Bird notable for walking rather than hopping - SATURDAY, May 9, 2009 - Faint, to Shakespeare / Exclamation near runway / Emergency racetrack turnoff)
Friday, May 8, 2009
Constructor: Brad Wilber
Relative difficulty: Challenging
Word of the Day: UNAS (2D: Last pharaoh of Egypt's Fifth Dynasty) - Unas (also Oenas, Unis, or Ounas) was a Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt, and the last ruler of the Fifth dynasty from the Old Kingdom. His reign has been dated as falling between 2375 BC and 2345 BC. UNAS built a small pyramid (now in ruins) which contains the oldest of the "Pyramid Texts," which themselves are the oldest known religious texts in the world.
The spells, or "utterances", of the pyramid texts are primarily concerned with protecting the pharaoh's remains, reanimating his body after death, and helping him ascend to the heavens, which are the emphasis of the afterlife during the Old Kingdom. The spells delineate all of the ways the pharaoh could travel, including the use of ramps, stairs, ladders, and most importantly flying. The spells could also be used to call the gods to help, even threatening them if they did not comply. (wikipedia)It started out so well, but it ended in tragedy. Well, not tragedy, just a painful slog to the finish line. Despite not knowing UNAS, I took the NW out fairly quickly, but having OSAKA for OTARU (7D: Port on the Sea of Japan) was the first indication that the rest of the puzzle was going to be rocky. My hopes soared after I threw "BEGIN THE BEGUINE" all the way down the grid (8D: Song standard from Broadway's "Jubilee," 1935), but ... all activity after that was slow and tentative. The worst section, by far, was the center, both for how much I struggled and how unpleasant I found it. The partial "ALL I" (which, to my shame, I got instantly) crossing the oddly-clued SLUE (had to look it up after I was done to fully comprehend the connection to "fishtail"), which crosses the obsoletest word I've ever seen in a puzzle: SWOUND (32D: Faint, to Shakespeare). That crosses SHIN (which I wanted to be SHOE - 32A: It's just over a foot), which then crosses the valid but ugly and creepily clued STRIAE (21D: Stretch marks, e.g.).
I guessed SFO, but did Not like it (9D: Hub northwest of LAX). It's way way way NW of LAX, so it's valid, but it's stupid. I have a thing against the very concept of the UNLITERARY (13D: Like much pulp), so despite my manifest love for all things pulpy (or perhaps because of it), that clue didn't thrill me. Strangely, DIAPER-CLAD was one of my favorite answers in the grid (12D: Like tiny tots). Interesting. Original
Outside My Comfort Zone:
- COUNT FLEET (23A: Triple Crown winner between Whirlaway and Assault)
- ELLIE (11D: "Show Boat" girl who sings "Life Upon the Wicked Stage")
- MORRO (46A: New Mexico's El _____ National Monument) - feels like it might have been in some other Saturday puzzle in the not-too-distant past, but it was as good as unknown to me today
- PIPIT (22A: Bird notable for walking rather than hopping) - don't waders, in general, walk, and Not Hop. EMUS don't hop. Why would a bird be notable for not doing something Many Other Birds Don't Do?
- VERA (30D: Tennis star Zvonareva) - all the Russian tennis ladies are the same person, as far as I'm concerned
- UNAS (2D: Last pharaoh of Egypt's Fifth Dynasty)
- "IKO, IKO" (52A: Mardi Gras song that was a 1965 hit for the Dixie Cups) - I recognize the title, and I think there was a version of this song played in "Rain Man," but the clue did absolutely nothing to cue the answer. It may as well have read, simply, [Song]
- ESCAPE ROAD (26D: Emergency racetrack turnoff) - makes sense, but I've never heard of it. I had ... LANE at first.
- MSGT (31D: U.S.M.C. E-8) - had SSGT ... military rank = total guess, esp. when clued like this
- SWOUND (32D: Faint, to Shakespeare) - I read Shakespeare (teach it, in fact) and I still can't imagine this in a sentence except as a past tense verb. Is it an adjective? No, it's a present tense verb, just as the clue says:
CASSIUS: But, soft, I pray you: what, did Caesar swound? (from "J.C.")
The puzzle felt downright hostile toward younger solvers. There's nothing from this millennium (except for that J Lo song, 2003, and the Russian tennis player). In fact, there are as many clues from the 3rd millennium B.C. as there are from this millennium. Look at the frame of reference in this puzzle. A Dixie Cups song from the 60s ... a Triple Crown winner from the 40s ... a role from a 1920s musical and a song from a 1930s musical ... a cubist who died in '27 ... I mean, the weatherman from "Mary Tyler Moore" looks fresh and hip in this puzzle (42A: "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" weatherman), as does Baryshnikov (31A: Perfume named for Baryshnikov) and IRON WEED (54A: Pulitzer-winning William Kennedy novel). Oh well, some days you gotta fight through puzzles that just don't share your wavelength.
- 18A: Exclamation near a runway ("Oolala!") - lack of an "H" in "OOH" always bugs me, but I like the clue here.
- 39A: Tony award nominee for "Anna Christie," 1993 (Meara) - holy crap, a third Broadway clue. You're Killing Me. I can't be mad at Anne MEARA though. I love that woman.
- 47A: Emulate Cyrano (duel) - I wanted "WOO." or "WOOO," I guess.
- 56A: Good place to look when you're sole-searching? (sea bed) - Oh boy, horrible puns.
- 14D: Everglades deposit (peat) - bah, this took me way too long, perhaps because I had an "-ED" in the last two spaces of SPED UP for a while (9A: Was a catalyst for).
- 25D: Bluffing bar game (liar's poker) - don't know it, but got POKER and then the "Liar's" part was easy. I think I read a book by that name recently. Or started to.
- 36D: Classic novel whose title means "Rover" ("Omoo") - ah, the old cover-the-crosswordese-with-arcane-trivia clue. Works for me.
- 27D: Wicked king of Israel (Ahab) - back-to-back AHABs. Quite a weekend.
- 49D: TV opponent of Ares (Xena) - see my comment re: "OMOO"
- 46D: Paste in Asian cookery (miso) - good stuff
- 23D: Peak projection (crag) - took way way longer than it should have. I blame COUNT FLEET.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
Orange's write-up of the (much easier) LAT puzzle is here.