THURSDAY, Jan. 29, 2009 - Barry Silk (Influential Greek physician / Products once pitched by U2 and Eminem)
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: "BAR" (66A: Word defined by 17-, 25-, 35-, 45- and 58-Across) - all theme answers are possible definitions of "BAR"
Word of the Day: ØRE - 1/100 of a Norwegian or Danish KRONE (or a Swedish KRONA or an Icelandic KRÓNA)
Reverse-cluing puzzles are not my favorite. Tend to produce theme answers that are clunky, unsnappy definitions rather than crisp, cool phrases. This puzzle has high theme density, and it's pitched to perfect Thursday-level difficulty, but solving it felt more like work than joy. I was surprised at how long (relatively speaking) it took me to pick up the theme. This may be because I had an error that resulted in a remarkably plausible grid - when I wrote in LEGAL PROCESSION, I remember thinking, briefly, "huh, I didn't think Beethoven's 6th was IN C" (8D: Like Beethoven's Sixth Symphony). Why LEGAL PROCESSION seemed unimpeachable, I don't know. I thought "PROCESSION" might be another word for a trial ... and then when BAR showed up as the theme, I thought maybe "PROCESSION" was formal legal language I didn't understand. You take the BAR exam ... maybe that's like PROCEEDING through a door to your new career? Whatever. Error. It's LEGAL PROFESSION, and Beethoven's 6th is IN F.
- 17A: See 66-Across (legal profession) - part of the dryness of the puzzle involved the cluing, with its workmanlike "See 66-Across" clues; nothing to be done about it, I guess, but it drains life from the puzzle
- 25A: See 66-Across (banish by decree) - by far the hardest one for me to turn up, mainly because I had BANISH--DECREE and could Not fill those last letters in: BANISHER DECREE? That little section, where the Greek food meets the krone fraction, was the toughest one for me to unlock.
- 45A: See 66-Across (taproom)
- 45A: See 66-Across (unit of pressure)
- 58A: See 66-Across (musical notation)
As I say, rounding that corner from the NE into the middle of the puzzle was a bumpy endeavor. I guessed GIZA alright (23A: City on the Nile), then threw down IDEO (24D: Logical introduction?) but couldn't get anything west of that. Wanted GOAT where GYRO was supposed to go (23D: Greek restaurant offering); couldn't think of a hole-making tool that wasn't an AWL - BORER is so literal that I missed it (27D: Hole-making tool). Then there's 32A: 1/100 of a krone (øre). I enjoy the insanity of this clue, but, look, the word is ORE. You can pretend you have a fancy Norwegian currency up there, but we all know it's the same old ORE that the crossword has been taking out of the ground for years. Further, by making it ØRE, you violate Ulrich's Law, which says diacritical marks on letters must work in the Across and the Down. OK, so it's not a real Law and the Crossword has never observed it. Still, I think it should be observed if possible, and deliberate violations should be frowned at.
Further, should one puzzle be doing so much shilling for Apple? iMean, iLove my iPODS as much as the next guy (43A: Products once pitched by U2 and Eminem), and iIntend to get an iPHONE soon (15A: Time magazine's 2007 Invention of the Year). But two Apple pitches seems a lot. And when you throw in all these other products I've never even heard of ... I mean, the iMAX (51D: Big film shower), the iCAME (51A: Start of Caesar's boast), the iPASS (21A: Bridge declaration), and the mysteriously named iOLA (1D: Seat of Allen County, Kan.), that's product placement overkill. P.S. iPASS sounds very real. I expect Apple to be competing with EZ-PASS sometime in the near future.
Apple Introduces Revolutionary New Laptop With No Keyboard
- 4A: Best in mental combat (outwit) - "best" as verb. I like.
- 16A: Jacques Cousteau's middle name (Yves) - one of many largely successful attempt to Thursday-up this puzzle. There are more obvious ways to get to YVES.
- 31A: Influential Greek physician (Galen) - they left out "ancient." Would that have helped?
- 39A: Ringo's drummer son (Zak) - the only crossworthy ZAK there is, which means there's really only one way to clue him, which makes him less than ideal as fill. He does get you cool, Scrabbly letters, though.
- 50A: Riga resident (Lett) - RIGA remains my favorite European capital (fill-wise). But I routinely hesitate at LETT, as it just sounds wrong. I always want the "A" (from LATVIA, where most LETTS live).
- 64A: TV heroine who wielded a chakram as a weapon (Xena) - "TV heroine" in four letters - you can start writing in XENA immediately. (MAUDE is five letters, right?)
- 10D: News Corporation acquisition of 2005 (MySpace) - a gimme. Didn't even look to see how many squares were involved. Just knew it. I thank David Quarfoot for using nearly this exact clue in one of his puzzles in the not-terribly-distant past.
- 37D: The Swiss Guards guard him (Pope) - news to me. Aren't the Italian Guards jealous?
- 38D: Cold northerly winds of southern France (mistrals) - great word. Also the title of a great hard-boiled short story by Raoul Whitfield, collected in the fantastic anthology Hard-Boiled (ed. Bill Pronzini and Jack Adrian)
- 48D: George who directed "Miracle on 34th Street" (Seaton) - when CAPRA wouldn't fit, I was at a loss. Needed every cross.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
P.S. Byron Walden tells me there's a shout-out to me in this week's "The Onion" crossword puzzle. See if you can find it. Get it here (to solve in AcrossLite) or here (to solve directly on the Onion website).