SUNDAY, Apr. 26, 2009 - T Payne (Comedy webzine founded 2000 / * picada burrito filler / Anakin Skywalker flew one in "Star Wars Episode I")
Saturday, April 25, 2009
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
THEME: "Roughly Speaking" - rebus puzzle with "ER" or "UM" (sounds of hesitation one might make when speaking) crammed into 35 (!!!!!) different squares
Word of the Day: ESDRAS - n. Bible. (Abbr. Esd. or Esdr.)
One of four books of the Vulgate, the first two of which correspond to Ezra and Nehemiah and the second two of which were rejected as apocryphal but are sometimes included as an appendix to the New Testament as 1 and 2 Esdras. (answers.com)
Wow. This puzzle is astonishing. I have never seen such a dense rebus puzzle. At times, it felt as if I was being riddled with bullets or pelted with tennis balls from a tennis ball machine, but more often I enjoyed myself and found myself amazed at the inventive ways Trip filled the grid. I actually had to fight with this puzzle, and sometimes fights annoy me - if the puzzle fights dirty, with cheap punches and what not - but today, even though I got smacked around a little, I ended up with respect for my worthy adversary.
The first big punch in the mouth came in the NW, where I couldn't parse 3D: Statement of philosophy to Save My Life. Latin phrase with two rebus squares clued as if it were a general term and not a very very specific, unique statement ... ugh. If I had ever seen the abbreviation SLC (1A: 2002 Winter Olympics host: Abbr.), I might have had an easier time with COGITO (ER)GO S(UM). But I couldn't remember where the 2002 Winter Olympics were held, and SL- did nothing for me. Slovakia? That can't be right. The main problem - if you're not looking for a multi-word Latin phrase, then parsing a long answer like that with even just a few missing squares can be rough. In that same section, I was balking at SISL(ER) (55A: Baseball Hall-of-Famer), which felt right, but which wasn't making COGITO (ER)GO S(UM) any easier to see. Never mind that this LYELL guy is a complete mystery man to me (34D: 19th-century geologist Charles). After finally finishing off the NW, I was actually mildly afraid to continue. How much more @#$#-slapping would I have to take? The answer was - some, but not as much as the NW had led me to fear.
In order to get so dang many rebus squares in a puzzle, you gotta ... stretch the limits of crossworthiness here and there. RALLYES (54A: Driving events that use checkpoints) are apparently real things, but what kind of spelling is that??? I had RALLIES, but then EBAI was clearly wrong (40D: Its first sale was a broken laser pointer). Further ESDRAS!? (30D: Either of two books of the Apocrypha). Wow ... I really should pay attention to that section of my Bible more often. Not only have I never heard of it, I was 80% sure it was wrong. ESTRUS I can imagine saying. But -SDR- is not a common letter sequence. And yet all the crosses seemed (and were) rock solid. So I left it. And it was right. In other Stuff I Didn't Know ... I've seen NO BID in puzzles a lot, but never CUE BID (75A: Bridge tactic). Bridge, opera, Broadway musicals ... all stuff I know very little about. And yet I manage, somehow.
My least favorite clue/answer of the day was 82D: Shoat holder (sty), as it reminded me of the swine flu that is about to destroy us all.
- 25A: Worries for ransom recipients [S(ER)IAL N(UM)B(ER)S] - love this. Great clue for an original (and very rebusified) answer
- 7A: J.J. _____, co-creator of "Lost" and director of 2009's "Star Trek" [ABRAMS] - he's everywhere right now, and the "Star Trek" movie is in a major hype phase. The latest issue of "Wired" is guest-edited by ABRAMS. It's got puzzle folks in it. You should check it out.
- 27A: Resident of Asmara [(ER)ITREAN] - without rebus, I wouldn't have known. But with just that one rebus square in place - gimme.
- 33A: Santiago, to Hemingway [OLD MAN] - nearly put in RED MAN. I wish I were kidding.
- 44A: Anakin Skywalker flew one in "Star Wars Episode I" [POD RAC(ER)] - that's the "Episode" when I stopped caring
- 52A: Greeting you shouldn't say at an airport [HI, JACK] - cheeky, but I like it. Really should have had a "?" on it, though. I could greet a guy named "JACK" with that greeting and absolutely nothing would happen. If I had that disease where I couldn't modulate my voice and so I shouted the greeting, then maybe I'd have a problem.
- 56A: Flanged weapons [MACES] - yeah, I've decided that "flanged" is up there among the most awful words in the English language.
- 70A: Salon product for flat hair [VOL(UM)IZ(ER)] - great, fresh answer with super rebus power
- 79A: Reason to get all gussied up [HOT DATE] - gotta call a foul here. The word "gussied" belongs nowhere near the word "HOT." There is nothing "HOT" about the word "gussied."
- 80A: _____ picada (burrito filler) [CARNE] - haven't heard this phrase. I know "CARNE asada," but only from "Taco Bell" commercials.
- 94A: Professional who may wear goggles [AVIATOR] - this came to mind instantly, but a. I didn't think you had to be a "professional" to aviate, and b. I feel like I just saw a clue that referenced the fact that "goggles" are antiquated or old-timey. No such indication here.
- 111A: Pitched quarters [TENT] - I think this is supposed to be tricksy ("pitched" = verb?), but this is another I got instantly.
- 113A: Seventh-brightest star in a constellation [ETA] - I learned the whole Greek-letter way of naming stars from crosswords. ETA is the seventh letter in Greek alphabet after alpha, beta, gamma, delta, epsilon and zeta.
- 4D: Gang hanger-on [MOLL] - one of my favorite words from crime fiction. Best when preceded by "GUN"
- 9D: Guitarist Cooder and others [RYS] - misread it as singular at first and wrote in RYE ... did not look right.
- 11D: Bird once hunted by the Maori [MOA] - yay. I love this (gigantic, extinct) bird. Look out also for the (much smaller, non-extinct) KEA, a parrot that Will rarely puts in the puzzle, but that I've seen in other puzzles multiple times. KEA are common as pigeons in parts of NZ.
- 16D: Feather, to Fernando [PL(UM)A] - can you feel the PLUMA, Fernandooooo...?
- 17D: State trisected by a river of the same name: Abbr. [TENN.] - entertained CONN. and PENN. there for a while.
- 56D: Comedy webzine founded in 2000 [MOD(ER)N H(UM)ORIST] - I love fresh, contemporary answers, but what fresh hell is this? Never, ever heard of it. I live on the damned web. How embarrassing.
- 62D: 2003 sequel to a popular 1994 comedy [D(UM)B AND D(UM)B(ER)(ER)] - this deserves some kind of award. A four-rebus answers Intersecting Another Four-Rebus Answer -> B(UM)P(ER) TO B(UM)P(ER) (98A: Crowded, in a way). My god, he's got five rebus squares just in that little 3x5 section in the SE. Wow.
- 65D: Groucho Marx foil Margaret [D(UM)ONT] - didn't know it. Did she play the dowager figure in one/many of the movies? I think so.
- 70D: End of a famous claim [VICI] - see also SUM (3D)
- 75D: Dark quaff [COLA] - nice one. "Quaff" sort of suggests beer, but no ...
- 105D: Largest known dwarf planet [(ER)IS] - an example of why there is no substitute, when trying to get better at solving, for practice practice practice. As you all know, my knowledge of astronomy is iffy at best, but first ETA, and then ERIS went down easily. Having seen ERIS before, and knowing the "ER" theme, I didn't even hesitate here - even one year ago, there would have been hesitation aplenty.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
(waiting for someone to give me a wrap-up of yesterday's Crosswords L.A. Tournament)
PS Orange's write-up of Sunday (syndicated) LAT is here.