Sunday, July 20, 2008
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium, with a few Huh?s
Theme: Across the (Chess) Board – six theme answers contain (in circles) the names of chess pieces, with the last containing CHESS itself.
Hey, SethG here, sitting in for vacationing Rex and trying to live up to the standards set by PuzzleGirl and Wade. But I know that’s unlikely, so instead of sitting home worrying about the puzzle and my write-up I took this show on the road.
As soon as the puzzle was released I printed out a few copies, and PuzzleMomToBe and I headed to the Metrodome, where we did some crosswork while watching the Twins play the Texas Rangers. Joining us in our mad adventure were John Chandler-Pepelnjak, JohnJohn, Weeky, and Kirby. My goal: finish the puzzle, don’t miss a pitch.
6:11: Sit down just as Livan Hernandez (watch out for his name!) delivered the first pitch of the game.
6:25: Joe Mauer hits a home run, and I have 7 answers scattered about.
6:35: Davis hits a 2-run shot for the Rangers to go up 2-1. I get LIMA, OHIO (72A: City 70 miles SSW of Toledo) from the H, and my first real traction in an area with ATM FEE (45D: Charge for cash) and NONET (46D: Large chamber group).
6:40: (102A: Egg roll topping, perhaps) is CHINESE something. So the last circle must be an S to spell [chess], and I’m thinking the circles will spell out board games.
I explain what the circles will mean to PuzzleMomToBe. Then I think maybe it’s just different kinds of boards—it wouldn’t surprise me to see circles spelling out Ouija, emery, school… Awesome!, I’ve got a sweet Ouija board story I can tell for my blog entry.
6:51: I move to the middle. And the traction I had gave me an FE in (59A: It’s quite different from the high-school variety). I know immediately that it’s gonna be PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING, and the circles spell out [pawn]. Okay, it looks like a chess board after all, with the circled letters spelling out chess pieces, and if there’s one thing I know about chess it’s the names of the pieces.
Luckily, there’s one thing I know about chess. I can fill in the pieces in the rest of the theme clues, and this is one of those times when understanding the theme really helped make solving the puzzle much easier. Uh, constructors, pretend you never heard what I said about the other boards…
7:06: They play Hava Nagila over the loudspeaker, everyone’s favorite Hebrew folk song/stadium anthem. PMTB asks me if (14D: TV pooch) is ALF. I say “ALF was not a dog.” And I’d have laughed at her, but that had been my first thought too. It’s REN.
“What about the abbreviation for Bridge? For (35D: Abbr. after Cleveland or Brooklyn)?” she asks. I tell her I don’t have it yet, but that I’ve never heard of the Cleveland Bridge. It’s HTS. Morneau hits an RBI single and is thrown out by 8 feet trying to reach 2nd.
Friend Kirby is upset because they picked the one (51D: Mad magazine cartoonist [Dave]) he doesn’t know. I had BERG from the crosses.
7:11: Ashley Nelson will marry Ray! I feel comfortable sharing that information on the internets because (a) 1/3 of Minnesota is named Nelson and (b) they already provided those details to the near-sellout crowd of 35,085. Then a couple named Orval and Bernelle were congratulated for something, and Evan Wojtowicz, we all love you.
Denard Span hit a sharp bouncer to left for a single to move the runner over to third, and he snuck over to second when the throw was lazily lofted in to hold the lead runner there. There might be a name for that, but I’m actually not much of a baseball fan. Nice play, though.
(7A: Leader of Lesbos?) is LAMBDA, the first letter of the Greek Island, which means (10D: One desiring change) is BEGGAR. Too bad I can’t tell my Buddhist hot dog joke.
7:25: Intentionally walk Mauer to load the bases with two outs. To pitch to Morneau, who bats from the same side and has a better average and more power.
7:27: Morneau hits a 3-run double. 6-2, Twins. Kirby somehow has “oil” in place of KIM (23D: Kipling novel).
7:48: It’s 8-2, 1 out with runners at 2nd and 3rd, and I’ve got only Washington state and 56A to finish. For (1D: Lose strength) I have xAG, and it could be B or L or S, or maybe some form I don’t know of J or R or W or Z? It’s SAG, cause (1A: Demanded without reason) is SAID SO.
7:55: Morneau hits a 2-run HR to right. The Twins are up 12-2, and I’m verifiably angry at 56A and mildly annoyed at myself because I can’t think of 19A or 36A
8:07: Hernandez throws a 58mph pitch, followed by an 86mph pitch. We make eephus jokes.
8:11: No progress. Buscher hits a 2-run HR, 14-2. DEFACE (4D: Give bad marks) seems horribly wrong to me, as apparently I’m thinking of face removal rather than the common word “deface”. ACCEPT (19A: Honor) seems wrong to me, though somehow I know it’s right. “Like a credit card,” says everyone around me, all of whom filled that in a while ago. Oh, right.
8:30: Win, 14-2. I’m admitting defeat, and am thinking about texting Orange to find out what 56A is.
9:30: We adjourn to the wine bar across from the theater. They’re showing Goonies at midnight, and Weeky and I wouldn’t miss it. (I will admit to an ‘80s crush on Martha Plimpton...) Kirby’s gone home, but PMTB’s husband Pbo joins the rest of us for a snack. Weeky and PMTB start working the puzzle together, and they’re making real progress. I warn them away from my area of disaster, but otherwise they’re doing well. PMTB finally remembers everyone’s favorite Turkish pooh-bah, PASHA (87A: “Doctor Zhivago” role). Weeky’s coming up with stuff left and right, naming an answer, saying “that can’t be it”, and looking over to have me confirm that it is. “PUBLISHING COMPANY” [bishop], she blurts out (77A: Viking, for one). She comes up with the full (102A: Egg roll topping, perhaps), CHINESE MUSTARD.
PMTB blurts out “(55A: Alphabet quartet) is MNLO!” I’ll admit I JAPED. It’s MNOP.
I explain that (111A: Mrs. Woody Allen) is SOON YI, his step-daughter, but it turns out he was only her mom’s long-term partner, not her mom’s husband. Because that’s much less icky.
We talk about my favorite answer in the puzzle, RYE (107D: Manhattan part). The other parts: a DOLLOP (54D: Spoonful, say) of sweet vermouth, a dash of bitters, a garnish.
2:30: Get home from Goonies, sit down to figure out what I had wrong.
The rest of the theme answers:
- (22A: November 5 in Britain) is GUY FAWKES NIGHT.
- (29A: Wild sheep of the western United States) is ROCKY MOUNTAIN BIGHORN [king].
- (44A: Best Actor of 1991) is SIR ANTHONY HOPKINS [rook] for The Silence of the Lambs.
- (91A: Army supply officer) is a QUARTERMASTER GENERAL [queen].
Some yucky crosses/huh? moments:
JAPES (36A: Mocks) crosses OPERE (30D: _____ citato) at the P. I figured that was a kind of opera in some language, but that’s the full version of the Latin “op. cit.”, which means “in the work quoted.”
I somehow forget studying OSTEND (113A: Belgian city with an 1854 manifesto) in my 19th century European History class, and it crossed the could-have-been-lots-of-stuff SID (105D: Half-brother of Tom Sawyer) at the D.
Turns out I had a wrong answer where BRAVA (81A: La Scala cheer) crosses ISOLA (62D: Capri, e.dg., to a Capriote). BRAVO has been clued the same way, and remind me why I’m supposed to know the gender of the Italian word for island? Is this fair? It is not.
Illinois. Lots of yuck for me in Illinois. I’m lucky I remembered that (67A: Eurasian ducks) is SMEWS, or I wouldn’t have had the S in ISOLA in the first place. I love the clue phrase “Eurasian ducks”. A discussion here back in the day taught me that (56D: Bygone blades) are SNEES. As in “snick and snee”, but I don’t remember what snick is.
I have medium-end skills, not enough to know the high-end crosswordese OBOLS (47D: Ancient Greek coins) even after visiting the Numismatic Museum of Athens last July.
And finally, I have NEVER heard of SKIRR (43D: Go rapidly). And I have NEVER heard of SPOOR (56A: Trail to follow). My guess was the SPOOL you use for Ariadne’s thread, and SKILR looks almost as plausible as SKIRR.
But still, unlike ISOLA these are at least English words, so I can’t say that it’s unfair, just that it hit a void in my knowledge. But I will say that there were six of us talking about this. I was the only regular crossword solver, but we’re all educated and fairly intelligent, especially John Chandler-Pepelnjak, and none of us had any idea. Unfortunately, it leaves a bitter taste in my mouth from an otherwise fine puzzle.
Signed, SethG, Royal Vizier of CrossWorld