THURSDAY, Feb. 12, 2009- G & S Kennedy ("Slumdog Millionaire" locale /Old-time gossip queen Maxwell / Bluesman Rush / R&B singer Hilson)
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
THEME: 200th birthday of ABRAHAM LINCOLN and CHARLES R. (!?) DARWIN - these two are theme answers, and then there are two other theme answers based on stuff those guys are famous for
Word of the Day: TOLE - A lacquered or enameled metalware, usually gilded and elaborately painted (answers.com)
I am not going to be a terribly reliable judge of the puzzle today, as I'm not well. Tried to solve the puzzle last night and it took me over 11 minutes (long for me), and I woke up to find I had the most hilarious, gigantic, crash-and-burn error right in the middle of my grid. I mean - the mistake is so colossal that it's hard to believe it happened. So many things had to go right (i.e. wrong). OK, so here it is - I had KRAFT where SNACK is supposed to go (38A: Cheese and crackers, maybe). That's four, count 'em, four wrong squares. In one answer. An answer that my brain somehow not only computed as plausible, but never ever questioned. Let's start with KRAFT - I printed the puzzle out from AcrossLite, and the clues are laid out in such a way that I (repeatedly) read the SNACK clue as [Brand of Cheese ...] because "brand" is in the preceding clue, 36A: Sony brand (Aiwa). Then there's ALAK, which seemed wrong spelling-wise, but "ALAK the day!" sounded perfectly plausible as a Shakespearean exclamation. "Alas, ALAK (sic!) and Weylaway" is a phrase of despair I've heard/seen before, though I know not where. KERR for KERN (25D: "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man" composer)? Please. I could make that error any day of the week. FOIL for COIL (39D: Stamp purchase)? Well, first, though I have a COIL of stamps on my desk in front of me right now, I would never have called it that, so it's not as if COIL was leaping out at me. I figured FOIL was some technical term I hadn't heard of. And then there's TEN-O for KENO (40D: Numbers game). This made me want to punch someone, because I figured TEN-O was one of these "games" from god knows when, like "ONE-O Cat" (which is in puzzles, sadly, from time to time). And yet I never questioned its correctness. Wow. Solving when you are tired and your head is in a vise - not advisable (unless you like spectacular crashes).
As for the merits of the puzzle. I won't say much, as illness may be throwing me off, but I really didn't like it. The "R" in CHARLES R. DARWIN, basically ruined the puzzle for me. Second day in a row in which a theme answer is corrupt and horrible. Usage matters! He's not known as Charles R. Darwin or Charles Robert Darwin. Now, if ABRAHAM LINCOLN had had a middle initial ... well, then his name would have been too long to be paired with CHARLES R. DARWIN. I had no idea what that middle initial was. Tried many things. And the cross was the horrid, ugly, nobody-says-it BESTIR (8D: Rouse), so that was no help. Also, what is up with the other theme answers? I don't know how they are parallel. Darwin wrote one, Lincoln helped create the other. I suppose that they are parallel in that they are both major contributions to culture (in Lincoln's case, American culture), but that doesn't feel like enough to me.
- 17A: Influential work by 28-Across, familiarly ("Origin of Species")
- 28A: Notable born 2/12/1809 (Charles R. Darwin)
- 47A: Notable born 2/12/1809 (Abraham Lincoln)
- 61A: 47-Across led it (Republican Party)
Making long story shorter: Far north killed me. Nearly every answer up there but ALFA (7D: European sports car, informally) was masked with some tough cluing. In fact, this puzzle was noticeably, deliberately clued in very tough ways throughout. I also went into free fall in the SW. The BRONC clue, ugh (65A: What almost always goes for a buck?) - had the -NC and thought "???" Do Not Like the clue. "Almost always?" That's made up. My Christmas ornaments are rarely ORBS (53D: Christmas ornaments, typically) - and what is it with the damned qualifying adverbs in this puzzle? Informally, familiarly, typically. Bah. No idea who KERI Hilson is (54D: R&B singer Hilson). See her here.
Head hurts, so I will go straight to bullets now ... dang, there are a lot of them.
- 1A: "Slumdog Millionaire" locale (Agra) - I remember thinking "What's that really common crossword answer ... located in India ... Taj Mahal ..."
- 13D: Old-time gossip queen Maxwell (Elsa) - More toughish cluing. Where's my "Born Free" lioness!?
- 15A: Scene of classic flooding (Nile) - this killed me. Use of "classic" here is puzzling? It's being used to mean "epic" or "major," or maybe "famous," I think. The NILE floods all the time, doesn't it? Is there a single flooding that is particularly "classic"? "Scene" (as opposed to "site," which should have been used, but was taken by an answer already) and "classic" had me thinking "movie."
- 9A: Old auto control (choke) - had REM instead of HOC at first at 10D: Ad _____, so CHOKE resisted me at first.
- 11D: Bluesman Rush (Otis) - another mystery for me, but one I got (guessed) without much trouble
- 20A: Bygone leader with a goatee (Lenin) - he seems to get clued via his goatee not infrequently. Well, he's been clued that way at least once before, I'm sure of it. Sadly, I have no pictures of his penis for you today (if you didn't read Monday/Tuesday's write-up, I apologize for that apparent anatomical non sequitur)
- 34A: Part of a knave's loot, in a rhyme (tart) - no clue. Ugh. More hard cluing.
- 35A: 1970s Big Apple mayor (Beame) - seems like I learned this very recently. Still feels slightly hard. I have no Big Apple mayor memory pre-Koch.
- 51A: Role played by 52-Across in "The Story of Mankind" (Nero) - oh boy, more "go look at another part of the grid, sucker" cluing. And further, "Story of What?"
- 52A: See 51-Across (Lorre) - at least it's a name I recognize.
- 56A: Lake Thun's river (Aare) - this one came easily, possibly because few things start "AA..."
- 68A: Tour stops (sites) - you see the SIGHTS, right? On a tour? I mean, I see that SITES can work too, but "Tours" make me thing of SIGHTS, not SITES.
- 69A: End of a phonetic alphabet (Zulu) - does "phonetic alphabet" mean "Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, etc.?" More indirect cluing. Wanted ZETA, despite its non-phoneticness and its not ending any alphabet that I know of.
- 2D: "Runaway Bride" co-star, 1999 (Gere) - a gimme, though I never saw it. Sadly, though I saw "TROY" (66A: 2004 Brad Pitt film), it was not a gimme - that far south section was oddly rough for me, as AOL (63D: Comcast alternative) and NYU (64D: Home of the Stern School of Business: Abbr.) could have been ATT and NEB for all I knew.
- 29D: "60 Minutes" correspondent starting in 1991 (Stahl) - I like her. One of the few news media stars who doesn't seem like a whore to me. Figuratively speaking. And literally speaking, I guess.
- 55D: Descry (spot) - in that black hole in the SW. So vague. Vagueness can kill. SPOT x/w SITES = black hole of banality.
- 57D: Literally, "raw" (ecru) - more tough cluing, though this clue is very interesting. I can't believe I'm ending this write-up with praise for an ECRU clue, but there it is.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
PS Greetings from the future. If you want to compete against me in the ESPN College Basketball NCAA Tournament Challenge, you have approximately 45 minutes from now (11:15am, Thurs, Mar. 19) to sign up. The group name is "Crossword Cagers." ~RP