1964 Tony Randall title role - WEDNESDAY, May 13 2009 - N Kavanaugh (Kiltie's turndown / Having a rought knitted surface)
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: "JUST ADD WATER" (58A: Easy preparation instruction ... or a hint to the starts of 20-, 28- and 48-Across) - "WATER" can precede (in familiar phrases) the first word in each of the first three theme answers
Word of the Day: TRURO - Truro is a town in Barnstable County, Massachusetts, United States. Located two hours outside Boston, it is a summer vacation community just shy of the tip of Cape Cod. It is named after Truro in Cornwall, United Kingdom. Its name among the natives of Cape Cod was Pamet or Payomet, a name that still refers to an area around the town center known as the Pamet Roads. The population was 2,087 at the 2000 census. Truro comprises two villages: Truro and North Truro. (wikipedia)
My favorite bit of information about TRURO - "The Pilgrims stopped in Truro and Provincetown in 1620 as their original choice for a landing before later declaring the area unsuitable." Unsuitable. Unsuitable. Unsuitable. I have a vague sense of having seen TRURO in a puzzle somewhere before, and I see that there are better than a dozen attestations in the Cruciverb database (though none in the NYT since 2003), but this answer strikes me as horribly provincial and class-biased. Most of the @#$#ing world does not vacation on the cape, and many of us who have (hand raised) have not been to or heard of this place. Which brings me to an important point ... I am happy to (re-)learn of this (very) small resort town, and yet ...
TRURO seems like the kind of thing you throw down when you are desperate - when there is nothing else you can do *and* when the payoff is very high, i.e. it helps you keep something amazing in the grid. There is nothing amazing in this grid. Further, that TRURO section is about the ugliest puzzle section I have seen in the NYT since I started blogging 2.5 years ago. Almost Every Answer In It is something you would not put in your puzzle voluntarily. Compromise answers one and all. Well, everything but ALBINO (43A: Lacking melanin). The whole section is, as the kids are fond of saying, a hot mess. Every Down is less than optimal - a French plural; a Tony Randall role that might be acceptable in a fantastic late-week puzzle, but here seems like laziness masquerading as whimsy (33D: 1964 Tony Randall title role); NUBBY, which ... I don't even know where to begin, esp. crossing TRURO - if you have no clue about TRURO, many vowels seem OK in that "U" spot ... I considered NIBBY and NOBBY at some points (34D: Having a rough knitted surface); and then ARIL, crosswordese of the highest order, and a word that no one puts in a grid unless he/she has to (it happens). I routinely confuse ARIL (seed covering) with ANIL (blue dye), as they are one letter apart and are both words I had never seen until I started doing crosswords. At any rate. How much do you have to love TABLE TENNIS to accept this Dr. Moreauvian mass of unholy nonsense? The western section of this puzzle is like a crowded waiting room at a puzzle answer hospital. "DR. LAO will see you now."
Then there's the rest of the puzzle, which is dull as a post. All for what? Three arbitrary theme answers (the number of potential theme answers must be enormous), only one of which is at all interesting. Oh, and the RIDDLER. I liked that. (46D: "Batman" villain, with "the")
- 20A: Spicy bar fare (buffalo wings)
- 28A: Yellow (lily-livered)
- 48A: Game to 11 points (table tennis)
The seed answer here - JUST ADD WATER - is cute, and has promise. But the execution ... I've already chatted with a couple constructors about this one, and I'd love to hear from others. Between that western section and the generally lazy fill, I just don't understand how this puzzle got through.
- 25A: Ceremonial utterance ("I do") - nice fresh clue on that familiar answer
- 9A: Like a teddy bear (fuzzy) - snuck two Zs up there - also nice
- 24A: It may have orchids or plumerias (lei) - more snazzing up of tired answers
- 36A: Kiltie's turndown ("nae") - "Kiltie" sounds like an ethnic slur
- 40A: Baseball bigwigs, for short (GMs) - General Managers. THEO Epstein and Brian CASHMAN are the GMs of the Red Sox and Yankees, respectively. I tell you this because they seem like reasonably fair game for the puzzle.
- 25D: Certain Oriental rug maker (Irani) - and OMANI ... in the same puzzle ... there's phoning it in, and then there's ... whatever this is.
- 29D: Internet annoyance (lag) - so many possibilities ... this one (though it happens to me a lot) was not at the top of my list. I didn't even know it had a formal name.
- 54D: America's Cup entrant (yacht) - I take mine to TRURO, where I am fond of summering (... sorry, that was Bizarro Me ... she's gone now)
- 44D: Siouan speakers (Otos) - stupid mind-of-their-own fingers typed UTES.
- 58D: Mitchell who wrote and sang "Chelsea Morning" (Joni) - ah, something to like:
- 60D: Jean Arp's movement (Dada) - ARP is a bit of crosswordese that I Never tire of.
To end on a positive note - two things:
1. Today is my grandmother's birthday. As some of you know, she was the first person I ever saw work a crossword - my earliest crosswording model - and is surely in some genetic way responsible for whatever it is I'm doing here with this blog. She's an amazing, independent woman who makes people 20-30 years younger than she is seem doddering. So Happy Birthday, Grandma.
2. I got a wonderful email from a reader the other day, one that contained an anecdote that I thought was so adorable, I asked her if I could post it here. She kindly agreed. ... the only thing you need to know, for the purposes of context, is that Will Weng was the editor of the NYT crossword from 1968-78:
Hey, I so much enjoy your opinions and comments on the puzzle [...] I do not cheat and use your answers at all as I have done the puzzle for many, many years BUT after I finish, I love to see your pictures and read your comments about the people featured in the puzzle. I will tell you a story. I had a male friend I met at a bar when I was 23 after graduating from Smith College in Northampton, Mass. We both discovered that we always did the NYTimes puzzle so we decided to compete. He lived in Boston. I taught school in Larchmont, NY and we said that the first one that finished the Sunday puzzle would call the other collect and say "This is Will Weng speaking" and, of course, the call was not accepted but it meant that he or she [me!] was the winner! Well, I kept losing until I figured out I could buy the secondary section of the paper Saturday night, living close to NYC, and be able to work on the puzzle all night long !! I was able to call him collect in Boston at 7AM and say "I am Will Weng"!! Sunday after Sunday!
That man is my husband and we both still compete every Sunday! Thank you
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
PS for a puzzle with a similar theme type, but twice as much meat, see today's LAT puzzle. Orange's write-up here.