FRIDAY, Jun 12 2009 — Imaginary surface coinciding with earth's sea level / Truffula tree defender / Manufacturer of boxy cars / Swordsmens grips
Friday, June 12, 2009
The hypothetical surface of the earth that coincides everywhere with mean sea level.
[German, from Greek geoeidēs, earthlike : gē, earth + -oeidēs, -oid.]geoidal ge·oid'al (-oid'l) adj.
A glorious themeless puzzle. Not hard, but smooth and lovely. Nothing icky or overly esoteric in the fill, but still chock full of lively, interesting answers. The grid is very wide open, with the highlight of the grid being (to my mind) the massive, wide diagonal corridor that runs from SW to NE. Maybe there are more E's and R's in the middle of that corridor than you'd prefer to see on a Friday (this puzzle is fairly unscrabbly for a late-week puzzle in general), but I'm really in awe of how the puzzle traverses that much white space using only very solid, well-known words, names, and phrases. The NW and SE quadrants aren't bad either, especially the SE, which has the "Z" and double-"F" floating in the middle of it. The result is a zesty hodgepodge of words from very different spheres of knowledge. Aside from the fact that I wish it had been a tiny bit harder, I have no significant criticisms of this puzzle. Even the one potentially tire-blowing cross (MAGDA / GEOID) was gettable by inferring the "GEO-" prefix from the clue, 42A: Imaginary surface coinciding with the earth's sea level. Or you could have known that MAGDA was a valid name (I wasn't quite sure, frankly) (38D: One of the Gabor sisters). That "G" was the last letter I put in the grid.
I realized while solving this puzzle that there I am much more comfortable starting my puzzle in the NW and working down / out than I am starting anywhere else. First word I ut in the grid was DESI (32D: Portrayer of TV's Ricky), down in the ESE, but aside from RAD (30A: Excellent, slangily), that got me nowhere. So I just rebooted in the NW, and it was like I was doing a completely different puzzle — started at 1D: Deadly desert denizen (asp) and never significantly slowed down after that. ASP gave me ACED (1A: Served well) and PREMIERES (17A: Red carpet events), and the hunt was on (like my metaphor? I thought it went well with SETTER hunting the HARES there in the NW — 22A: Hunting companion, maybe + 24A: Main ingredients in hasenpfeffer). If there was one section I struggle with more than others, it was the SE, where BANZAI (39A: "Char-r-rge!") was looking really weird there with just the terminal "I" in place (needed PRISONER OF ZENDA to bring it down — 11D: 1894 adventure novel, with "The"). Also TOPE had that nice noun/adjective hologram thing going on with "empty" in its clue, 35A: Empty bottles. Plus, TOPE ... very crosswordy, but not exactly the first word that comes to mind for "drink" (well, for constant solver, I'm not sure that's actually true. TOPE might be right up there).
Check out the various inter-related word sets in the puzzle. I already mentioned SETTER / HARES. Then there's the bulk of the "D"-words in the puzzle, all of which are pretty dismal and depressing:
- DEMOTES (4D: Puts in a bad position?) — better than AXING, I guess (13D: Giving a pink slip)
- DISLIKE (34D: Find objectionable)
- DUMPED ON (29D: Bad-mouthed)
- DESPOTS (29A: Unilateral decision-makers)
- DUFFER (41A: Lousy driver, say)
FAIL (5A: Without _____ (religiously)) and MISSPENT (38A: Wasted) add complementary richness and color to this depressing subtheme. To counterbalance the gloom, we have the euphonious SOUP'S ON / SEEPS IN crossing in the NE (10D: "Come and get it!" / 20A: Enters via osmosis), and then a simple ASP / SERPENT (23D: Midgard _____ (monster of Norse myth)) pairing to round things off.
- 16A: Truffula Tree defender, with "the" (Lorax) — had the "X" from AXING in place already, so this Seussian creature was a cinch to uncover.
- 23A: Uninteresting voice (sing-song) — still having trouble processing the fact that a word that sounds lovely and lilting is supposed to mean "boring."
- 26A: Manufacturer of boxy cars (Otis) — zing! Elevator cars. Clever, if not terribly tricky.
- 33A: Frequent subject on "Desperate Housewives" (adultery) — never seen a single ep, but got this instantly off the "A" (after flirting for a split second with ALIMONY...)
- 36A: Like some jewel cases (slimline) — the kind that hold DVDs or CDS (45D: Certain investments, for short).
- 37A: Bygone players (hifis) — had EXPOS.
- 43A: Alopeica sufferer's purchase (hair tonic) — I've played it before, perhaps more than once, but this answer is forcing my hand, and I think I have to play it again. HAIR TONIC brings this cartoon to mind, instantly ...
- 46A: "Donnie _____" (2001 cult film) ("Darko") — a gimme, though I haven't seen it.
- 49A: Communism battler, with "the" (West) — again, tricky. Much broader than I would have expected.
- 3D: Potential blackout cause (electrical storm) — had ELECTRICAL SHORT until I checked that "T" and realized the cross had to be ADMEN (48A: Pitching staff?); STORM followed from there.
- 8D: Central concept of minimalism (less is more) — seems kind of trite, but it's straight out of (crossword stalwart) MIES van der Rohe's mouth.
- 12D: Putting away (caging) — had EATING.
- 35D: Early phonograph cylinder covering (tin foil) — had no idea. We made solar ovens using TIN FOIL in first grade.
- 36D: Musical O'Connor (Sinead) — "I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got" is a lovely album:
- 37D: Swordsmen's grips (hafts) — a gimme that helped me turn EXPOS to HIFIS.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld