Samoan staple - WEDNESDAY, Mar. 18, 2009 - R. Doll (Sitcom with the catchphrase "Kiss My Grits" / Bates's business, in film / Everglades denizen)
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: GOUT! - initial "G" is removed from six familiar two-word phrase, creating wacky phrases, which are clued, "?"-style
Word of the Day: ARETE - An arête is a thin, almost knife-like, ridge of rock which is typically formed when two glaciers erode parallel U-shaped valleys. (wikipedia)
Did this in a shade over five minutes, which I think is pretty average, but when I reviewed the puzzle just now, it seemed decidedly untough, so "Easy-Medium" it is. On early-week puzzles, there is rarely any difficulty to speak of. There are simply patches that make speed-solving tough, either because the cluing is a bit tricky, or because my brain just gives out in places and I end up jumping around the grid and solving in an inefficient manner. I probably lost a good chunk of time at the end because as I was closing in on the SW corner, the wheels just came off. I will almost never look at a clue I have no letters for yet (except at the very beginning, obviously), but I drew a big blank when I got south of IPANA (46A: Bucky Beaver's toothpaste) and west of ORCS (56D: Tolkien beasts). Figured I'd nail the 3-letter word starting with "P" at 47D: Inflate, in a way (pad), but it wouldn't come. Nor would the reasonably common 49A: Soprano Gluck (Alma). Remembered she ended in "A," but that was all I remembered. So I had to leap down into those three-letter Acrosses at the bottom and hope that they would reveal themselves reasonably quickly. And they did. Started with 65A: Time of anticipation (eve) and worked back up from there. In retrospect, I'm surprised I didn't nail MEADOW off the final "OW" (55A: Place for a lark). I kept thinking "SPARROW?" (a. doesn't fit, b. makes no sense). And I was parsing the theme answer, RAVEN IMAGES, incorrectly. Instead of RAVEN, I thought the first word was RAVE. The above confusion resolved itself pretty quickly in real time, but when you're solving in five minutes, 10-20 seconds feels like an eternity.
The theme was cute. Simple and effective. Picked it up after getting the better part of REEK WEEK and then fleshing out the slightly holey RIDDLE CAKES. Theme helped me out at ROWING PAINS and RUNT WORK, and yet I stalled out badly at RAIN ALCOHOL and RAVEN IMAGES. Not sure why.
- 16A: Mystery desserts? (riddle cakes)
- 8D: Period of seven days without bathing? (reek week)
- 10D: What the sky might do in an inebriate's dream? (rain alcohol) - that is a good dream. "Inebriate" is also a good word. So many vowels. Too bad it's so long, or maybe we'd see it in the grid more. It's probably jealous of SOT and TOSSPOT and LIT and other drunk-related terminology that populates the grid with some frequency.
- 24D: Illustrations for a Poe poem? (raven images)
- 40D: Employment in Munchkinland? (runt work)
- 60A: Sculler's affliction? (rowing pains)
Missteps: Had ADOPT for COOPT (70A: Take as one's own) and GRASP for GLEAN (31D: Pick up bit by bit). Completely blanked on the definition of "high-hat," and so had SNORTS where SNOOTS was supposed to go (48A: High-hats). SNORTS would have been a sweet crossing for ALCOHOL ... except for the part where it would have turned ALCOHOL into ALCOHRL (what you do after drinking too much alcohol? PS Happy Day after St. Patrick's Day).
- 1A: Parroting sorts (apers) - you know you do too many puzzles when the "parrot" to "ape" leap is completely instinctive.
- 15A: Basis for some discrimination (age) - This made me laff out loud. See yesterday's comments section.
- 27A: Musical with the song "Mr. Mistoffelees" ("Cats") - just looking at that title hurts my ears
- 33A: Bates's business, in film (motel) - as in "Psycho"
- 41: _____-Ida (Tater Tots maker) (Ore) - I forget that OREIDA is a dash-containing word. This is a nice cluing spin for the ultra common ORE.
- 43A: Miming dances (hulas) - had a slow-down in this part of the puzzle too. While parrots lead me straight to apes, mimes do not yet lead to hula dancers in my mind. For more South Pacific goodness, see POI (2D: Samoan staple). Slow-down at HULAS was compounded a bit by my staring at the MO- at 33D: Place for a crown (molar) for a bit too long. TIARAS and MITRES danced through my head.
- 59A: Diamond corner (bag) - wanted BASE
- 3D: Byrnes of TV's "77 Sunset Strip" (Edd) - another example of crossword brain disorder - this was a gimme. And yet I cannot visualize either the actor or the show.
- 7D: Calligrapher's buy (ink) - Chinese calligraphy is beautiful, but when applied to the English language, calligraphy rubs my aesthetic nerve the wrong way. Seems arty and crafty in the most pretentious and faux-olde-fashionede kinde of waye.
- 11D: Everglades denizen (egret) - looking for GATOR.
- 22D: "Impression, Sunrise" painter (Monet) - "Impression" pretty much gives it away.
- 52D: Sitcom with the catchphrase "Kiss my grits!" ("Alice") - "catchphrase" has six consecutive consonants. Wow.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld