Saturday, May 24, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
This puzzle had the "-Challenging" part appended to its rating based on my harrowing experience in the SW corner, where, despite an abundance of E's and R's, I couldn't get four different answers to work. Neither of the Downs, and two of the Acrosses. Two primary problems. Well three. First, I'd never heard of SCHAEFER (32D: Beer brand since 1842), so that didn't help. But I didn't know Lots of stuff in this puzzle, so in and of itself, not knowing SCHAEFER = no big deal. Second, the "with" in the clue 33D: One with a duty (taxpayer). I had TAX-A-ER and wanted only TAX-TAKER (the opposite of TAXPAYER), even though it didn't seem like a very good word. This brings us to my main problem - 52A: Long gone. Had the ---ORE and wanted only NO MORE ... only I had IT'S LOVE for 35D: Song from Bernstein's "Wonderful Town" (a guess, but a correct one, it turns out), which made NO MORE impossible. Instead, I was faced with O--ORE. And I ran through the alphabet a few times and then tried ON phrases. OF phrases seemed really unlikely, so I didn't even run through those til very very late in the game. And Y is very near the end of the alphabet. OF YORE. It's actually a pretty good clue, [Long gone]. Sure fooled me.
I should say that I liked this puzzle a lot, much more than yesterday's. It was tough and interesting and full of lively and clever answers. I liked it despite never having heard of five different answers (all Downs, strangely):
- OSTINATO (10D: Repeated musical phrase)
- UNIATE (2D: Certain Christian)
- BLAS (48D: Gulf of San _____ (Caribbean Sea inlet))
- LOME (49D: West African capital)
OK, I might have heard of those last two, but I certainly couldn't call them up - they were just floating bits of lost trivia in my brain.
The only iffy thing about the puzzle is an over-reliance on odd jobs and comparative suffixes ... just ER (or IOR) words in general:
- IOR (19D: Super finish?)
- DEWIER (14D: More innocent)
- WISER (29A: More likely to be fresh)
- SLASHER (12D: Horror movie character) - not that I don't love this answer. Early in the puzzle, when I had FASSAD where FAISAL belongs (15A: Mideast royal name), the only answer that seemed to fit here was ED ASNER.
- LATTER (30A: Second)
- GUESSER (1A: One taking a shot)
Then of course there's the bottom of the puzzle - I don't think I've seen R's and E's and S's and D's in such high concentration in a late-week puzzle. SEERESS (57A: Girl with a future?) is almost as bad a crutchword as REASSESSES (despite being a perfectly good word). Thankfully, the puzzle was strong enough that its strong reliance on E's and R's didn't feel cheap. The overall pay-off was worth it.
- 17A: Second in court? (Asst. D.A.) - a real lifeline in the NW, and helped confirm one of my favorite answers in the puzzle: FAT WALLET (15D: It's stuffed with dough).
- 18A: Like a family man (married with kids) - great answer, and somehow pairs nicely with LEAD A DOUBLE LIFE (46A: Be like Clark Kent). Throw in FAT WALLET and ERRED (56A: Went off) and GUN MAN (1D: One taking a shot) and MAFIAS (41D: They have family units) and you have a great crime story on your hands.
- 20A: First volume heading starter (A to) - despite having seen this kind of cluing before, it took me Forever to understand what the clue wanted.
- 21A: "To you, Antonio, _____ the most": Shak. ("I owe") - total guess. What else could it be?
- 23A: Pitch between columns (newspaper ad) - briefly thought this had something to do with cricket, then remembered the age-old use of "pitch" as a misdirection on clues related to advertising.
- 32A: Cy Young had a record 815 (starts) - this is where I started. I put in LOSSES and then thought "you know, 815 seems awfully high ..."
- 34A: One of the Blues Brothers (Elwood) - great answers. Loved the "Blues Brothers" movie as a kid. One of the first R-rated movies I saw in the theater.
- 37A: Counterpart of "pls" ("thx") - online shorthand for "thanks" - I'd be surprised if this didn't throw a number of people today.
- 38A: What most couples try to have together (quality time) - a phrase normally used for time with your kids ... and a stupid concept in general (but that's a discussion for someone else's blog)
- 43A: Slow runner in the woods (sap) - really hard for me to get because of the whole TAXTAKER brouhaha.
- 45A: '60s theater ('Nam) - theater of war.
- 55A: Deli sandwich material (ham salad) - the last "salad" I would consider for my sandwich.
- 4D: Restaurant business bigwig (Shor) - Should have made those of you who learned his name only two days ago very happy.
- 6D: Real estate agent on "Desperate Housewives" (Edie) - "Desperate Housewives" is the new "Ally McBeal" and it must die, at least in my puzzle.
- 25D: Area of interest to Archimedes (pi r squared) - brazen! I was thinking "did Archimedes care about AIR? ... FIR? ... FIRST something? ..."
- 27D: Zoologist's foot (pes) - Latin. See also ESSE (50D: Ovidian infinitive)
- 39D: Tzimmes (ado) - HA ha. Hilariously, this was a gimme for me.
- 47D: Illustrator of "Paradise Lost" and "The Divine Comedy" (Dore) - about as far up my alley as you can go.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld