Sunday, March 30, 2008
Relative difficulty: Eeeeeasy
THEME: AIR (36A: Word that can precede each half of the answer to each of the eight starred clues)
This was my fastest puzzle completion time ever, twenty seconds faster than my previous record. I have no idea what just happened. When I finished and saw the timer at 2:48, I think I jumped out of my chair and did a little dance. I don't really remember. About midway through solving, I just had this gut feeling that I was going to break 3 if I didn't completely stall out on an answer, and though I tripped and hesitated and typoed a few times, I finally did it. First time ever. Exhilarating. I know this was easier than most Mondays, but, I mean, I've never even done a Monday Newsday puzzle, let alone an NYT, in under 3, so even if we agree that this is the easiest puzzle that has ever existed since the dawn of time, I'm still thrilled.
How did this happen?
- All of the theme answers came instantly, for no good reason. Didn't need to know the theme - the phrases just leaped forth.
- Guessed OAFISH (5D: Like a lout) off just the "O," CRONE (6D: Hag) off just the "C," and virtually every other initial guess proved correct. For speed, I like to run consecutive Downs - 1, 2, 3, 4, for instance, or 25, 26, 27. The clues are all nicely grouped together, whereas if you try to solve all the Acrosses in a given section, your eye has to bounce around a lot trying to find the numbers. This may seem a trivial matter, but when speed counts, it is not.
- I did not spaz out the way I often do when I'm racing. I typed fairly deliberately. Quickly, but methodically. After it took me about five passes to type OCTET correctly (5A: Group of eight musicians), I settled down and made few if any typing errors from there on out.
- I survived a horrid NE, where I did not get PLOT (10A: Underhanded plan) at first pass, and then had a true blank-out moment where 22A: Quenched (slaked) meets 19D: Scratch on a diamond, e.g. (flaw). I could not figure out what the latter clue was going for at all, and I had written in SOAKED, in desperation, for the former. Thankfully, FOAW was obviously wrong, so I didn't leave it behind but fixed it immediately.
- I managed to avoid my late-game fumbling. Ended in the SW where 47, 48, and 49D went down bam bam bam.
- 18A: *Sci-fi barrier (force field)
- 20A: *Newspaper article lead-in (dateline) - it's back! Twice in a week. Weird.
- 28A: *When the curtain goes up (show time)
- 41A: *Wrestling move that puts an arm around someone's neck (headlock)
- 50A: *Secret communication location (mail drop) - this was the toughest one for me, as I wasn't quite sure what was so "secret" about a place you DROP MAIL, but ... it sounded right, so I went with it.
- 54A: *Mars Pathfinder, for one (space craft)
- 4D: *Diamond game (baseball)
- 37D: *Indy 500 venue (speedway) - this really really spoils an otherwise FLAWless theme - let's see if you can guess why...
What else is there? Good question:
- 1A: Sea creature that sidles (crab) - perfect clue
- 14A: Greeting in Granada (hola) - hesitated once because I read "Granada" as "Canada," then hesitated again as I blanked on where the hell Granada was.
- 24A: Martial artist Jackie (Chan) - I highly recommend "Rumble in the Bronx," which I have very fond memories of seeing in the Mall of America with my bestest grad-school-era friends.
- 46A: Corduroy ridge (wale) - something about this word has always bugged me. WAIL, WHALE, those are good words. WALE is some kind of abomination. Why did a [Corduroy ridge] ever need its own name? And it's a bit creepy to give the corduroy ridge the name WALE when its primary definition is "a mark on the skin, as by a whip; a weal or welt." Further, with WEAL already there, why did anyone need WALE? And WEAL is weird because it also means "prosperity" and "happiness," or "welfare" (e.g. "common weal"). That's one sadomasochistic word circle they got going there at Merriam-Webster or whoever makes this @#$# up.
- 58A: Western flick, in old lingo (oater) - did you really need "in old lingo?" You know OATER, or you don't know OATER. "In old lingo" isn't helping anyone.
- 61A: One of a reporter's five W's (where) - along with WHO, WHAT, WHEN, and WHY ... not sure what happened to HOW.
- 2D: Capital of Italia (Roma) - at least the answer wasn't EURO, ugh.
- 28D: Move with one's tail between one's legs (slink) - my dog will do this when she thinks she is in trouble or when she is told to go "out of the kitchen" (an actual command).
- 29D: Actor and rockabilly crooner Chris (Isaak) - I just like this clue, which feels ... decadent, somehow. I mean "rockabilly" and "crooner?" That's some fancy cluin'.
- 30D: Three-card hustle (Monte) - always makes me think of MONTY Hall, who, as you can see, spells his name differently.
- 42D: Business that may have gone boom then bust in the '90s (dot com) - cool phrase, and like CRAB before it, instantly gettable.
- 46D: Eucharist disk (wafer) - something about "disk" feels a little too casual. It's not a frisbee (is it?).
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld