SATURDAY, Jun. 14, 2008 - Brendan Emmett Quigley (MODERN COINAGE MEANING INTUITION WITHOUT REGARD TO FACTS)
Saturday, June 14, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium
As BEQ puzzles go, this one was both easy and unScrabbly. No Q's, no X's, no Z's, only a few stray K's and a lone V to give this puzzle any superficial kookiness. There were still a number of wacky entries - TRUTHINESS (1A: Modern coinage meaning intuition without regard to facts) being the most notable, and the overall quality of the puzzle was high: tough but entertaining. Still, something about that SE corner, with its gallons of E's and S's and N's, just seems ... uncharacteristic. Off. Odd. There were more gimmes than I expected as well - those these were all badly needed today, as the cluing on some of today's fill was remarkably tough. I went through all the Downs in the NW consecutively, and knew nothing until I got to NORI (7D: Seaweed wrapped around sushi). That single "N" allowed me to confirm my suspicions about TRUTHINESS (I was thinking something having to do with the GUT - GUTLINESS or something - Colbert talks about his GUT a lot). TRUTHINESS revealed IHOP (6D: Co. that bought Applebee's in 2007), where I will be headed in an hour or so for early Father's Day festivities. Had to fight and slash my way through the rest of the NW, as four of those short Downs were names I didn't know:
- THAD (1D: "A Child Is Born" trumpeter Jones)
- RAMA (2D: Arthur C. Clarke's "Rendezvous With _____")
- HSIA (5D: Dynasty before Shang)
- SATAN (9D: Character in Mark Twain's "The Mysterious Stranger") - OK, technically I know SATAN, but I didn't know he was the answer here
After I got over being stunned that I knew the answer to 10D: _____ Maris (title of the Virgin Mary) (Stella), I moved into the NE. I threw three answers across that part of the grid almost instantly, and then hit a brick wall. Why wouldn't any of the Downs work? I had INLANDER (21A: Kansan or Coloradan), ACTORS (28A: Movie set?), and AUGIE (31A: Saul Bellow's March) in place, and though that would break things wide open. No. Much hacking ensued. The latter part of 12D: Attacked with fierceness and anger appeared to be -DOGGED, but the only expression I know that ends that way is BIRD-DOGGED (used frequently in the article on competitive arcade gaming I read yesterday in Harper's). Worse - 11A: Pop group that inspired a 2001 Broadway musical (ABBA) gave me the initially "B" that "confirmed" BIRD-DOGGED, even though bird dogs do not (or are not supposed to) attack with fierceness and anger. I then figured BULL-DOGGED must be a word. Correct. Apparently ASPERSED is also a word (14D: Smeared). Who knew?
There are different kinds of DESOTOS (37D: Diplomat and Adventurer)?? News to me. I had the "D" and said to myself, "What about DESOTOS? .... hahahahaha, good one, me. You are funny." And then DESOTOS was right. SE was the easiest part of the puzzle - I charged through the Downs, with many many wrong answers
- SPUN for WENT (45D: Took a turn)
- SIMM (?) for SNEE (48D: N.F.L. offensive guard Chris)
- DENS for INNS (49D: Cozy retreats)
- SATS for GRES (51D: Hurdles for some srs.)
But here's the reason why spraying bullets at a tough part of the puzzle can be helpful - even one right answer can make things come into focus. That's what happened with NEST (50D: Cozy retreat). DENS - NEST - SATS gave me a 44A that ended DNS, which is impossible, but I immediately noticed that GRES could work in SATS's stead, giving me an -NG word, meaning the [Cozy retreats] clue must start with I, which led to INNS, which led immediately to KITE RUNNER (53A: Best-selling Khaled Hosseini novel, with "The"), and the SE was as good as done. Sometimes, when there's empty space, you just have to fill it and see what happens. Sometimes - good things.
In the SW, where I finished, I threw AVIONICS across the empty space (41A: Flight field), which helped me not at all with the long Downs. Went to the wee Acrosses and lucked into two gimmes: ALII (52A: Others, to Octavian) and RUNE (54A: Old character). Maybe RUNE is more apt to be a gimme if you trained as a medievalist ... maybe not. This was enough help me get CAR ALARM (32D: Thing that'll deter someone from taking a ride), but only after some cogitation. I thought maybe the answer had something to do with one's ARM. Broken ARM? Is the person hitch-hiking? Oh ... ALARM. I see now. I had the VALUE part of FACE VALUE for a while before I figured out what preceded it (29D: It might not indicate true worth). Further, in addition to learning the word ACARID (22D: Tick, e.g.), I learned that MARLON and KEENEN (25D: One of the Wayans brothers) have the same number of letters in their names.
- 19A: 1867 book subtitled "Kritik der politischen Okonomie" ("Das Kapital") - despite all appearances, this clue was a gimme for me (though I had several crosses in place before I ever saw it)
- 20A: River forming the eastern border of Charlemagne's empire (Elbe) - ah, no self-respecting puzzle is complete without a four-letter European river.
- 23A: Cautious gamblers (pikers) - maybe the best word in the puzzle
- 46D: Micmac relative (Cree) - once I realized that this was not a breathmint, it got a lot easier.
- 43A: "The King and I" film director (Lang) - Fritz LANG!?!? Oh, no, Walter. That makes more sense.
- 4D: Cheap commodity? (talk) - just a fabulous clue ... one that totally had me flummoxed for a good long while.
- 8D: Proponent of strong governmental control (etatist) - a good day to know French. See also EGAL (30D: It's the same in Paris) and AMI (34D: "_____ right?").
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld