SUNDAY, Oct. 26, 2008 - Daniel C. Bryant (Old Indian V.I.P. / Internet initialism / African nation founder Jomo / Milo's title partner in a 1989 film)
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: "All Saints' Day" - "ST" is added to familiar phrases, creating wacky phrases, which are clued (with "?")
I have one word written across my test-solving copy of this puzzle: "painful." Resolving the puzzle last night, I realized that I had to give credit to the theme answers, many of which were bright and funny - I particularly like HOLY STROLLERS, ULTRAVIOLET STRAYS, and WHERE THE BOYS STARE. But the non-theme fill made me wince over and over and over. Most of my responses to Will re: the puzzles are very terse - little corrections or suggestions, and sometimes nothing but "this looks good." But on this day - here is the transcript of my feedback (some of which he listened to). Wait, first, the theme answers:
- 23A: Switch in an orchestra section? (exchange of STrings)
- 40A: Pilgrim? (holy STroller)
- 57A: Neolithic outlaws? (STone-armed bandits)
- 77A: Invisible lost dogs? (ultraviolet STrays)
- 96A: Gets fat? (goes all STout)
- 115A: Go-go club? ("Where the Boys STare")
- 16D: Add new connections between floors? (put on STairs)
- 70D: Dieter? (STarch enemy)
Theme answers are just fine - very good in places - but the non-theme fill felt forced throughout. Lots of (to me) obscure or at best marginal proper nouns, odd y-adjectives, and other assorted weirdness. The entire SW feels like it needs a complete rewrite. NAWAB (100D: Old Indian V.I.P.) hasn't appeared in a puzzle in almost a decade - for good reason. I know Bach's Mass in B Minor (125A: Key of Bach's best-known Mass) is super famous (as Masses go), but not giving the solver a reasonable chance at the "B" is harsh. Maybe "B" is the only reasonable guess, but I was leaning "A" for a bit. The letter in a music clue like that should have a reasonable cross.
- KENYATTA (though I like it) - 104A: African nation founder Jomo _____
- LACS (Leman is a French lake?) - 79D: Leman and others
- LEHAR - 4D: Franz who composed "You Are My Heart's Delight"
- DONATI - 49D: Costume designer Danilo _____
'OME (53A: Kipling's "Follow Me _____") and APLAY (64A: Beckett's "Endgame: _____ in One Act") are just more examples of an overall feel of forcedness. No one of the above answers would be terrible on its own (I don't think). But the cumulative effect is kind of punishing.
- SATINY is OK (21A: Smooth and shiny), but then there's LARDY (43D: Loaded with fat)
- DESERET = Utah? (51D: Another name for 28-Across)
- EXE is real but feels like lazy fill (114A: Devon river)
- Don't understand ARR. clue [note: this clue got changed to one I do understand, namely 83A: Sheet music abbr.]
- How is a TVAD "inside"? (108A: Inside pitch?)
Not all BRALESS people "need a lift" (though it's a clever clue - 71D: Needing a lift?) - the idea that women "need" bras might get you some flack.
DERIV = ouch (60D: Word origin: Abbr.)
I thought ALDO RAY was AL DORAY (HA ha) - isn't he more famous for something else? Maybe not. (33D: "The Naked and the Dead" star, 1958) [note: I should add that I had him confused in my head with Mamie Van Doren's erstwhile husband, band leader Ray Anthony]
Don't like clue for NEPALI [clue was changed from 68D: Viewer of the Himalayas to the current, better 68D: Certain Himalayan] - much of the country is *in* the Himalaya range, and "viewer" doesn't seem specific enough (or interesting enough)
Lastly, is STONE-ARMED supposed to mean "armed with stones" or "having arms made of stones?" Either way, it's pretty rough, esp. since most of the other theme answers are so smoooth.
I would post Will's patient and gracious reply, but there are probably copyright issues and plus he always sounds so much more Reasonable than I do, and I really don't want to suffer the comparison this morning. I have to give credit to him as an editor - he genuinely listens to criticism, even if he mostly - and appropriately - sticks to his guns.
- 10A: Like Arnold Schoenberg's music (atonal) - hmm, let's see. Yes, this sounds like kids noodling with their instruments in the living room ... at least at first:
- 16A: 1990 Literature Nobelist Octavio _____ (Paz) - never read him, but know the name
- 38A: Negative north of England (nae!) - exceedingly common; should be a gimme
- 65A: Crazy Legs Hirsch of the early N.F.L. (Elroy) - Didn't realize a first name was missing, so didn't know what the clue was going for.
- 68A: How dastards speak (nastily) - I would have said SNIDELY:
- 72A: Major-league manager Tony (La Russa) - won the World Series recently with the Cards
- 73A: Be Circe-like (entice) - weird but cool clue
- 74A: Alfred E. Neuman visages (grins) - I highly recommend Art Spiegelman's "Breakdowns / Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@/*!" - a brilliant comics memoir. I mention this here because there is a big section about the importance of "MAD" magazine to Spiegelman's artistic development.
- 85A: First Shia imam (Ali) - good, unusual clue for this common answer
- 95A: Internet initialism (IMHO) - oughta be common to you all by now
- 111A: Traditional symbol of friendship (topaz) - I had no idea. Also a Hitchcock film.
- 12D: Milo's title partner in a 1989 film (Otis) - the year "1989" always scares me - what horrid piece of pop culture offal could it be? It's just "Milo and OTIS," which I confuse with "Turner & Hooch" all the time. Difference - dog dies in the latter.
- 17D: Whitaker played him in a 2006 film (Amin) - he was great / movie was mediocre
- 24D: Menotti role for a boy soprano (Amahl) - becoming as common as NAE
- 32D: Curly conker (Moe) - really great clue
- 36D: Longtime D.C. delegate to Congress _____ Holmes Norton (Eleanor) - hard to clue ELEANOR in a way that is not instantly obvious (i.e. Roosevelt and Rigby are gonna be gimmes no matter how you clue them, probably). So this is an interesting choice of clue.
- 59D: Gene variant (allele) - managed to hold on to this one from a month or so back when it looked completely alien to me.
- 69D: Anatomical cavity (antrum) - new, or newish, to me; feels like it might have been in a puzzle recently. Anyway, I pieced it together.
- 80D: American suffragist honored with a 1995 stamp (Alice Paul) - even with a Women's History specialist in the house, I am terrible at remember names of suffragist and other early women's rights types beyond, let's say, Susan B. Anthony.
- 88D: Cowboy actor Calhoun (Rory) - watching "The Simpsons" is a huge advantage for crossword solvers, I find. Yesterday, JACKANAPES was completely familiar to me from the episode entitled "Day of the JACKANAPES." Today, I got RORY instantly because of the episode where Mr. Burns decides to buy greyhound puppies from the Simpson family in order to (gasp) make a greyhound fur tuxedo. He decides he will spare one little greyhound, and he names it ... RORY Calhoun.
- 113D: Sleep indicators (zees) - comics!
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld