Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Relative difficulty: Challenging
THEME: uh ... let's see ... what sound like common phrases starting with "a"-words are actually phrases in which "a" is being used as an indefinite article
Ouch. Yesterday's Monday took me as long as a Tuesday and today's Tuesday took me as long as a Thursday (mid-6s). This is due almost entirely to the NW corner, which held the key to unlocking the theme (such as it is), but also held two words that left me agape and agog, even after (eventually) I solved them:
2D: Objets d'art (virtu) - I ... I ... and here I thought I knew something about art. I have this weird sense of déjà vu, like maybe I've complained about this word before, or at least seen it before, but ... nothing about it says "art," nothing about it says "plural," no one but no one uses it ever. Ever. No, you don't use it, shut up. PS this is the second definition of VIRTU, the first of which is "love or appreciation for ... objets d'art." Ugh.
4D: Cobblers' forms (lasts) - the very word "cobbler" makes me laugh. I know they still exist, and it's an important (and dying) craft, but still, "cobbler" ... it's Dickensian. LASTS is a verb to me. The definition of "LAST" is "A block or form shaped like a human foot and used in making or repairing shoes." It is, as you might guess, very very far down the possible meanings of "LAST" in the dictionary. There is a British unit of volume or weight, which is ever farther down the list.
Throw in TANAKA, which I have never seen or heard of (6D: 1970s Japanese P.M. Kakuei _____), and I was completely stymied in the N and NW for a while, so the "theme" remained mysterious for much of my solving experience.
- 17A: Retired general? (a resting officer)
- 37A: Late nobleman? (a count past due)
- 59A: Carillon call? (a peal to the crowd)
OK, about Tuesday puzzles, which I have complained about more than any other day of the week: I heard from a constructor that the times has an 8-9 month Tuesday backlog!? How is that possible? And if it's so, why not raise (high) the bar for Tuesday quality (i.e. reject more Tuesday-ish puzzles)? Today's puzzle is solid in many ways, but the theme is kind of lackluster and some of the fill is a bit forced (esp. for a Tuesday). RIPON? (29D: Wisconsin town where the Republican Party was born) EX-GI????! (7D: W.W. II vet, e.g.). I can't even look at EX-GI without wincing.
- 1A: Kansas City university formerly known as College of Saint Teresa (Avila) - needed crosses to guess this one, then felt stupid as I know this saint's name very well (from grad school) and her most common appellation is "Teresa of AVILA"
- 14A: Gore who wrote "Lincoln" and "1876" (Vidal) - very nice cluing. I was thinking AL or LESLEY, i.e. "Gore" as last name. Gore VIDAL also wrote mysteries under the name "Edgar Box," back in the 1950s. Now you know.
- 15A: Eddie's character in "Beverly Hills Cop" (Axel) - AXEL Foley. Here is his theme:
- 23A: Part of the mailing address to Oral Roberts University (Tulsa, OK) - I like this. Hard to get that "AO" combo in English; be inventive!
- 25A: Field for Dem Bums (Ebbets) - The Brooklyn Dodgers ... I always wanna spell EBBETTS ... thusly!
- 31A: Poetic work by Tennyson (idyl) - wanted "MAUD"; there's such a thing as knowing too much (or so says this book I'm reading, which is fascinating, but which sadly shares its name with a Carnie Wilson memoir about her gastric bypass surgery)
- 44A: Glass-encased item in "Beauty in the Beast" (rose) - that image is weirdly iconic; even *I* remember it (not a big fairy tale fan).
- 48A: Residue locale (ash pit) - is this a thing? Is it like a fire pit? Oh, it's just the area underneath a fireplace hearth. "Pit" is a pretty grandiose word for such a little place.
- 55A: Unit a little longer than an arm's length (ell) - mmm, arcane measurements based on assumed standard lengths of body parts. My favorite. Here's a def:
An old body measure based on the human arm. Although suggestive of the forearm alone, British practice corresponded to the whole arm plus some fraction of the chest, hence a yard or more. It was the reference unit for the old measure in Scotland. Modern usage is primarily with textiles.
- 68A: Seven-year stretch (teens) - wow, that's good. Glad I never saw it. It would have tripped me.
- 10D: Horse-racing devotees, slangily (rail birds) - first, "slangily!" Yay. Second, despite having seen this slang term before, I completely forgot it and had to hack at it with crosses for a long time. Like VIRTU, LASTS, TANAKA, RIPON, and ELL, it seems to come from another era.
- 30D: "Little" Stowe character (Eva) - I know this only from xwords. Ditto ETUI (57D: Decorative sewing kit).
- 33D: Giant glaciers (ice sheets) - OK ... "glaciers" sound much more massive and impressive than "sheets," which I have on my bed. I wanted SHELVES, then actually wrote in SHELFS (!?), then had SHEARS (!!?) ... SHEERS (?) ... etc.
- 39D: General on Chines menus (Tso) - to complete your order, please see 60D: Kung _____ chicken (Pao)
- 47D: Word in many Perry Mason titles ("Case") - I just went through a run of Perry Mason books at my vintage paperback blog. Here's a sample:
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
PS here is a somewhat funny, somewhat self-effacing slam on all of you who found me by googling. Crosswording seen from a non-crossworder's perspective. Please just lurk and/or play nice. I'm definitely not mad (HA ha, I just - accidentally? - typed "I'm definitely mad")