SATURDAY, Dec. 13, 2008 - Frank Longo (Thimblerig thing / Killer of Greedo sci-fi film / Alternative to Best Buy Circuit City / 1961 hit song Angels)
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium
This is a lovely puzzle that was marred for me by my own stupidity or "slow brain" or whatever you call it when you should have seen something very early on but instead you puzzled and turned and twisted and took out letters and put in letters and ran through the alphabet, etc. Ugh. The embarrassing fact of my experience with this puzzle was that I ran completely aground for what felt like several minutes in the SW. The entire corner was missing. Everything west of EDENS (45D: They're pristine). I was nearly certain about GRETA (43D: Anna player in "Anna Karenina," 1935), fairly certain about I'LL PASS (61A: "No thanks"), and 50/50 on RAMOS (44D: 1990s president of the Philippines). Good start - and yet over the next few minutes, I would manage to tear out each of these, at some point, in order to see what new possibilities I could come up with, all because I couldn't imagine what could be the first word in _____ OF FACT. I had ----EMENT OF FACT, and still didn't see it. Problem: I was giving that first "E" syllabic value, as in the second "E" in "TENEMENT." Didn't imagine it was silent, and so kept trying to think of words that ended -EMENT, and kept failing. The only familiar phrase I could hear in my head was MATTER OF FACT.
Then there were those three-letter downs, which whipped me around. Had ALL (57D: Each, in scores), but the original clue was [Tied], and though "15 ALL" means that the score is "Tied," you can't swap out "Tied" for "ALL" very effectively, if at all, so I kept putting it in, taking it out, putting it in, etc. Had the -TON in KILOTON, but kept hearing the -TON as if it were pronounced like the -TON in PHOTON, PROTON, NEUTRON, etc. Not the short "u" sound in the unit of weight "ton." SKI (55D: Boot attachment) wouldn't come to save my life - was looking for a suffix, obviously (SKI-DOO?). "TIL" could have been "TIS" for all I knew. "TIM?" Tried thinking of girls' names in three letters starting with "T" - and failed. "TIA?" Ugh. Wanted TOP for 58D: Eclipse, which is right, but again, not sooooo right that I wouldn't happily remove it and try other things. Now, all this struggle took maybe five minutes. Maybe. I don't know. I haven't been timing myself for a while now. But it's rare that a puzzle brings me to a Deader than Dead stop. And it's superrare to be brought to a stop by an area where I actually know every answer (well, not "TIL," but everything else). Longo!
The rest of the puzzle seemed very doable, as puzzles with many 15s often are - crack a fifteen with only a few letters in place, and it's a bonanza! A windfall! Keys to all the crosses. All of today's were very basic phrases. Almost bland in their basicness. I mean, STATEMENT OF FACT? Who doesn't love one of those!? Then there's ACCRUED INTERESZZZZZZZ... (17A: Payback factor). Anyway, I was grateful for the ordinariness of the fill, as it made the puzzle very tractable. Had most trouble in the corners. Problem Corner #1, you've seen. Problem Corner #2 was the NW, where ROYAL WE (15A: What I may become) seemed overly obscurely clued. More regal specificity, please. Again, the blandness problem. Blandness is not always your friend. Sometimes you need oomph. Then there was the deliberate deke of 1A: Like icing (illegal). Ugh, more hockey. Clever clue, but most unwelcome after yesterday's puzzle. I think 3D: Biker's wear (lycra) should have been [Cyclist's wear]. When you try to be clever, that's fine, but when you try so hard that you stretch the plausibility of the clue, then I start to get annoyed. Mildly, in this case.
Problem Corner #3 was the NE, where COMP USA (8A: Alternative to Best Buy or Circuit City) was practically if not completely unknown to me. I got an email late last night from another crossword blogger complaining about this clue - apparently COMP USA has very few stores (23). Astonishingly few in comparison to the other stores mentioned in that clue (700 Circuit City, 1500 Best Buy). Thrilled to guess OCTAD right off (though I may have had OCTET at first - 9D: The planets, e.g.). Never heard of either of the CONORs, so that was hard. But gettable, ultimately. All in all, a fine Saturday effort. Solid. Memorable only for my massive, inexplicable failings in the SW.
- 21A: Bloomingdale's rival (Nordrstrom) - we used to Love to go to big malls in the 80s (my family, esp my sister and me). Bellevue Square was an annual destination, as we have relatives who live there. I think that's where I encountered my first NORDSTROM.
- 20A: Tony's portrayer on "NYPD" blue (Esai) - gimme gimme gimme. Learn this clue, as it appears to be the most common way to clue this fine actor these days. "Portrayer" also appears to be the noun of choice, ugly as it is (OK, not CRAFTER ugly, but ugly - 60A: Tradesman).
- 38A: Bathroom buzzers (electric shavers) - cute. I had to sit there and imagine possibilities. It didn't take long, honestly.
- 30A: Desert storm defenses (patriot missiles) - these and SCUDS were all over the news in '91.
- 40A: Fort Worth's _____ Carter Museum (Amon) - who what where? Here. I was wondering what Jimmy Carter was doing with a museum in Fort Worth...
- 41A: Thimblerig thing (pea) - no idea. None. Ah, "thimblerig" is a shell game. Three shells and a PEA. OK.
- 62A: Killer of Greedo in a sci-fi film (Han Solo) - that's Saturday for you - no indication of *which* sci-fi film. GREEDO would be a gooooood puzzle answer.
- 12D: "_____ Grosse Legume" (Orson Welles novel) ("Une") - a comedically grotesquely gargantuan clue for so basic an answer. A gimme that I've never heard of. Weird.
- 18D: Nigerian native (Ibo) - old skool. Learned this from fellow blogger Orange, I think. Not sure in what context. I just associate her with native Nigerians.
- 27D: Tenor Schipa (Tito) - again, no idea. "Tenor" anybody is going to throw me most of the time. Not into OPERA (24D: Work with choruses).
- 32D: Sitting Bull's tongue (Teton) - another I didn't know exactly. Lots of inferrable stuff today.
- 34D: Year in which Middle English began, by tradition (MCL) - I have a Ph.D. in This Specific Subject, and I didn't know this, exactly. "Tradition!" There's very little extant Middle English writing until the 13th century, and the real boom is the 14th, particularly the late 14th (Chaucer, Gower, Langland). Periods of English obviously don't have definitive start/stop dates. "Hey, Bob, what's that language you're speaking? Sounds different from how you was talking yesterday."
- 46D: German magazine article (ein) - wanted "DER." See, "magazine" is here only to try to confuse you as to the meaning of "article" (unless there is a famous German magazine with "EIN" in the title, I guess). Don't like that kind of cluing. Confusion is good. Adding superfluous word for the sole reason of creating confusion. No. [German article] is the clue you want here.
- 49D: Calliope relative (Erato) - an xword staple.
- 50D: Gradually quickening, in mus. (accel.) - more inferring on my part. Mus. clues are the ones that usually get the most persnickety commenters. Classical musicians and hockey fans. Not to be riled. The mail I got yesterday, ugh. "How could you ... You should know ... Everyone knows ... Mon Dieu! ... Zut Alors!"
- 53D: Marsh bird (sora) - I know I have talked about not knowing this before, and yet here I am, not knowing it again.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld