SATURDAY, August 2, 2008 - Karen M. Tracey (CREATOR OF MR. FIELDING AND PROF. GODBOLE / IT COMES BETWEEN SHABAN AND SHAWWAL)
Saturday, August 2, 2008
RELATIVE DIFFICULTY: Medium Challenging
I got owned.
Speaking for all the dilettantes out there, all of us who’ve made it this far in life by knowing just enough to be able to sound like we know vastly more than we actually do, those of us who think we can fake it so far and get by on charm for the rest, those of us who can talk convincingly about books we’ve never read and films we’ve never seen and leave the impression that we’ve plumbed that author’s or director’s oeuvre, those of us who pretend we know what oeuvre means . . . people, this puzzle has come to collect.
I finished it! I did. Just short of an hour, and it was a non-stop session. But I ask you, at what cost, sir? At what cost?
Almost every single clue had its way with me. I verbed; it nouned. I past-tensed; it adjectified. I pluraled; it said, HA! Looking at the wrong word, fool!
And Ms. Tracey is one of those constructors with a diabolical talent for being able to stack up compound or compound-like words such that even if you get part of the word there might as well be another row of black squares separating that part from the rest of the puzzle, for all the good it does you.
But enough of this. Let us descend.
ABANDON HOPE ALL YE WHO ENTER HERE
First pass I didn’t commit to much. I filled in the plurals, took a shot at some past tense stuff (most of which wound up biting me on the butt), I think I put in VOW (22A: Bad thing to break); SETH (23A: Member of the first family), because I saw by glancing at the Down clues that 1D was likely a plural (and a real American plural, by God, with an S, not one of those fake foreign fake plurals that end in A or I), which knocked Adam, Abel and that rascal Cain out of the running, leaving only Seth, the cousin Oliver of the Biblical Bunch, to fit the squares; PLO (51A: West Bank grp.) because we just had it yesterday; IBEAM (29D: Structural support); then hit pay dirt with the three down clues in the far SE corner. I also put in SOUND for 16A (It comes in waves), which was wrong, but I quickly corrected it to CRIME when I figured out 13D was NETWT (It doesn’t include the packaging: Abbr.
Then I sat. I sat for a long time looking at _ _ _ _ METER and _ _ _ _ TETRA, wondering what sort of eight-sided thing the Army commonly affixes to its tanks (57: Common addition to tanks – NEONTETRA), wondering what sort of meter measures something you once did in five letters.
And it just went on like that. For a long, long, long time.
For a long. Long. Long. Long. Time.
The last letter I entered in the puzzle was the B in ARB/ABAFT at 10D (Trading specialist, briefly) and 18A (Fore’s opposite), respectively. I don’t understand those two answers. I don’t understand anything anymore. I’m frightened. I just want my wife to come back.
Things in this Puzzle That Made Me Sad
- 1A: Prussia annexed it in 1802 (ESSEN) – Right away you know what you’re in for, if you have any sense. Clues with Prussia in them make me think of spiky helmets and elaborate facial hair. (I myself have been described as Kaiseresque.)
- 6A: Means of execution for favored criminals in antiquity (ASP) – Gee. Thanks. I guess. (Said the favored criminal in antiquity.)
- 14A: Beak (SCHNOZZLE) – Got this (finally) with the Z from ZSA ZSA GABOR (15D: She opined “Macho does not mean mucho”). I think I’ve got a talent for instinctively knowing how many letters are in a word, not that it’s much use for anything. So if somebody said, “Quick! Parabolic!” I’d say immediately, “Nine.” Schnozzle is one of those words I couldn’t do that with. It takes up a lot more letters than it sounds like it does. I’d be like the evil guy manning the toll-bridge in The Holy Grail when he’s asked about swallows.
- 17A: Condition (PROVISION) – This is typical of the puzzle. Until it shows up in a crossword, you’re probably not aware that the word “condition” has so many disparate meanings. I was thinking physical fitness.
- 19A: Senatorial support (YEA) – Verily, I thought this was more along the lines of what Jesus said, not senators. (I had YAY, AYE, YES, et al.)
- 20A: It comes between Shaban and Shawwal (RAMADAN) – I’d have nailed this if the clue had been, “The only Arabic month you know (you insipid little dilettante with all your English-majory pretensions and your bumper-stickers espousing all the correct positions on the proper causes and those prominently displayed jazz CD’s that you never listen to because you really don’t like jazz at all.)”
- 27A: No-votes? (ABSTENTIONS) – I had ABSTAININGS. I really did. That’s what this puzzle did to me.
- 30A: Promised one (MESSIAH) – Another head-fake that threw me off the whole puzzle. I was thinking of somebody who got promised something, which I thought would end in EE.
- 43A: Sending out signals (ONAIR) – Got this one pretty early. Felt pretty good. Didn’t do squat for me.
- 44A: Many a blog post (RANT) – Ahem.
- 48A: It contains a dash (CAR) – Mean. She’s just mean.
- 54A/56A: It tells you how much you’ve 56 across (ALTIMETER / RISEN) – Know what I was thinking? I didn’t put it in but I was thinking it. CLUMB. I was thinking an altimeter measured how far I’d clumb. This puzzle took something more from me than merely my pride. It made me consider “clumb” as a word.
- 59A: ___ Robbins, co-lyricist of the #1 “Rocky” theme song “Gonna Fly Now” (AYN) – We’ve had generations of crossword constructors come and go, and they didn’t have much that united them, but I think one part of their unspoken moral code that has remained unchanged throughout the generations is that AYN always belongs to Ms. Rand. We don’t go outside the Fountainhead/Atlas-Shrugged/Who-is-John-Gault perimeter for this answer. Apparently Ms. Tracey doesn’t think this rule applies to her. She’s gonna fly now with the co-lyricist of a song that has three words. It took more than one person to write a song with three words, and somehow one of those people is crossword-worthy. (I know, one of you cruciverbalist folk is gonna come pour water on my joke by pointing out how many times since 1942 AYN has been clued in a way that doesn’t involve Ayn Rand. Why do I have to be limited to the facts all the time?)
- 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11D: I could say something about each of those entries, and all of the others. The pain each caused me was unique. But what more does this puzzle want from me?
- 13D: Creator of Mr. Fielding and Prof. Godbole (E.M. FORSTER) – Is that what you want? For me to admit that I’ve never read E.M. Forster? Okay, I’ve never read E.M. Forster. Not in the way that he is supposed to be read, anyway. Not with reverence and eyebrows appreciatively cocked. I read The Razor’s Edge but didn’t really pay any attention to it because the hero’s name is Larry (I think), and it’s just hard to accord tragic significance to somebody named Larry, especially when he was played in a movie by Bill Murray. [Note from Seth at 3:30 a.m.: "Razor's Edge was Maugham, right?" Indeed it was, my friend. Indeed it was. I'm pretty sure there was somebody named Larry in A Passage to India, too.] I read “The Machine Stops” only a few months ago, because I was going through some books and found an anthology called Classic Short Modern Novels or something like that, and it had the Forster novella in it and, like always, I felt guilty and fraudulent because I hadn’t surrendered up my soul in reverence to E-freaking-M-Forster, the thinking man’s Henry James, so I left it in the toilet for occasional perusal. It’s about this lady who lives in a pod because it’s the future and people live in pods now. Her son is grown and also lives in a pod but he doesn’t like it because it’s a COMMENT ON THE HUMAN SPIRIT. The lady thinks the pod is fine because everything anybody needs is provided for by “the machine,” which is a SYMBOL. I forgot what happened. My wife was yelling at me to get out of the toilet.
- 21D: Ride for 007 (ASTON MARTIN) – I don’t think of 007 when I think of Aston Martins. (I don’t think I’ve ever seen an entire James Bond movie, come to think of it.) I think of these two fat twin brothers who were sons of the owner of the local auto-parts store where I worked one summer in high school. One’s name was Prentice; I don’t remember what the other one’s name was. They were identical fat twins, probably in their twenties or thirties, and didn’t work or anything, but they each had Aston Martins (lots of money in small town auto parts stores, I guess), and one of the twins made me wash his car one day instead of stocking the new supply of auto parts. Man, I hated those guys. It was either an Aston Martin or an Alfa Romeo. I don’t know anything about cars.
- 31D: Tough to crack (ENIGMATIC) – See, all these clues and answers look perfectly fine now, but you gotta understand what it was like. You had to have been there, staring at _ _ _ GMATIC and being able think only of PRAGMATIC, and not even knowing if the G was right. It was horrible, man.
- 39D: Co-star of “Friends” and “Friends With Money” (ANISTON) – I watched Friends. I’m admitting that. I wouldn’t have before I did this puzzle. I watched Friends and could not think of any of the actors’ names. Lisa Kudrow was the only one I finally summoned. This puzzle did that to me. All that “staving off Alzheimer’s” stuff is shot to hell by this puzzle.
It’s late. I could go on. (I know, that’s the problem, I know.) This has been a blast, helping man the blog with Seth and Angela for the past few weeks. I’m heading to Scotland in a few days and will probably be scarce for awhile. Seth and PG will take over until Rex returns, Thursday or thereabouts. So long for now.