SATURDAY, Dec. 6, 2008 - A.V. and N.V. (Bat portrayer / Town on the IJsselmeer / Posthumous Pulitzer winner of 1958 / Relief pitcher Robb)
Friday, December 5, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
THEME: TEN ORS (29D: Choir section ... and what are missing from the starred clues) - clues to ten answers have the letter string "OR" removed from them; resulting clue is still in recognizable English, and plausible as a clue in its own right, and thus Very misleading if you don't understand what the hell is going on
Weirdly, I got this theme very, very early - within the first minute or so of solving. And yet, it was still tough, partly because of the clever cluing, and partly because I am an idiot and Kept Forgetting what the "OR" was supposed to be removed from (I kept trying to take "OR" out of answers!). Ugh. Very very clever idea, and a very rare themed Saturday puzzle. This puzzle was constructed by Ashish Vengsarkar (a very nice man who has written great puzzles before) and Narayan Venkatasubramanyan, who may be making his debut, and who certainly has the longest name in the history of crossword constructing.
- 1A: *Panama (view) -> [PanORama]
- 9A: *Popular rest area (Aspen) -> [Popular resORt area]
- 17A: *Bat portrayer (Sacha Baron Cohen) -> [BORat portrayer] - this is my favorite, in that it had me thinking of an actor (right) who played Batman (wrong).
- 54A: *Sty for youngsters ("Three Little Pigs") -> [StORy for youngsters]
- 61A: *Deal (trial) -> [ORdeal]
- 63A: *Cal _____ (reef) -> [CORal _____]
- 10D: *Male booster (shot in the arm) -> [MORale booster]
- 22D: *Words that come from clams (onomatopoeia) -> [Words that come from clamORs] - great, great clue; learned that I don't really know how to spell ONOMATOPOEIA. Ended up guessing on that first "A" - thought it might be an "O," but LADO felt wrong, even for a Russian car make I'd never heard of before (37A: Russian car make)
- 26D: *Aid in tailing (needle) -> [Aid in tailORing]
- 31D: *Famous son (Welles) -> [Famous ORson]
Parts of this puzzle were flat-out easy, particularly the middle - which is why I got the theme so early. TERI went in right away (41A: "Desperate Housewives" co-star of Eva and Felicity), and that terminal "I" meant that 23D: Career Golden Slam winner (Agassi) was a gimme. TGI (29A: _____ Friday's) was another no-brainer. The middle just filled itself in from there. There were a number of names that are very common crossword fill - perhaps not outright gimmes, given their cluing, but definitely gettable if you do puzzles with any regularity. These include AGEE (52D: Posthumous Pulitzer winner of 1958) and EERO (43A: Chair designer Aarnio) - the latter of whom I think I've never heard of, but EERO is in the puzzle all the time (or used to be) as the first name of architect Saarinen. I would not have thought of EDEL as easy two years ago, but having seen it several times now (and at least once clued precisely this way - 39A: Writer of the five-volume biography "Henry James"), it's approaching gimme status. Robb NEN was a gimme for me, and any other baseball fan, but maybe not for a lot of you (13D: Relief pitcher Robb). Oh, and ISAO should be a gimme for you all, if not today, then in the future (2D: Golfer Aoki). Like ROBB NEN, ISAO AOKI has first and last names that could (and do) easily show up in the grid.
There were definitely some potholes and dead ends and other hazards in this grid. I was virtually certain that 42D was REEKED. Seemed like a fine, even great, answer for 42D: Was apparently lit. I sat there and stared at EL-K as the answer for 50A: Its liners have stars on them forever. I put in every vowel - nothing. Finally convinced myself "K" must be wrong, and then right answer became obvious. Not ELAK, but the super duper common EL AL! Aargh. THALES (the "A" cross) is not familiar to me, clearly (45D: Pre-Socratic philosopher). I fell into another pit when I test-solved the puzzle, a pit which Will graciously filled in before the puzzle went live. The original clue for WINOS was not today's 31A: Red or white nuts?, but [Ones with red or white attachments?], which seems quite valid, but the vagueness of "attachments" made me think it was a word that was attached, in some way, to "red" and "white" - namely, the word "WINES." You know, red WINE, white WINE - red and white attachments = WINES! When you don't know how to spell ONOMATOPOEIA, having WINES for WINOS doesn't exactly set off any bells.
- 20A: Belafonte song opener ("Day O!") - another surprisingly easy answer.
- 34A: Town on the IJsselmeer (Edam) - dang: along with AGEE, EERO, and ELAL, yet another super-common answer hiding in a nutso-looking clue.
- 44A: Job for un docteur (cas) - oooh, un docteur of loi. Tricky. [Although I guess medical doctors also have "cases"] This clue has the same structure / logic as 56D: Father of une princesse (roi). Two of this kind of clue is one too many.
- 59A: Salad or sandwich request (no oil) - did anyone else have a brief moment of thinking, "... NOOIL? How do you pronounce that?")
- 55D: Where the land meets the sky: Abbr. (hor.) - one of the few ugh-y entries in this lovely puzzle
- 58D: Big name in water filters (Pur) - want to put a straight HOR. line atop the "u" but can't figure out how.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld