SATURDAY, Aug. 23, 2008 - Natan Last (PRECEDER OF JEFFERSON AIRPLANE AT WOODSTOCK / OIL-BASED PASTE MENTIONED IN THE LYRICS TO "LUCY IN THE SKY ...")
Friday, August 22, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: none (or "Trouble at Thanksgiving")
This puzzle was supposed to be hard. Ellen Ripstein said it was hard (she deleted said comment on Friday's write-up after I indicated to her that I prefer to know NOTHING about a puzzle before I solve it). Natan Last himself said it was hard (like Kevin Der, Natan is one of my "Friends" at Facebook - I'm up to 20, I think, some of whom I've actually met in person!). Anyway, this puzzle was not hard. It packed an average Saturday wallop - maybe even a below-average wallop. Not sure how to measure that. My time was pretty average, so ... "Medium."
It was not average, however, in its delightfulness. There, it exceeded expectations. I loved this puzzle. Great pop culture stuff, a nice balance of sci/math and literary stuff and general knowledge clues. Lots of cross-grid connections among answers (i.e. consecutive [Thanksgiving dishes] clues, IN A being able to precede three different answers, AVIATE (3D: Play an ace?) + AIRWOMAN (33D: Her idea may be taking off), the existential reverse progression of WHY AM I HERE? (57A: Existential musing), IT'S LATE (35A: Lead-in to "I really should get going"), and OBITUARIES (17A: Late news?), etc.). You could even MOSEY (48D: Moves with no urgency) over to a HOOTENANNY (60A: Folkies' do) where someone (if you're lucky) might be playing "JOLENE" (46D: #1 country hit for Dolly Parton) (though probably not "THE WHO" - 43D: Preceder of Jefferson Airplane at Woodstock). Good stuff all around. And I knew or had heard of every term in the grid, and nothing struck me as horrible. I mean, LOHAN's terrible (51D: Star of "Herbie: Fully Loaded"), but in the grid, with That Clue (!), she's simply, I don't know, campy. Kitschy. Love that she intersects LOCO (51A: Bats).
Began the puzzle oddly, with two unconnected Downs just hanging there in outer space: IDIOM (8D: Translator's challenge) and SETTEES (21D: Parlor pieces). Stalled for a few seconds after that, but then I got ESTONIA (28A: Hiiumaa Island belongs to it) because I thought "hmmm, that looks Finnish," and then remembered my Finnish friend Eric telling me that ESTONIAn and Finnish were closely related (actually, I think his family is in fact ESTONIAn). Anyway, knowing Finns came in handy today.
Mess o' stuff:
- 1A: Oil-based paste mentioned in the lyrics to "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" (plasticine) - no idea where this came from, but once I had -CINE, I knew. I am not terribly familiar with the lyrics to that song. I remember the chorus, and little else.
- 11A: Script meaning "God is great" appears on its flag (Iraq) - didn't see it until the only letter I had left as the "Q" - which I got from the super cross, QB SNEAKS (14D: Plays after some snaps, in brief)
- 23A: "_____ say, Rise up and walk?": Luke 5:23 ("or to") - possibly my least favorite part of this puzzle. Awkward partial that you have to go deep into the Bible to get. Actually, there's a more famous "OR TO" in "Hamlet"... I think.
- 24A: Headmaster of literature (Dumbledore) - super easy, though I had to change JOE to DOW to get it (25D: Average guy?)
- 27A: "Tais-_____!" (French "Shut up!") ("toi") - gimme gimme gimme. Thanks, Mr. Cardella.
- 32A: "Dick Tracy" character Catchem (Sam) - I'm teaching "Dick Tracy" in my Crime Fiction course starting next week, and I couldn't retrieve this answer. I don't think I've read far enough through the (awesome!) recent reprints yet.
- 38A: Inits. associated with Hyde (RLS) - I seriously had DDS here for a bit, thinking "was he a dentist? But it's Dr. Jekyll..."
- 39A: Turkey tender? (liras) - taking the Thanksgiving theme even deeper...
- 42A: Small, narrow bays (armlets) - had the -LETS, "IN" wouldn't fit, "OUT" seemed wrong, "ARM" was the next thing I thought of.
- 45A: 1999 best-selling memoir ("'Tis") - piece o' cake. Never read it, but I see it all over the place.
- 49A: Underhanded change, slangily (switcheroo) - got it off the final "O" alone
- 53A: Soldier's 1000 (ten a.m.) - this took much longer than it should have
- 54A: Bars without other people? (solos) - wanted SOAPS
- 12D: Human as opposed to an animal, notably (reasoner) - really really want this clue to start with the indefinite article "A". Really.
- 32D: Cutting-edge cinema? (slashers) - you know, it was the first answer I considered, but the plural just felt wrong, so I took it out. Like that it intersects RAGE (59A: Burning state)
- 34D: Film character who says "I promise teach karate. That my part. You promise learn" (Mr. Miyagi) - oh man, right over the plate for me. I was 14 when this came out, I think. Elisabeth Shue = instant crush.
- 36D: They work by themselves (automata) - I don't think I've ever seen this pluralized. I had AUTOMATS for a bit
- 37D: The Ghostbusters, e.g. (trio) - more mid-80s cinema, woo hoo. Great clue for this common answer.
Off to bed.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld