Woman's name meaning "peace" - SATURDAY, Feb. 21, 2009 - Nothnagel + Walden (Methyl orange or Congo red / Some collectible Dutch prints)
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: SYMMETRIC MATRIX (23A: Rectangular array that's identical when its rows and columns are transposed, as this puzzle's grid)
Word of the Day: DRUSE - A member of a Syrian people following a religion marked by monotheism and a belief in al-Hakim (985–1021), an Ismaili caliph, as the embodiment of God.
Short write-up today, partly because I'm very busy and partly because I want to go bang my head against the wall for a while right now. I did not find the puzzle hard at all, as you can tell by the difficulty rating. In fact, I finished in about the half the time it took me to do yesterday's puzzle. And yet I still managed to make a mistake. I looked the grid over and over and over and couldn't see how. So I check (Google) all my "weird" answers (i.e. stuff I couldn't have defined before I did the puzzle, e.g. REDOXES - 13D: Electron-transferring reactions, briefly) to see if they exist in real life. It's not til I get to my last weird answer that I find the problem - "Wha ... wait ... you mean there's no such thing as a WEED BIN?" No, but there is a profanity-laden rap song called "Bin Laden Weed," in case you're interested:
I had WAX paper before I ever saw 37D: Trough (feed bin), and I just figured WEED BIN was one of those old-timey, WTF answers that you see from time to time on Saturdays. Never questioned it, because WAX paper seemed so solid and WEED BIN ... it's two recognizable words, anyway. FAX paper (37A: Kind of paper)? I thought that was just called "paper." Harrumph. Mike and Byron are too smart and crafty not to have planned that little pitfall. Or else I am alone in my buffoonery, inventing problems where no person in his right mind would have any.
The rest of the puzzle was great. Noticed the odd symmetry immediately and thought the puzzle would have something to do with insects, which is what I see crawling toward the NW corner if I focus only on the black squares. Never heard of SYMMETRIC MATRIX and at one point had SYMMETRIC METRIC until ANAKIN came to the rescue, as he sometimes does (25D: Obi-Wan's apprentice). Tore into the puzzle quickly. First entry - STATLER (15D: Country music's _____ Brothers), followed immediately by GO LEFT (17A: "Haw"), LATVIA (20A: NATO member since 2004), and TRIMS (21D: Prunes). Guessed RAGAS (1D: Hindu musician's source material for improvisation) despite not-clearly-plural cluing, and that allowed me to see the SYMMETRICAL part of 23A. NW should have been tough, but AZURES (14A: Certain blues) made the crosswordy AZO DYE (2D: Methyl orange or Congo red) apparent, and I think there is someone from the old NYT Crossword Puzzle Forum named ZULEMA - thank god, because I've never heard the name, otherwise (3D: Woman's name meaning "peace"). Loved the clue on RAZOR (1A: Item with clear face value?). Thought it might be some kind of acne cream at first.
Back to "weird" answers for a moment. Here were mine for the day:
- SYMMETRIC MATRIX
- "THE V.I.P.s" (6D: 1963 Elizabeth Taylor/Richard Burton drama) - had -VIPS and just threw the "THE" up there. What else could it be?
- NO-PEST (41D: Brand of insecticide strips) - I had ANTS instead of APES at first, which is definitely an instance of "The Simpsons" @#$#ing with my head - they've feature space-going ants and space-going APES.
- EVELINE (12D: Title woman of a story from James Joyce's "Dubliners")
- ERNESTO (58A: Automaker Maserati) - that one ended up being easy to guess given crosses
I love that this was a suitably tough and highly imaginative Saturday puzzle that managed to have answers that were predominantly Not from outer space. Nothing feels forced. And it's really my own damn fault for falling into the WEEDBIN (my new phrase for committing wholly to an answer that in retrospect is hilariously wrong).
- 16A: Cry of relief at an accident scene ("He's alive!") - macabre! I love it! I had HE'LL BE OK at first because I stuck ELI (10D: "Hostel" diretor Roth), which I somehow knew, into the 9D instead of the 10D slot.
- 22A: Grp. with the debut single "10538 Overture" (ELO) - "Grp." and three-letter length told you all you needed to know here:
- 27A: Stud alternative (ear clip) - sounds more painful than it is. I'm guessing.
- 29A: Fruit salad waste (stems) - great, odd clue
- 30A: Where pizza originated (Naples) - trivia!
- 31A: Some collectible Dutch prints (Eschers) - not sure why "collectible" is in this clue
- 34A: Round-bottomed vessels (woks) - nice misdirection with the ambiguous "vessels" there.
- 35A: Split and boned entree (scrod) - surprised how fast I got this. Had similar feeling about DRUSE (47D: Believer in al-Hakim as the embodiment of God)
- 36A: A choli is worn under it (sari) - as with the clue, this one makes a valiant stab at Saturdayness. Maybe CHOLI should have been my Word of the Day.
- 45A: "Collage With Squares Arranged According to the Laws of Chance" artist (Arp) - stone cold gimme. Three letters and the title is basically telling you it's "Dada".
- 49A: Who wrote "I dwelt alone / In a world of moan, / And my soul was a stagnant tide" (Poe) - you see a pattern here. Monday answers given fantastic, informative, lively Saturday cluing. If you've gotta serve the basics, may as well dress them up pretty.
- 5D: They may be seen on a lake's surface (reflected images) - probably the most forced answer in the grid, and yet not really That forced.
- 9D: A little cleaner? (vac) - I did a little dance in my mind when this was the first thing I came up with, and it ended up being right.
- 24D: 1990s HBO sketch comedy series ("Mr. Show") - memory! Had the "MR." part and recalled this show instantly. I didn't want it much, but David Cross is one of the funniest guys on the planet, so it's probably worth checking out. Profanity and sacrilege ahead:
- 31D: Dido (escapade) - whoa. What? I think she meant more to Aeneas than that.
- 32D: German chancellor, 1998-2005 (Schröder) - recalled him. Thankfully 2005 was not that long ago.
- 44D: Self-response to "Must we put up with this?" ("I say no") - We had a similar weird response to one's own hypothetical question in a late-week puzzle last month. I guess it works.
- 52D: Home of Presque Isle Downs racetrack (Erie) - and one last Monday-in-Saturday-clothes answer
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld