Old swing digger - FRIDAY May 22 2009 - M Nosowsky (Lens grinding Dutch philosopher / Celestial neighbor of Scorpius / 100ths of a krona)
Friday, May 22, 2009
- FWIW (10D: E-mail disclaimer) => "For what it's worth..."
- TMI (49A: "I didn't need to know all that!," informally) => "Too much information!"
An old-fashioned beat-down. I took one look at the puzzle constructor's name and jumped right in, thinking, "this should be fun ... no, wait, I mean hard ... I mean ... oh ... oh, man ... O DEAR (47D: "_____ Cassio!": Othello) ... why is my puzzle so blank?" I probably got a little psyched out, as Manny Nosowsky is not only legendary for wildly inventive and thoughtful and entertaining puzzles, he's also legendary for tough ones. This took me twice as long as last week's Friday, for instance. In fact, after a good handful of minutes, I had the NE corner done, but virtually nothing else. I was literally gawking at the rest of the grid, where all I could muster were sad, thin strands of answers here and there. A wisp of L RON (48A: Hubbard of science fiction), a smattering of ACEY (51D: _____-deucy), a hint of RETAG (26D: Change the price on), a trace of OBIE (that one was wrong - turned out to be TONY -> 46A: Accolade for a great play). I had PHINEAS and CO-STAR locked down in the NW, only a. the answer was PHILEAS ... and b. even with those two answers in place, none of the nearby answers seemed to want to come out of hiding (I just discovered that my wife made the PHINEAS-for-PHILEAS error too - I wonder how common that misconception is). I couldn't even make sense of the clue for 1D: Old swing digger. Yikes. Sounded like it wanted a construction machine, only there was already a construction machine in the SE (43D: LOADER), though I had no idea which kind yet. So ... flailing. Genuine concern. Something like panic.
And then, out of the clear blue sky, a bolt from the Crossword Gods - PILTDOWN MAN came crashing down upon me (4D: Its teeth were actually a chimpanzee's). PILTDOWN MAN is a century-old paleontological hoax that I learned about ... from crosswords. I had to look it up and blog about it once because it was an entirely new concept to me. So I was very pleased to be rescued, today, by something intimately tied to my crossword-solving past - to past ignorance, in fact. Made me feel like a good solver again. The puzzle went down in slow but steady fashion from there. [Old swing digger] = HEPCAT! Wow. "Hey, man, dig that old swing ... it looks pretty rickety. Hey, I dare you to swing on it! Crazy!" And [_____ bread] => RAISIN!?!?! Thanks for the help, clue. Really narrows things down. Yeesh. Rough. The horrible irony about struggling so much in the NW is that the very first word that entered my head upon reading 1A: Magazine since 1850 was HARPER'S! I mean, I'm a @#$#ing subscriber. And yet I didn't / wouldn't write it in. Maybe because I couldn't get any of the short Downs to work off of it. Never heard of the "Port Huron Statement" (7D: Port Huron Statement grp. => SDS), barely know about ELEA (5D: Home of Parmenides) and thought REAR (6D: Can) should be STIR, from the phrase IN STIR, meaning in jail, i.e. in the "can" - not to be confused with INSTR. (8D: Music producer: Abbr.).
- 15A: Accepted PayPal payments, e.g. (e-tailed) - by far the worst thing about this puzzle, in that I didn't actively dislike *anything* else. It's enough that I have to accept the concept of E-TAIL. But the verbing? Oh, the verbing!
- 23D: Ocean, in Mongolian (Dalai) - like HARPER'S, guessed it straight off, but refused to trust my instincts.
- 29D: "Under Two Flags" novelist, 1867 (Ouida) - wouldn't have believed a person with such a name existed had it not been for prior crossword experience with this woman. OUIDA is the pen name of Maria Louise Ramé. "Under Two Flags" is about the British in Algeria.
- 18A: Lens-grinding Dutch philosopher (Spinoza) - no idea he ground lenses, but I had the "IN" part of this one, so he was easy to uncover.
- 23A: Scandalmonger's love (dirt) - one of the handful of gimmes in this puzzle.
- 24A: Goal-oriented superstar? (Pele) - it annoys me when something is a gimme but I don't even see it until I have nearly all the letters. Waste of a gimme!
- 25A: Ravel's "Bolero" calls for one (tenor sax) - I don't recall this at all. Must listen ... now.
- 32A: It may be striking (union) - had the -ION and could come up with nothing. The only word I could even think of that fit was SCION. Ugh.
- 37A: Celestial neighbor of Scorpius (Norma) - that's a very uncelestial sounding name. No offense to the NORMAs out there.
- 55A: It's heard before many a face-off ("O, Canada") - that's good.
- 56A: Sluggard's problem (inertia) - the only word that would come to mind here for a while was ENNUI ...
- 11D: Consistently defeat, in slang (own) - the first thing I entered in the NE. I wavered for a moment, thinking the answer might be PWN - just discovered that the Wikipedia entry for "PWN" has been nominated for deletion, and there's a long, occasionally interesting thread where people argue about the merits of "PWN" as an entry. See it here.
- 12D: It was NE of Bechuanaland (Rhodesia) - heard of the answer, Never heard of the place in the clue.
- 20D: Cardinal that looks the same when viewed upside down (sixty-nine) - oh, "cardinal" number ... ok. Man, you really want to make this difficult, don't you?
- 24D: Of fraternities and sororities collectively (pan-Hellenic) - took me way, way too long to get, considering I've spent most of my adult life in close proximity to fraternities and sororities.
- 27D: World's first carrier with a transpolar route (SAS) - Scandinavian, so that makes sense.
- 34D: Where pit stops are made to get fuel? (coal mine) - cool clue. I had COAT MINE for a second, as I mistakenly thought that ETON had the sports teams called the Phoenix (45A: ELON).
- 36D: Provider or wearer of some hand-me-downs (sis) - I wrote it in, but only tentatively, mainly because there is nothing in the clue signifying abbrev. Also, thought it could be SIB.
- 40D: Stand-in for unnamed others (et alia) - man, cold. No indication of Latinity or anything.
- 42D: It has a twin city in the Midwest (Urbana) - because of LRON (the "R"), I never even considered ST PAUL, which seems the obvious choice.
- 54D: Questionnaire check box option (Mrs.) - like [_____ bread], this could have been a million things.
- 55D: 100ths of a krona (ore) - KRONE/A was once my Word of the Day. I think I mentioned ORE then. Did it help me here? No.
Signed, bruised, but happy, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
Much easier LAT puzzle today - my write-up is here.