Friday, June 20, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium
A more than decent puzzle that was marred for me by an impossible crossing - I've heard of a PANSY, but not a TANSY (38D: Member of the aster family). And MAIER (42A: Two-time gold medal skier of the 1998 Olympics) could have spelled his name a billion ways (I went with MEIER) - If you google MAIER, this particular MAIER (Hermann) doesn't even come up on the first page. For god's sake, there are other, more famous skiiers named MAHRE. Other near-MAIERs of note include Bill MAHER, the comedian, MAIJER the supermarket, MEYER the wiener guy, etc. Few things I hate more than obscure words intersecting at a vowel. And TANSY ... ugh, that was basically the epicenter of the one part of the puzzle that gave me any trouble. I wasn't that fond of HESSE either (52A: State bordering Lower Saxony), but at least I could guess that one with reasonable accuracy. Side note: Congratulations to Germany on their (ultimately) exciting win over Portugal in yesterday's UEFA quarterfinals.
I didn't really understand that way DUNGEON MASTER was being used in this puzzle (15D: Underground movement leader?). I'm assuming it's a Dungeons & Dragons-specific reference, but I'm not sure how people who were not nerdy boys between 1977 and the present would know that. If the clue is not D&D-specific, then how in the world does 11D: A 15-Down might have control over them (warlocks) work? The clue that gave me the most trouble for what in retrospect appears to be no good reason was 43D: Ballpark (inexact) - I had the -ACT and could do Nothing with it. I think this is because "ballpark" expresses a degree of closeness, where INEXACT emphasizes non-closeness. In short, "ballpark" appears a positive assessment, and INEXACT a negative. Still ... I should have gotten it sooner. Not that many plausible answers in seven letters ending in -ACT.
- 14A: Head of an alley? (one pin) - good one. I think the NW was the second-hardest section for me. I had REUNED (3D: Came back together), TRUE TO (16A: Not forsaking), OP-ED (22A: Kind of column) and not a lot else. Nothing else, in fact, until I retro-fitted SPEED IT UP (4D: "I haven't got all day!") into the NW after piecing it together from its tail end.
- 19A: Old-time comic Ed (Wynn) - uh ... no idea. I like how he's on top of old-time comic-writer SEGAR, though (23A: A National Cartoonists Society award is named for him). SEGAR did "Popeye," and he is probably the most prominent cartoonist in the world of crosswords after CHAS. Addams. Oh, and NAST, who did political cartoons.
- 27A: City on the Trans-Canada Highway (Medicine Hat) - a great entry
- 30A: Nashville-based awards org. (CMA) - way outside my wheelhouse, but got it quickly anyway. Guess I've seen that initialism a lot without paying it much mind.
- 31A: So much, on a score (tanto) - sidekick of the Lone Ronger
- 32A: Carter's second secretary of state (Muskie) - oh, his second secretary of state. Gotcha (i.e. I got some crosses and vaguely remembered a guy with this name from when I was a kid).
- 44A: Using devices (sly) - enigmatic clue that is yet precise. I like it.
- 45A: 1990 Grammy winner for her album "Days of Open Hand" (Suzanne Vega) - woo hoo! A great triumph for me, this one. Got it off the "SU-" Recall that I was in college when this won a Grammy, and that this period of time (1987-91) was the lowest point in pop music history. Example, the year before Ms. Vega (who is not horrible) won her Grammy (for "Best Recording Package"??), Michael Bolton won Best Male Vocalist for "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You" (suffer!), and crossword fans the Indigo Girls ... lost the Best New Artist Grammy to ... (wait for it) .... (drum roll) .... Milli Vanilli! I blamed it on the rain.
- 53A: Film role for Russell in 1993 and Costner in 1994 (Earp) - an excellent clue, in that it makes you think there's some film series at issue (Batman?), when in fact, no, there just happened to be two EARPy films released within a year of each other ("Tombstone" and "Wyatt Earp"). Coincidence.
- 56A: Course for the dead? (Styx) - Brains? "Brains! Must ... have ... brains!"
- 57A: Exciting experience, in slang (trip) - is this slang current anymore? Feels very Arsenio-era to me. Oh, unless you mean *drug* experience ... then I guess it's still used. I wouldn't know.
- 65A: Craft often utilizing rubber bands (tie dye) - fashion that only someone on a 57A could love
- 7D: Title role in a 1986 Woody Allen film (Hannah) - total gimme ... horrifies me that this movie is 22 years old. The clue felt contemporary to me, HA ha.
- 8D: Loser to Audrey for the 1953 Best Actress Oscar (Ava) - in three letters, really, who else is it going to be? CHE? LON? EMU?
- 12D: Provision for holding certain jobs (age limit) - good answer. Feels fresh.
- 20D: Dirt spreader (yenta) - I thought I killed this word and its variants? Oh, Dungeon Master! I got something for you...
- 26D: Gretna Green rebuffs (naes) - when I first read this clue, literally none of it made sense to me. And I've visited / lived in Scotland on multiple occasions. Gretna Green is "small but thriving," according to Wikipedia. I managed to miss it.
- 28D: Miami team, informally ('Canes) - good clue. Most folks'll think pro teams first. I know I did.
- 29D: Classless one? (tutee) - TUTEE is a horrible word, but this clue livens it up a bit.
- 36D: Teens' escapades (joy rides) - "Teens?" How about "felons'"? I think you can JOY RIDE at any age. As a final sadistic gesture, allow me to tie this all back to the aforementioned worst period in pop music history (1987-91) by referring you to this gem by supergroup Roxette. That's right, my college years were probably the only period in music history wherein Roxette could become a supergroup. Four #1 singles, two #2 singles ... and that was weak by comparison with their success in Europe. Any sociological / astrological / epidemiological explanations for their astonishing success would be most welcome.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
PS Someone named Brad Arington seems to have accidentally posted his response to yesterday's puzzle ("LIES") as a private message to me instead of as a comment on the site, so I thought I'd do him the favor of posting it here for all to see. I'll leave it to you all to answer his final question - although I can tell you now that given my options, I choose (a.). Here you go: "Cheers!"
You have to be kidding! Not a single theme answer was something that anyone would ever LIE about. At best, even reasonably intelligent folk might confuse, say, EST for EDT, depending on the time of year, or acute for obtuse, or Esau for Isaac. But lie about it? And not even an idiot would confuse 9 a.m. for 5 p.m. And only a deranged person would intentionally lie about Els being a tennis player or Agassi being a golfer -- what end would they gain? These aren't lies and this puzzle is far from clever -- and certainly not the best of the year. So what does that make you -- deranged or an idiot? Cheers.