TUESDAY, Oct. 21, 2008 - Randall J. Hartman (Sugar Loaf mountain site, briefly / Sigma preceder / Boxer Graziano, formally)
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: P-O-L-K-A - first theme clue is [P], and each successive clue adds one more letter of "POLKA" for a total of five theme clues
I've seen this "theme" before, and I like it. It's simple in its design, but results in a puzzle that is not overly simple to solve - primarily because knowing the theme (there's really nothing to grasp) doesn't help you uncover any particular answer. In fact, if this type of "theme" has a fault, it's that answers can get a bit loose. Perhaps it's best to think of the theme answers as reverse-clued - the P, PO, POL, POLK, and POLKA are answers, and their clues are what are in the grid. I'm much happier accepting POLKA as an answer for [Oktoberfest tune] than vice versa. I had no idea what those last four letters were going to be, and had to place them via crosses. RIVER OF LOMBARDY was probably the toughest of the bunch to uncover. Not the first description that comes to mind for the river PO, but again, [River of Lombardy] would have made a fine clue for PO (if the puzzle accepted two-letter words, that is).
- 17A: P (sixteenth letter)
- 22A: PO (river of Lombardy)
- 38A: POL (Capitol Hill type) - had same trouble here with TYPE that I did with TUNE in 55A
- 46A: POLK (former president) - FORMER somehow was not a gimme either
- 55A: POLKA (Oktoberfest tune)
Here's a neat pattern in this puzzle that I would never have noticed had the theme been different:
EAR (29A: It may be cupped or cuffed)
EARL (21A: Warren of the Supreme Court)
EARLY (13D: Jumping the gun)
And they're all in the NW, too. In fact, there's a little EAR staircase there going from EAR to TEAR (19D: Eye drop) to EARL to EARLY. Can't decide if this is unfortunate, lazy, brilliant, or lucky. Further, there are two three-letter words that are expanded by one letter into four letter words at other points in the grid:
ELI (32D: QB Manning)
ELOI (25D: "The Time Machine" race)
AMO (44A: _____, ama, amat ...)
AMSO (44D: Reply to "Are not!")
The latter pair intersect at the "A" - noticing coincidental nonsense like this is how I amuse myself when I don't have a hell of a lot to say about a puzzle.
By far the hardest part of the puzzle for me was the SW corner. 62A: Sugar Loaf Mountain site, briefly (Rio) seems completely incongruous. "Sugar Loaf Mountain" sounds like a place in Vermont, or a place where Faeries live, and at any rate sounds about as far from RIO as, well, where I'm sitting right now. This answer crosses some guy named OAKIE (47D: Jack of "The Great Dictator"), of whom I also have not heard, which makes two crossing proper nouns of relatively low fame. However, there is no violation of the "Natick Principle" here because one of the answers - RIO - is the only possible guess you could make once you have the R and O. So the total number of Natick violators to date remains at two
NATICK x/w NC WYETH at the "N"
ALGOL x/w NLRB at the "L"
Both of which, I have to say, seem entirely gettable to me now that I have fretted over them so much.
- 2D: Remodeled Clay? (Ali) - nice clue. Goes nicely with its nearby boxing-oriented cousin, 22D: Boxer Graziano, formally (Rocco)
- 5D: Dirty tricks on the campaign trail (smears) - when am I gonna see ROBO-CALLS in a puzzle? How long!?!?! Speaking of the campaign trail - have you heard about the dead black bear, found shot in the head and wrapped in Obama signs? This is not a campaign tactic, clearly, but ... it's pretty dirty.
- 9D: Online chuckle (LOL) - I did not LOL at the bear story.
- 11D: Instrument played by George Harrison (sitar) - cool video of George and Ravi Shankar
- 12D: Bergen dummy (Snerd) - Before my time, and yet I have a weird, fuzzy memory of teasing either my sister or stepsister by comparing her to this dummy.
- 33D: Sigma preceder (rho) - "preceder"! One of the great crossword clue words.
- 53A: Myanmar neighbor (Laos) - have yet to see MYANMAR in a puzzle ... OK, so MYANMAR and ROBOCALLS await your constructing prowess.
- 50D: _____ T. Firefly, Groucho's role in "Duck Soup" (Rufus) - what's funny about this is, I didn't know it when it was clued [Groucho's role in "Duck Soup"], and told Will so. The added information he provided in this final version of the clue would have helped me ... not at all.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld