work may be catchy (sloganeer) - yay, best part of the puzzle. Move that damned word into the grid! Brilliant.
- 29D: Great Seal image (bald eagle) - weird, but "Great Seal" sounds so papal to me that I did not expect an American frame of reference here.
- 32D: Kazan Cathedral locale (Red Square) - no idea. None. Elia Kazan directed "On the Waterfront," that's what I know about "Kazan."
- 36D: Still "well," but not beyond (unburnt) - everything here makes me go "ugh."
- 41D: Diamond datum (steal) - why use the boring, dusty, vague, pulled-it-out-of-the-attic clue for such an infinitely cluable word? Even within baseball, you could have had a lot more fun with this one.
- 48D: 1994 Jodie Foster title role ("Nell") - I'm sure I'm going to hell for this, but everything about this movie makes me laugh. Here's a trailer. It contains the word "HERSHEY," coincidentally.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld