Sunday, June 1, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: "Extra Syll-Uh-bles" - common expressions have an "uh" sound inserted into them, creating comical new expressions, which are clued
Short write-up today. I slept in and haven't had breakfast. Patrick Berry's puzzles are always very inventive, and this one's no exception, though I liked this one less than I usually like his puzzles, for a handful of reasons. First, the "uh" insertion doesn't have a big payoff in most of the answers. When the answer is great, it's Great: MORALLY SAFER is pure gold. But RED SKELETON just lies there. Many people think that's the guy's name anyway (they're wrong, of course, but still - there's little Pop in that change). Further, there are two "-able" words created by the insertion of "uh" (that may be the ugliest-sounding sentence I've ever written): Bible => BUYABLE, Humble => HUMMABLE. Then there's CORONER ON THE MARKET; I've heard of the expression "to CORNER THE MARKET," and maybe "having or getting a CORNER ON THE MARKET," and I guess it's this last one that's being played on here, but without the lead-in verb, the phrase CORNER ON THE MARKET seems weird. Does not stand alone well, to my ear. Then again, THE SALIVATION ARMY and RENT-A-SENATOR are quite nice.
Other issues for me: tons of names I didn't know, many that seemed rather obscure (more on them below). And then a few clunkers, like IMAGED (82D: Projected onto a screen) and ... actually, if we're talking True Clunkers, I think IMAGED is the only one. Hmm, not bad. All in all, a solid, tough-ish puzzle.
- 22A: Waistband sold in stores? (buyable belt)
- 27A: Wiser from an ethical perspective? (morally safer)
- 32A: Fighting force trained by Pavlov? (The Salivation Army)
- 56A: Freelance autopsist? (coroner on the market) - "autopsist!?" "Mommy, when I grow up, I wanna be an AUTOPSIST!?" Scary word.
- 63A: Catchy song parts heard on "Name That Tune"? (hummable beginnings)
- 81A: Stones and brickbats? (rioting implements)
- 92A: Store that peddles political influence? (Rent-a-Senator)
- 99A: Boiled lobster's feature? (red skeleton)
I rated this puzzle "Medium," but I think it might have taken me longer than the average Sunday. I never really got stuck, but I kept having to move around a lot - leads would just peter out as I moved from section to section, and I'd have to approach empty sections from their opposite ends in order to get them to fall. Sometimes I can move through the puzzle on what feels like a single, unbroken wave. Not today. The main problem was names, which is to say, my ignorance of those names. Oh, and the occasional word from outside my ken like VALANCE (35D: Ornamental piece of drapery) or LEONES (18A: West African coins). Let's start with RABAT (21A: World capital formerly a pirate stronghold), which only just now struck me as slightly familiar as an African capital - aha, Morocco. As I was solving, my brain kinda wanted RABAT, but I didn't know why. It was as good as a frog sound to me. The names of People were the real problem. An example of how bad it was: INIGO (34D: Architect Jones) and MELMOTH (9D: "_____ the Wanderer" (1820 gothic novel)) were gimmes for me, and I still struggled with names in this puzzle. How deep can you go into "Adam Bede" before somebody calls "foul" (87D: _____ Sorrel (woman in a love triangle in "Adam Bede"))!? And does anyone really remember the name of 30D: Buchanan's Secretary of State (Cass)!? Criminy. There's also some home I've never heard of: GRAEME Park (52D: _____ Park, historic home near Philadelphia). And then a host of names I just had to piece together, including:
- 59A: Renaissance painter Uccello (Paolo)
- 61A: Lady Bird Johnson's given birth name (Claudia)
- 78D: Belarus port (Pinsk)
- 84D: Ohm of Ohm's law (Georg)
Many, many other names, but thankfully I knew most of them. I like names in my puzzle - a lot. So I can't complain. Live by names, die by names. Thankfully, basic puzzling skills (and fair crosses) insured that I didn't Die today. In fact, there were a string of EZ answers that helped me out, including:
- 69A: X3 and X5 maker (BMW)
- 90A: Attorney general during Reagan's second term (Meese) - he's in the puzzle a lot
- 108A: Only beardless one of the Seven Dwarfs (Dopey) - oh, puberty, why must you be so elusive for poor DOPEY?
- 8D: Rimbaud's "_____ Saison en Enfer" ("Une") - long way to go for UNE
- 21D: N.F.L. star Grier (Rosey)
- 23D: Bug-ridden software releases (betas)
- 43D: "Tattered Tom" author (Alger) - The "pull yourself up by your own bootstraps" guy
- 58A: Founding member of the Dadaists (Hans Arp) - I always want his name to be JEAN; this is because when he spoke German, he referred to himself as HANS, and when he spoke French, JEAN. Entirely logical ... for a Dadaist.
- 94D: _____ Roberts, first inductee into the Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame (Nora) - I've never read a romance novel in my life but I know this woman's name. I think I've seen it plastered in huge ornate letters across so many books in so many grocery store lines that it somehow stuck.
Though I went slowly, I really botched only one answer, and that was early on: I had INCS (!?) for INTL (12D: Like many large cos.).
- 30A: Two points? (colon) - wickedly good clue
- 39A: Auto superseded by the Rambler (Nash) - not having lived back then, I thought the NASH was a Rambler.
- 45A: Some cloisonne pieces (urns) - I was thinking of "pieces" as component parts, not the finished objects themselves ...
- 66A: Country with a camel on its coat of arms (Eritrea) - It's a a big day for Africa in this puzzle. I count three answers, at least.
- 104A: Ankle covering (gaiter) - I think skiiers sometimes wear these to keep snow from getting in their boots ... or not. I haven't skiied in a while.
- 4D: Record keepers, of a sort (diarists) - I'd rather be a DIARIST than an autopsist ... yes I would ...
- 10D: Composer Pachelbel (Johann) - my first guess was JOHANN, but I had a Very hard time pulling the trigger for some reason...
- 36D: Timber-dressing tool (adz) - good ol' ADZ(E), slowly but surely striving for a place in the Pantheon of crossword fill.
- 41D: Squirrels' cache (acorns) - also [Squirrels' cachet], probably ...
- 42D: Word to which a common reply is "Bitteschon" (Danke) - hey, a German word I know. Hurray.
- 46D: Bacterium that needs oxygen (aerobe) - yay me! A science answer that I knew with no crosses. Can't say the same for the rotationally symmetrical AMINES (55D: Organic compounds with nitrogen).
- 59D: Place to keep Mace (purse) - had No idea that Mace was a trademarked name (such that you would capitalize it). I thought maybe there was some guy named Mace that you kept ... somewhere.
- 69D: Fighting words ("Bring it on") - if you are a complete dipshit, yes.
- 79D: Think that might is right? (misread) - another superior clue
- 85D: Queen of mystery (Ellery) - back in the Day. Ellery Queen was a pen name used by a couple of cousins, as well as the name of the detective-hero they created. Read about "him" here.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld