THURSDAY, Jun. 25 — Spirited cries / Red remover maybe / Hinged pair of pictures / Craggy crest / Tee follower
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Constructor: Bill Zais
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: Number of the Down clue is first word in five theme answers, e.g. 3D: <--- Plastered (sheets to the wind) —> signifying familiar phrase "THREE SHEETS TO THE WIND" (i.e. "drunk"). Repeat same effect at 5-, 7-, 20- and 40-Down
Word of the Day: EPISTLE to Philemon — The Epistle to Philemon is a prison letter from Paul of Tarsus to Philemon, a leader in the Colossian church. It is one of the books of the New Testament of the Christian Bible. The epistle is the most important early Christian writing dealing with forgiveness. (wikipedia)
Late start this morning as normally I rely on the bustle of wife and kid getting ready for work/school and dogs generally spazzing out to wake me up completely, but this morning — last day of school year for wife, third day of summer for daughter, dogs ... uncharacteristically mellow. Not yet hot or bright enough in the morning to force me out of bed (for which I should probably be grateful). At any rate, I don't have tons to say about this puzzle anyway. It's an interesting, odd little construction. The conceit — where the clue number is part of the answer — is something I've seen before, and recently. I think Brendan Emmett Quigley did a puzzle remarkably similar to this over at his site recently. I could be misremembering badly, but I know I've seen this trick some time in the past few months. Anyway, it's clever, though in this case it involves creating a weirdly shaped grid with huge black chunks at top and bottom, likely a byproduct of getting the Downs involved in the theme answers (3, 5, 7, 20 and 40D) to line up in symmetrical fashion. I rated the puzzle Medium mostly because it went from Hard ("What the hell are these damned arrows supposed to mean?") to Easy ("Oh, 3 SHEETS TO THE WIND ... got it") as soon as I grasped the theme. I don't like the arrows in the theme clues, as they confuse more than they clarify. I still don't quite see how they work. I guess they are supposed to be saying "this number is the first word in the answer." Not sure how else you'd indicate the concept, though, without a theme-revealing answer. Maybe the arrow was the best option.
- 3. <--- Plastered (sheets to the wind)
- 5. <--- Gambling game (card stud) — hate the clue here. Something more lively, please. Nearly all these clues today are dull and lifeless. Why didn't KINKS get a music clue (69A: Garden hose problems)? Why (dear god why?) didn't "MAD MEN" get a TV clue!? (29A: Psychos)
- 7. <--- Sherlock Holmes novel, with "The" ("Percent Solution") — not one of his better known works.
- 20. <--- One starting a career, perhaps (something)
- 40. <--- Work period (hour week) — least favorite, as the phrase, in my head, is "40-hour WORK week"; Google seems marginally to back me up on this, though there's plenty of attestation for the "WORK"-less version as well. Alabama votes "WORK"-less!
Lots of plural ugliness today. I can tolerate the plural OTS (35D: What buzzer beaters may lead to, briefly), but RAHRAHS, ETTES, and SYSTS ... less so. RAH is a spirited cry. RAHS would have worked. RAHRAHS (10A: Spirited cries) just sounds stupid. And abbreviating suffixes and (many) abbrevs. is never ideal. Avoid if you can help it. Toughest part of the grid for me was the SW, where EPISTLE would not come. I kept thinking Philemon was some character from mythology or Greek tragedy. Not having EPISTLE kept HOP IN (maybe the best answer in the grid) from showing his face. For reasons I don't quite get, I couldn't see SHEAR even with all letters but the "H" in place.
- 1A: Formal club: Abbr. (assoc.) — "formal" threw me badly. "Formal?" OK.
- 16A: Red remover, maybe (eye drop) — clever. Wanted HUAC or something like it.
- 38A: Hinged pair of pictures (diptych) — very familiar to me from my days as a medievalist.
- 45A: Either of two emcees (cohost) — oh man I wanted a real name here. Kept trying to think of famous hosts who were related to each other.
- 47A: Where "wikiwiki" means "to hurry" (Hawaii) — that's just obvious, right? I mean, even if you don't *know* it, just saying the clue out loud pretty much tells you the answer. "Wikiwiki" even looks like "Waikiki."
- 1D: Craggy crest (arete) — crosswordese 201. I usually look for the word "ridge" in my ARETE clue, so I didn't get this instantly. Just almost instantly.
- 14D: 20-vol. work (OED) — or you can access it online, where there are no volumes. That is what you will be doing in the fyooture, if you aren't already.
- 12D: Rarely read letters (spam) — looking for actual letters here, and while many of us ignore spam, LOTS of people read it. If there were no efficacy to SPAM, it wouldn't exist. Plus, sometimes you don't know something is SPAM *until* you read it.
- 13D: Race before a race (primary) — wanted PRELIM...
- 46D: Tee follower (hee) — wanted VEE. HEE goes nicely (i.e. ridiculously) with HOO (11D: Part of a sob).
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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