THURSDAY, Aug. 21, 2008 - Gary J. Whitehead (IOWA COUNTY NAMED FOR AN INDIAN TRIBE / INTOXICATING POLYNESIAN DRINK / BULLDOGGER'S EVENT)
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: AGE-LESS (68A: Eternal ... and a hint to 19-, 34-, 42- and 55-Across) - familiar phrases have the letter string "AGE" removed to create wacky phrases, which are clued (wackily)
Had to wrestle with this one a bit, but I eventually brought it down (to use a ... RODEO metaphor? (21A: Bulldogger's event)). I was frustrated enough at one point to Google mid-solve to see if something was right, which it was. SAC County (38A: Iowa county named for an Indian tribe)? Really? Why would anyone in the world outside Iowa have heard of that? Why wouldn't you go with SACramento or SAC fly or even the disgusting [anatomical pouch]? Especially when you've got yet another "Indian tribe" right on top of SAC (33A: Mountain West Conference player - UTE). That western section is as ungainly a section as I've seen in a while. Not only do I have to visit northern New Jersey (26D: Northernmost county in New Jersey), I have to endure RECOIN!?!?! (28D: Bring back, as silver dollars) - that hurts. Four geography clues are crammed into that little section, and they're all mildly to wildly insane. Well, SSRS is standard, but it's clued as a singular, which is annoying. And XENIA (49A: City near Dayton)? There's just a lot of reaching - answers that look interesting in the grid, but that are either wretchedly clued or not really crossworthy. I haven't even mentioned the newly ubiquitous non-Wiesel ELIE (46A: Designer Saab), who is super-crosswordesey. In summation, this section is terrible.
The rest was OK, though. Cute-ish theme. Average level of crappy common fill. Well, maybe slightly above average (letter strings, partials, UMA, ASP, ASST, UTE, ARID, ECO, ARE SO, ATE, STS, IRE ... AH ME indeed). I don't think the theme pops well enough to justify the merely adequate fill. SPORTS COVER? That does nothing. GARB DISPOSAL is the only theme answer with any life in it. Where's, I don't know, MESS IN A BOTTLE?
So, in second summation: meh.
- 19A: Musical group that stays together? (adhesive band)
- 34A: Faith healing service? (mass therapy)
- 42A: Stadium's dome (sports cover)
- 55A: Donation to the Salvation Army? (garb disposal)
I wanted to talk about Baltimore today, since I just got back (it's a great city, from what I could tell), but I got massively side-tracked by a terrible article about crossword puzzles over at Slate. I told the editor lady (a very nice woman) who asked me to publicize it that I would not, but I'm changing my mind. Here it is.
I'm not going to say anything about it. Well, OK, two things:
- Some of the comments in response to the article are priceless (Paula Gamache's is among the kinder, and smarter, comments)
- The big question about the article is: Where am I? (a question I often ask myself when reading articles on any number of subjects). In all seriousness, if the author had read this or this (both in the sidebar under "Important Posts"), at least a couple of his working premises would have crumbled before he'd even begun.
Ignorance + bad writing + someone besides me getting paid for it = angry Rex.
[late addendum: 4-time ACPT champ Tyler Hinman has written a point-by-point evisceration of the Slate article. See it here]
Back to the puzzle:
- 1A: Capital on Lake Victoria (Kampala) - I had CAMPALA (based on what I thought was the correct spelling of CAVA: 1D: Intoxicating Polynesian drink => KAVA), but somehow it didn't look sufficiently ... Ugandan? Seth G is the resident authority on Uganda, and he took this phote in CAMPALA; coincidentally, it has double relevance for today's puzzle ...
- 22A: Herd : buffalo :: knot : TOADS - no idea. None, I didn't even know TOADS were inclined to hang out in groups - certainly not the way buffalo do. Did.
- 29A: Cryptanalysis org. (NSA) - had ASA back when I thought EONS (20D: Stretches of history) was ERAS
- 61A: 1960s sitcom title role (Jeannie) - Barbara Eden was definitely hot, though as JEANNIE she didn't do much for me. Even as a young boy, something struck me as awfully wrong, if not completely f'd up, about the whole "master" business. No offense to Larry Hagman, who is TV legend.
- 4D: Conseco Field House team (Pacers) - weird that a basketball team plays in a "Field" house. Seems wrong. Camden Yards is a lovely, if strangely generic, ballpark. I mean, all the brick is cool, but when you're inside, you generally get the feeling of anywhere USA. Very little Baltimorish or Oriolistic about it all. The 30,000+ Red Sox fans may have had something to do with that. One of those fans - constructor and fellow blogger Pete Mitchell, whom I accosted after the game, in a sea of people, after watching him for several minutes trying to convince myself that the very tall, familiar boy-faced dude was in fact the guy I'd met and talked to at the last ACPT. Pete blogs the NYSun puzzle, and I really should add his blog to my sidebar. . . it's called "Sun Blocks."
- 11D: It's hot in an Indian restaurant (tandoor) - the oven in which TANDOORI chicken is made. Didn't have Indian food in Baltimore, but can recommend, without reservation, the following places:
- Max's Taproom (Fell's Point) - we spent hours sampling beers and relaxing and eating very good, simple beer-worthy food - mussels, burgers, even hummus. I loved this place. It came highly recommended and didn't disappoint. I recommend the Dupont Forêt - pretentious name, but a damned good beer for a steamy hot day. And it's organic!
- Jimmy's (Fell's Point) - if you look under "diner" in the dictionary, this is what you will see - or should see. French toast, 2 eggs over hard, home fries, coffee - all of it Exactly Right. They know how to get the potatoes crispy on the outside and soft on the inside; same with the French toast. Why doesn't this place exist where I live????
- Pitango Gelato (also Fell's Point) - the Spicy Chocolate is astonishing. If you want to cut the spice a little, try the cinnamon as a complementary flavor. Just brilliant. And, again, organic. Good cappuccinos as well.
- 23D: How "Moon River" is played (adagio) - just a guess; the music clue that really screwed me up was 48D: Beethoven's _____ Symphony )(Choral) - I had the "C" and went for "C MINOR"; brilliant!
- 27D: Chase scenes, in action films (staple) - looks plural, comes out singular, unlike SSRS, which looks singular (26A: Part of Easter Europe, once: Abbr.) but comes out plural. STAPLE is nicely clued.
- 59D: _____ Building, first skyscraper in Boston (Ames) - there are a remarkable number of viable AMES clues. People, places, buildings ... sadly, unless it's in Iowa, then the AMES in question rarely comes quickly to mind.
- 61D: Boxer's setup (jab) - I think a JAB can do more than simply set up the cross or uppercut or big punch, but yes, I guess it is generally thought of as a "setup" punch.
And I'm out. See you tomorrow.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld