SATURDAY, Oct. 18, 2008 - Brad Wilber (Fish by thrusting a baited hook into holes / Precursor of Pascal / Philosophical studier of the universe)
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium
A fine puzzle - one which, as I suggested yesterday, was originally planned as a Friday puzzle. And it feels Friday in many ways. It's tough, but there are a number of gimmes that make traction easy to come by. NAOMI went in the grid right away (39A: Wolf who wrote "The Beauty Myth"), followed immediately by BAMA (30D: Southeastern Conference team, for short) and SEMI (28D: Important match), and that chunk of answers set up both the SW and the center of the puzzle. SPENSER (8A: Robert B. Parker's private eye) was easy for me (I'm not a fan, but I teach crime fiction and so can't help but be familiar with Parker's work), as was ESIASON (13D: Star QB for the 1980s-'90s Bengals). 80s sports are a specialty - I think sports figures of your youth (esp. if you're a boy) are like the music of your youth: the names (or lyrics) just stick to your brain whether you like it or not. So the NE was not hard. Speaking of 80s music sticking to your brain, please enjoy this new version of an 80s video classic - with handy new lyrics that describe exactly what's happening on screen:
The two parts of this puzzle that, I'm guessing, necessitated the switch from Friday to Saturday were the upper part of the SE corner, which proved oddly hard to get into, and the single letter at the ALGOL / NLRB intersection, which was a Total guess on my part. All the computer geeks out there surely went through that one like a hot knife through butter, but I'm going to call foul, even though I got it right. I invoke the "Natick Principle" (the first time, I think, that it has been *officially* invoked since its coinage) - they are both uncommon proper nouns (if you are a programmer and see ALGOL (26A: Precursor of Pascal) every day, good for you; please don't assume that everyone else sees what you see). NLRB (23D: Collective bargaining watchdog org.) reminded me of the "NC" in "NC WYETH" - letters! Random letters! Now, in retrospect, I can see that "NLRB" probably means "National Labor Relations Board" (checking ... yes, I'm right). And clearly some part of my brain sensed the rightness of both ALGOL and NLRB, but nonetheless, that is a Terrible Crossing, one that should have prompted a complete rewriting of that section of the puzzle.
As for the SE - well, I read a lot of DC Comics and couldn't come up with STARMAN (38D: DC Comics superhero) for a while. Never heard of him, just as I have never heard of most of those damned JSA members. I Don't Care! Too Many Cooks Spoil the Superhero Broth! Ugh, that standard comics shot of a phalanx of flying heroes coming at you in their muscular poses - I Hate It (comics rant = over).
FREESIA (37D: Cousin of a crocus) feels like a word I've heard but apparently never seen - that double-E looks crazy and wrong. And COSMIST (36D: Philosophical studier of the universe) - does anyone call himself that? I want to see that on someone's business card: "Larry Peale, Cosmist." I think I had ANIMIST for a while, which is obviously wrong, but feels more like a real thing than COSMIST. The real key to getting the pesky upper SE was guessing the latter half of "SAPS / AT SEA" (46A: With 44-Across, 1940 Laurel and Hardy film) off of just the "A." Never heard of it, let alone seen it. People in a choir wear STOLES (41D: Choir robe accessories)? Seems awfully decadent ...
This puzzle had few really weak answers, but RST (50D: Letter run) and INTR (47D: Preface: Abbr.) make a pretty damned ugly pair. [Letter run]!?!?! I mean, when you can't even get a clue together for an answer, maybe you should reconsider the answer.
- 15A: Court slam dunk (open and shut case) - at least it wasn't BOOM SHAKA LAKA
- 17A: Seriously deteriorate (go to rack and ruin) - I had something else very plausible here, but now can't remember what it was
- 21A: Rewards for good dives (nines) - "Scores" is better than "Rewards," but OK.
- 28A: It builds up in bars (silt) - I don't think I understand this. I had SOAP here. Then SAND. I also had DATA where BIAS belonged (25D: Pollster's concern).
- 42A: 2006 Grammy-winning blues singer _____ Thomas (Irma) - I have no doubt that I've seen her before, but like many four-letter-named ladies, the names start to blur together in my head: IRMA, ENYA, ANYA, EMMA, ELLA, LENA, TINA, etc.
- 48A: Writing that mixes reportage and fiction (Gonzo Journalism) - easily the best answer in the grid, and I'm guessing the primary reason for constructing this puzzle in the first place. Hunter S. Thompson! Is LOCAL ANESTHESIA (51A: It's not a total knockout) a kind of parody of, or euphemism for, all the drugs and alcohol Thompson consumed?
- 6D: Much may come after it (inas) - I think I thought INASMUCH was one word. Aha, it is, though apparently it can also be written out as separate words. Needless to say, I hate this answer.
- 7D: Quarantining org. (CDC) - what a weird way to define them, though the clue is undoubtedly correct.
- 8D: Corporation allocation ("taxation without representation, and that's not fair" ... I mean SHARES ... got the Schoolhouse Rock rhyming bug there for a second)
- 9D: Very slow-burning, as a fire (punky) - there is only one way to clue PUNKY, and this is not it. THIS is what I'm looking for (OMG it's the worst sitcom intro ever, in so many ways):
- 11D: Big A.T.M. maker (NCR) - I remember very well how I learned this word. Complained about NCR / ACCRA crossing and people went nuts telling me how common NCR is. If you do puzzles long enough, it turns out, NCR is indeed pretty common.
- 12D: It may be chain-linked (sausage) - gross. Took me a while, as my brain kept boing "Fence? Fence? Fence?"
- 22D: Creator of a bathroom cloud (talc) - gross again. I couldn't even bring myself to attempt this answer.
- 31D: Online shopping icon (cart) - good clue.
- 32D: Fish by thrusting a baited hook into holes (sniggle) - word I learned from crosswords, but I've only ever seen it in the clues (for EEL, EELS, EELING, etc.).
- 33D: Auto-rotating system (carpool) - excellent clue.
- 40D: Spandex source (Dupont) - all I could think of were exercise leggings from the 80s. Jane Fonda's legs in particular. Or cyclists. Anyway, a company name did not occur to me until crosses made it obvious.
- 44D: Brew from Tokyo (Asahi) - great letter combinations for a crossword. Surprised I don't see it more often. This ad is fantastic / mesmerizing:
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
PS it seems my wife lost her wedding ring yesterday after raking and bagging tons of leaves in our front yard. Any ideas about how she might go about finding a ring inside 11 bags of leaves (or possibly somewhere on a still-leafy yard) can be sent directly to her at her website. [UPDATE - wife rented a metal detector and found the ring inside of two minutes. While we were still in the process of trying to determine if the damn detector was working consistently - did nothing when presented with my ring, then later beeped at my ring - she waved it over one of the bags of leaves and got a beep. I reached in and in about 3 seconds had her ring in my hand. It was so anti-climactic! She literally just brought the detector home - but she paid for 24 hours. Now she's thinking about finding a beach to comb (hard to do in far upstate NY) - thanks for the suggestions]