FRIDAY, Jan. 30, 2009 - B.E. Quigley (1980s Big Apple nightclub with a chemical name / Salamander variety / Journalist with a widely read "Report")
Friday, January 30, 2009
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
Word of the Day: AXOLOTL - Any of several salamanders (genus Ambystoma) native to Mexico and the western United States that, unlike most amphibians, often retain their external gills and become sexually mature without undergoing metamorphosis. (answers.com)
I think I'm getting spoiled doing Quigley's themed puzzles thrice weekly over at his personal website. I now have ridiculously high expectations for his puzzles, which made this very good puzzle feel a little flat to me. I liked that there was a lot of stuff I didn't know (in answers and in clues) and thus had to fight for. I was less happy when the answers felt slightly made-up or stretched thin. Do people actually use the word DIGERATI (34D: Computer-savvy crowd), and if so, could you slap said people for me? I can't tell you how wrong the "E" in that word looks. I saw Spike Lee's "Inside Man," which is about a bank job, so I was very surprised to find out that the corresponding OUTSIDE MAN is not, say, a getaway driver, but a 52A: Gardener or landscaper. Knowing nothing of salamanders, and not having been old enough to attend nightclubs in the 80s, the whole SW was a bit of a surprise to me, specifically that "X" crossing where 35D: Salamander variety (axolotl) meets 43A: 1980s Big Apple nightclub with a chemical name. Seemed the only reasonable guess, but yikes. TIRO hurt a bit (25A: Newbie: Var.) ... and yet the intersecting "WE"s at 47A: Cry when you don't think you'll make it ("We're doomed!") and 47D: "_____ it!" (cry of accomplishment) ("We did") didn't bother me at all.
Loved the well-disguised LARRY DAVID (58A: 1993 Emmy winner for "Seinfeld") and HIGH TREASON (4D: It has made many people lose their heads). With that last one, I had HIGH TRE---- and still couldn't fill it in. Ugh. In fact, the NW was supremely easy and done inside of a minute or so, but after I botched HIGH TREASON, things slowed down quite a bit. I also botched SETH LOW (19A: Early 20th-century New York City mayor), mainly because I'd never heard of him, so the "OW" part took a while to materialize. MATT DRUDGE (23A: Journalist with a widely read report) was, sadly, a gimme. He "reported" about how close the presidential election was in the final weeks (cherry-picking polls), causing much mockery from the folks over at FiveThirtyEight.com.
Today's puzzle was packed with stuff I simply didn't know, and yet it was very solvable, which is exactly what a late-week themeless should be in terms of difficulty - hard, but ultimately fair. Just look at how much you can Not know and still solve the puzzle.
- 1A: Woolly bear, eventually (moth) - no idea what a "woolly bear" was
- 5A: City at the foot of Mount Entoto (Addis Ababa) - I got this because I knew that ADDIS ABABA was a real place on the earth, i.e. I guessed it from crosses.
- I already told you about SETH LOW
- And AXOLOTL
- And XENON
- 50A: ESPN analyst Pasquarelli (Len) - had DAN. I'm sure I've heard his name many times - it's just never registered fully, I guess
- 7D: _____ el Beida (Casablanca, to its natives) (Dar) - I guess I should have guessed that. Instead, I took one look at the clue, passed, and never saw it again.
- 11D: _____ Dai (last emperor of Vietnam) (Bao) - if you say so
- 13D: Tritium output (beta ray) - understood neither clue nor answer, until I realized that BETARAY was not one word. Actually, my first thought was that there was some mistake, because BETRAY couldn't possibly be the answer to that clue.
- 44D: "Phoenissae" playwright (Seneca) - I know that SENECA was a playwright, I just didn't know he was responsible for this particular play.
- 50D: Asparagus's family (lily) - maybe I knew this long ago, but that didn't help much today
- 16A: Sludge buildup sites (crank cases) - like that "Sludge" and "DRUDGE" are both in this puzzle. This answer makes me think of "Crankshaft," a comic I rarely read about a cranky (!) old bus driver. Here's one where Crankshaft ... has ... uh ... wow ... I hope he's not making that face because the woman's black.
- 39A: "The Emperor's Snuff-Box" novelist John Dickson _____ (Carr) - a gimme, not because I know this book in particular, but because John Dickson CARR was a prolific writer, very popular in the mid-20th century, and so very well represented in my enormous vintage paperback collection.
- 45A: Cliffside detritus (scree) - I Love this word. I learned it from crosswords, and I'm always happy to see it. So much cooler than SPREE.
- 36D: Classic Pontiac (Ventura) - I know this how? Old commercials?
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
PS Ironically, on the day I balk at the word "DIGERATI," I find out that there's a small write-up of this site in the latest issue of "Smart Computing" magazine - must go find copy now (thanks to Tom S. for the heads-up)
PPS HEY, SYNDICATED SOLVERS - if you live in the Southern California area (or anywhere close to it), check out the upcoming Crosswords Los Angeles Tournament!