FRIDAY, Aug. 22, 2008 - Kevin Der ("LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR" LORD AND NAMESAKES / MANTILLA WEARERS / RIO _____, MULTINATIONAL COAL-MINING GIANT)
Friday, August 22, 2008
Relative difficulty: Challenging
Must hurry today. Driving family hither and yon this morning (work, gymnastics, doctor's appointment, etc.).
Kevin Der is a great young constructor - and, according to Facebook (yes, I have a Facebook page now, dear god), he is also my friend (of which, according to Facebook, I have exactly 15, which weirdly sounds about right). So he will presumably still like me at the end of the day when I say that I really didn't like this puzzle. Well, first, there's the fact that I failed to solve it correctly, due to one of TWO places that violate the original "Natick Principle" - which involves the crossing of uncommon proper nouns. I guessed correctly at the ALICANTE (13D: Spanish city and province on the Mediterranean) / SENTA (26A: Actress Berger) crossing (having maybe possibly once heard of the former and never heard of the latter), but I never saw the mistake I had at the RIC (29A: Four-year sch. of higher learning in Providence) / COLOSSAE (31D: Ancient city to which Paul wrote an Epistle) crossing. Never heard of either. I had RIT / TOLOSSAE, the latter being hilariously wrong, but the former being a well known institution of higher learning (sadly, just not in Providence).
This puzzle is what can happen when you go for the showiness of stacked 15's. You pull it off ... but to what end? Forget the super rough crosses for a moment. Check this out: FOUR PLURAL NAMES and THREE SUPER-ODD JOBS (an "Odd Job" being a word ending in "-er" that you would rarely if ever use)
- 26D: Some Rockerfeller Center murals (Serts)
- 10D: Ex-senator Sam of Georgia and others (Nunns)
- 19A: "Lucia di Lammermoor" lord and namesakes (Enricos)
- 43D: Baseball's Joe and others (Torres) - hey, next time I recommend [Chocolatier Jacques] ... well, I'm not entirely serious, I just love visiting his store when I'm in Brooklyn
- 49A: Ham, e.g. (radioer)
- 30D: Idea person (imaginer)
- 3D: Burlesque-goer, typically (starer)
There are the stacks of 15, which are good, and then everything else, which ranges from merely inoffensive to bad. This is why I rarely if ever mention physical feats of construction - I don't care. I want an enjoyable puzzle. "Look at how few black squares there are!" The fact that a grid is super difficult to pull off does not make the end result pleasing.
- 1A: It has 33 letters (Russian language) - really wanted ALPHABET to be in this answer
- 20A: Oscar nominee for "My Man Godfrey" (Auer) - Mischa AUER is fast becoming one of my favorite bits of crossword fill. He likes to sneak into the corners of late week puzzles.
- 32A: Condomless vis-a-vis protected (unsafer) - I spent many minutes staring at "condomless" wondering how it got in the puzzle (not that I mind, just surprised). I spent many more minutes staring at UNSAFER (I minded).
- 37A: Rio _____, multinational coal-mining giant (Tinto) - never ever ever etc. heard of it.
- 40A: Chaotic place (mare's nest) - I love this expression for its apparent silliness
- 47A: Gun, to Guillermo (pistola) - Used my minimal Spanish skills to guess this one
- 53A: Health form field (nearest relative) - could not, for the life of me, understand the clue at first. Then when I did, it still took me forever to piece the answer together from what I had.
- 1D: Neck ties? (riatas) - I had NOOSES
- 4D: Mantilla wearers (senoras) - spent much time believing "mantilla" meant "yellow" (I was thinking of "amarillo")
- 5D: Setting of the 2007 animated film "Persepolis" (Iran) - one of my few flat-out gimmes. Why this wasn't clued in relation to the graphic novel, I don't know. This may be one of those movies where more people (still) have actually read the book. Just a guess.
- 8D: New Guinea port (Lae) - no way. Needed all crosses.
- 15D: Freebie on some airplane flights (eye shade) - this is a nice answer. I was not offered one of these on my way to or from New Zealand.
- 33D: Angels are sometimes seen over them (fir trees) - really rough. I would have said "on" or "atop them," as that would have been more accurate.
- 36D: "Love is reciprocal _____": Marcel Proust ("torture") - oh boo hoo. Is remembering things past so hard?
- 42D: Pack in a ship's hold (steeve) - a great verb
- 48D: _____ Ishii, character in "Kill Bill" (Oren) - yikes. Hard. I knew it, but it's hard. At least the answer here isn't UMA (again).
- 52D: High-quality vineyard (cru) - later in the day, I will post the picture of the chocolate bar I bought solely because it featured the phrase "premier CRU" on the label. [here it is]
I've only ever seen the phrase "Premier CRU" used for wine. I am a sucker ... SUCKER ... for superdark (>80% cocoa content) chocolate, and a double sucker for a well designed or interesting label. Now that you know that, go out and buy me presents. My birthday is in four months. Good day.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
PS here are a few photos of my recent trip to Baltimore