WEDNESDAY, Dec. 31, 2008 - Tim Wescott (Letters after two slashes / Support with stone, as an embankment / One of a seasonal octet)
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: URL suffixes - circled squares in four theme answers spell out common web address suffixes; first letters of theme answers are H, T, T, and P (respectively) (the letters at the beginning of all web addresses) - bonus theme answer of WWW (40A: Letters after two slashes)
It's the final puzzle of 2008 - I really wish I liked it more. I wanted to end the year on a high note, but there is a messiness about this theme that I find somewhat off-putting. My gut feeling is that the puzzle is trying to do too much. When I first test-solved the puzzle, the initial letters of the theme answers were Not circled, and when I finished, I could not understand the rationale for accepting the puzzle - the circled square coverage is thin and (contrary to the highest standards of puzzle-writing) the circled squares don't touch every word in each theme answer. Only PLAYING OVERTIME seemed legit, and as a stand-alone phrase, even that wasn't that strong. Taking COM from the first three letters of COMMITMENT seemed so cheap and easy that I was surprised the puzzle hadn't been rejected out of hand. Now that I see the H, T, T, P thing, I understand what the constructor was trying to do, and I like the puzzle better, but I'd still rather have the suffixes breaking across both words of two-word phrases in every theme answer. AVIATOR GOGGLES would have been awesome. Which brings me to my second, more minor criticism - where is ORG? It's conspicuously absent, the only common URL suffix missing from the puzzle.
- 17A: Feel like quarreling about something (have a boNE To pick)
- 23A: No halfway effort (total COMmitment)
- 49A: Basis of a false arrest, perhaps (trumpED-Up charge)
- 51A: Going past the fourth quarter, say (playinG OVertime)
REVET (3D: Support with stone, as an embankment) is a giant clunker in an otherwise beautifully filled grid. OK, maybe ONE PM (8D: Common lunch hr.) and US ONE (53D: Auto route from Me. to Fla.) don't belong in the same grid, but they're far enough apart, spatially, for anyone to be too bothered by the word repetition. Meanwhile, we get the seasonal DASHER (41D: One of a seasonal octet), the sassy SKORTS (9D: Women's hybrid clothing), the tasty GUMBO (56D: Okra stew), and the intriguing intersection of SEXY (68A: Like the Beatles' Sadie) and SCREWY (48D: Off the wall).
Carmel (by-the-Sea) is lovely, by the way; but if you've ever been here, you know that. Ooh, I think I had a celebrity sighting earlier today. I was walking on one of these little roads near the beach where cars have to drive very slowly because of narrowness and pedestrians and what not, and this red convertible sports car drives by with a fat fortyish blond guy behind the wheel, ostentatiously smoking a cigarette and chatting to his lady friend in the front seat. I could've sworn the guy driving the car was John Daly. The fact that I could see Pebble Beach from where I was standing when his car drove by only deepens my belief that that's who it was. He looked very happy.
- 5A: Meal-in-a-can brand (Alpo) - did anyone else have SPAM? I had SPAM. Both times I solved this, I had SPAM. I still want it to be SPAM.
- 20A: Gangster's code of silence (omerta) - one of the fancier, more exotic-sounding terms I've learned from crosswords.
- 28A: Writer's guidelines (specs) - short for "specifications." I like this. Surprised I don't see it more.
- 41A: Grounds for a good night's sleep? (decaf) - I did Not have DECAF after dinner tonight. Hence my boundless energy and laser-like focus at this late hour. Did you know DECAF backwards is FACED? See - laser-like!
- 58A: Suffix with hotel (-ier) - HOTELIER is ugly enough without you comically cleaving it in two like this.
- 59A: Richard and Jane in court (Roes) - Here are the rules (such as they are) on Roe and Doe in legal cases. Mildly confusing.
- 66A: Hamburg's river (Elbe) - I would love to see a puzzle with a bunch of 4-letter European rivers embedded in it - or better yet, winding through it. Yes, I am serious.
- 69A: U.K. military medals (DSOs)- the Brits give out so many damned awards that I have no hope in hell of ever learning them all, let alone telling them apart from one another.
- 5D: Monastic jurisdiction (abbacy) - oddly, we saw this answer not too long ago. It is otherwise unusual.
- 6D: "Bus 9 to Paradise" author Buscaglia (Leo) - a gimme, though I have no idea why I know this guy.
- 10D: Steal, slangily (cop) - a word invented because the phrase "steal a feel" just sounded too silly
- 13D: Native of NE Siberia (Yakut) - Excellent REVETters, the YAKUTs.
- 24D: When a ball may be hiked (on two) - a daring and (to my mind) admirable answer
- 38D: "How _____ Has the Banshee Cried" (Thomas Moore poem) ("Oft") - now if I only knew who Thomas Moore was...
- 46D: "Obey your thirst" sloganeer, once (Sprite) - feels fairly recent ... yes, here's an example:
- 51D: Range extending south from the Kara Sea (Urals) - when in doubt, this should be your go-to mountain range.
- 52D: "At the Milliner's" painter (Degas) - hmmm, a non-ballet-related DEGAS clue. Interesting. Coincidentally, I used the word "milliner" just today. Not normal conversational fare for me.
- 57D: They're guarded at the Olympics (epees) - even more common than the URALS. I'm assuming that "guarded" means they can't do you any real harm [no - refers to the bell guard that covers competitors' hands]
I have to say that I was grateful to notice the "HTTP" portion of this puzzle when I solved it tonight, because the thought of finishing the year with a wholly negative review was depressing me. Seriously. Sitting on the beach watching the sunset with my wife earlier this evening, I was thinking about this write-up, and wondering how I was going to manage to be honest, but also strike the right kind of tone for a year-end write-up - one that was hopeful, even grateful.
25D: No longer bright, as colors). So in case it's not completely clear, let me say: I'm genuinely grateful for every puzzle I get to do. The criticism I offer, even the harsh stuff, is meant as a sign of respect (as in "I respect the endeavor you're engaged in enough not to blow sunshine up your skort when your work strikes me as less than adequate"). So, as 2008 ends, I offer genuine thanks to every constructor whose work I've had the pleasure and displeasure of solving this year. Your work provides the basis for a wonderful, lively, ongoing conversation that I feel privileged to reinitiate every morning, rain or shine (when I don't pawn the job off on unpaid lackeys, that is).
That said, I'd like to make a few suggestions. First, if you aren't reading the Comments section, consider starting. Lots of interesting conversations tend to develop throughout any given day, and if you have additional questions about the puzzle, the Comments section is the place to look first (you know, before you email me directly). Second, if you haven't commented on a blog write-up before, consider starting. We can always use fresh voices. The commenters might seem like a group that's known each other for a long time, but actually most people "know" each other only from this site. Their skill levels are widely divergent and they're mostly really nice folks, so there's no need to be intimidated, even if you're a relative beginner. Lastly, to current commenters - consider writing somewhat fewer and more concise comments, at least for the next month or so, as I try to encourage participation from a greater cross-section of my reading audience. Thanks for your support and understanding.
O man, that's about as much earnestness as I can handle for one day. Back to my more typical snarky blather tomorrow.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld