SATURDAY, Apr. 4, 2009 - M Ginsberg (Rival of Roach early film comedy / Nafta's overseas counterpart / Feodor III's successor as czar)
Saturday, April 4, 2009
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: "LAST LETTERS" (33A: Explanatory information about this puzzle is revealed by reading these in the clues) - here's the thing: you need to read the FIRST LETTERS of the clues (***all*** of the clues, not just the theme answer clues) because, as those letters spell out, "ANY CLUE FOR A WORD OF EIGHT OR MORE LETTERS IS THE OPPOSITE OF THE WORD TO BE ENTERED"
Word of the Day: ATEN - n. Mythology.
An Egyptian god of the sun, regarded during the reign of Akhenaton as the only god. (answers.com). Aten (or Aton) was the disk of the sun in ancient Egyptian mythology, and originally an aspect of Ra. (wikipedia)
IN SECRET and LAST LETTERS are phrases, not words, so the "explanatory information" message is slightly off. Aside from that, I thought this puzzle was amazingly ingenious, if far far far too easy for a Saturday. I went at a very leisurely pace, actually stopped in the middle to try to figure out the LAST LETTERS thing (no luck), and still finished in 9 minutes (!?). A grid like this is hard to evaluate on an aesthetic level, since the intricacy of the gimmick puts so many restrictions on both the entries and the clues. What I can say is that the puzzle was extremely smooth. Often stunt puzzles involve torturing clues and torturous fill. Here, it's almost all creamy goodness. I looked suspiciously at INACTIVATE for a second ("shouldn't you be "DEACTIVATE?"), but then I let him pass.
- 18A: Friendly side in a debate (opposition)
- 23A: Asymmetry, as in a relationship (evenness)
- 49A: Make more important (relegate)
- 54A: Energize (inactivate)
- 3D: Tripping over one's feet (graceful)
- 4D: Hardly necessary (essential)
- 9D: Overtly (in secret)
- 32D: Well-proportioned (irregular)
- 35D: Remaining leery of (trusting)
- 36D: Draw together (separate)
I started out with wonderful and very plausible mistakes in the NW. Put in the horrid but very possible GOER at 1A: Attendant (someone who "attends" a movie is a movie-GOER, right?), and then "confirmed" that answer with the brilliant REDUNDANT at 4D: Hardly necessary. I tore this out shortly thereafter, when I realized both 14A and 17A likely ended in "S," not "E" and "D," respectively. From there, really really smooth sailing.
I am guessing that many, many people finished the puzzle and still had no idea what was going on with the LAST LETTERS answer. I'm also guessing that at least a handful of people have an error at the SENNETT / IN HERE intersection. If you've never heard of director Mack SENNETT (22A: Rival of Roach in early film comedy), then SEMNETT might seem a perfectly fine answer, and I'M HERE certainly fits as an answer for 19D: One possible answer to "Where are you?" Other than that, I'm not sure where any trouble might have presented itself. I didn't know EEC (45D: Nafta's overseas counterpart), but the crosses were a cinch, and once I got it I realized I'd probably heard or seen the abbrev. many many times (European Economic Community). Many solvers (especially the sports-averse) won't have known TREY Wingo (60A: ESPN anchor Wingo), but even so, the crosses are all simple words. Didn't know the czar, but could tell he was PETER something, and so just waited to see if he was a "I" or a "V" (31A: Feodor III's successor as czar).
Tons of verb-to-noun -ER words, but none of them strange at all. There's a great kitchen/bar theme going on with PEELER (1D: Implement in a kitchen) and OPENER (41D: Barkeep's gizmo) and CHASER (25A: Wile E. Coyote, often). I guess people still have BEEPERs, somewhere (44A: On-call accessory). Coffee is for CLOSERs (5D: Expert dealmaker), and too much coffee might get you amped up and turn you into a SPEEDER (24D: Ticket taker?), and Way too much coffee, or not being able to get the coffee you need, could, I guess, theoretically, turn you into a RIOTER (12D: Tears may be brought to one's eyes), though, without your coffee, I doubt you'll have the energy.
- 26A: Overhead supporter (rafter) - because it's Saturday, I was turning over all the different meanings of both "overhead" and "supporter" - turns out the answer is as straightforward and literal as can be.
- 37A: Its streets are immortalized in a classic cowboy ballad (Laredo) - I'm sure I've played this song before, but since it's "immortal," I guess it's worthy playing again. Nope, wait. I'm going to switch in "St. James Hospital" by the (truly immortal) Doc Watson. Check it.
- 47D: Rakes' shedmates (spades) - Again, because it's Saturday, I at first went looking for a non-yard rake - a libertine or lothario. By that definition ... well, who knows what the rake is doing in the shed?
- 56A: Leucite source (lava) - never thought of LAVA as a mineral source, but mainly because all images I have of LAVA involve red hot spewing or flowing stuff that no one could tap for its mineral content without, you know, dying.
- 6D: Optimists keep them alive (hopes) - more right-over-the-plate cluing. This puzzle really could have used some toughening up.
- 28D: "How to Make an American Quilt" author Whitney (Otto) - It's Whitney OTTO, not OTTO Whitney, in case you were wondering. I certainly didn't know.
- 40D: Option for dressing down (t-shirt) - again, different meaning of "dressing down" entered my head at first.
- 50D: Rob of "Melrose Place" (Estes) - OK, now That is a Saturday clue. I vaguely remember this name floating in the air in the mid-90s, but I would never have gotten it correctly without help from a few crosses.
PS if you're in the mood for a more standard themeless Saturday, you could try the LAT puzzle. Orange's extended write-up is over at "L.A. Crossword Confidential"
PPS need more of a late-week themeless workout. Try Merle Baker's "Saturday Stumper" at the Newsday site. It's a toughie that Orange and I are quite divided on (I'm pro, she's con).