THURSDAY, May 7 2009 - E Gorski (Mysterious art visible from sky / Fictional hero on quest to Mount Doom / 1986 Turner autobiography / Sud's opposite)
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
THEME: ROUNDS THE CORNER (40A: Gets past a last difficulty ... or a hint to this puzzle's theme) - four corners of the puzzle are rebus squares representing a CIRCLE, HOOP, RING, or ZERO, depending on which answer you're reading
Word of the Day: NEUROPATH (16A: Phobic sort) - n. a person subject to nervous disorders or neuroses (Webster's 3rd Int'l.) [not a word that most online dictionaries recognize - I think the word may be a clinical term for what the rest of us call a "NEUROTIC" (n.) ]
Liz Gorski continues to write daring puzzles. This one took me an embarrassingly long time to get traction on because I Would Not Leave the NW corner, where I had everything but the first letters of 1-, 2-, and 3-Down, and Could Not Believe that I couldn't make answers work. TRAMS didn't make sense to me - is that what those things that transport people up to the tops of ski slopes are called? (3D: Suspended air travel?) And SOMAS? I know that word from Huxley, I think. Yikes (2D: Bodies of organisms). But the big problem, of course, was not seeing the rebus element. I figured the [New York City tour provider] was the A LINE or B LINE or C LINE or something like that ... but only HOOPSTER made Any sense in the Across. And then HOOP ... CIRCLE ... it just clicked. What was delightful was discovering that the pairs of "0" meanings were replicated symmetrically in the grid, with HOOP/CIRCLE recurring in the SE and RING/ZERO occurring in both the NE and SW. Something off-seeming about AWE-INSPI[RING], in that it's the only theme answer where the rebus part of the word is not a free-standing word or part of a word where it is used literally (as in HOOPSTER). The fill felt a little strained in parts (MYRRHS (26D: Some aromatic resins)? CODY'S (41D: Buffalo Bill _____ Wild West Show)? CRUMP (66A: Crunching sound)!?), but the cleverness of the theme, the elegance of its execution, and the great long answers flanking the central 15 - PROUD PAPA (31A: Cigar distributor, perhaps) and HIS OR HERS (43A: Unisex) - more than make up for any infelicities.
- 1A: B-ball player - [HOOP] STER
- 1D: New York City tour provier - [CIRCLE] LINE
- 6A: Like the Grand Canyon or Fourth of July fireworks - AWE-INSPI [RING]
- 14D: Showtime, at NASA - [ZERO] HOUR
- 47D: Teeny dress measurement - SIZE [ZERO]
- 67A: Welcome January 1, say - [RING] IN THE NEW
- 55D: Mysterious art visible from the sky - CROP [CIRCLE]
- 68A: 1950s fad item - HULA [HOOP]
Straight to bullets, as today is my last day of teaching for the semester and I'm suh-wamped.
- 18A: Rush job? (talk radio) - a great "?" clue. Dead on. The "Rush" in question is Limbaugh, in case that wasn't clear.
- 22A: "Burma Looks Ahead" author (U Nu) - I knew the name was palindromic, with "U"s on either end. "N" was the only letter that sounded right sandwiched in between.
- 10D: Sud's opposite (nord) - ugh, embarrassing how long it took me to recognize that this was not "Sud" as in something on your beer or in your tub, but sud, as in French for "south."
- 36A: Fictional hero on a quest to Mount Doom (Frodo) - I thought this might be a video game clue and was hoping for ZELDA (as in "The Legend of ...")
- 26A: Piccaso's muse Dora _____ (Maar) - knew it. Then forgot it. And even if I'd remembered it, I would have spelled it wrong.
- 47A: "Notch" on Orion's belt (Hera ... I mean STAR)
- 49D: Clinton's first defense secretary (Aspin) - this puzzle slightly exceeds the optimal level of people of middling celebrity
- 8D: Calculus pioneer (Euler) - I see him so often now that it's hard to believe that not that long ago I actually wondered aloud "Who The Hell Is He?" Mathematicians everywhere chortled.
- 13D: 1986 Turner autobiography ("I, Tina") - a good book title to remember. 5 letters, vowel heavy, unusual letter combinations ... it shows up about once every six months, by my absolutely unreliable estimation.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
P.S. If you didn't catch "Dinner: Impossible" last night on Food Network, you missed an interesting window into the world of crosswords - the whole episode was shot at the 2009 American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, and constructor (and frequent blog commenter, and occasional Rex substitute) Andrea Carla Michaels was basically the star of the show. She helped the chef cook the luncheon for the tournament-goers, and every dish had to represent (visually and ingredients-wise) a familiar saying, e.g. "high on the hog," "spill the beans," etc. I caught glimpses of Dan Feyer, Ellen Ripstein, Trip Payne, Francis Heaney, Tyler Hinman ... and me and my wife ... it was cool.