Ships whose rudders don't touch water — THURSDAY, Jul. 16 2009— Destination of Saul / Container for folding scissors / Singer of Wagner aria Liebestod
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Constructor: Elizabeth C. Gorski
Relative difficulty: Challenging
THEME: IT ADDS UP (33D: Possible title for this puzzle) — anagrammatic equations: ELEVEN [PLUS] TWO (17A) and TWELVE [PLUS] ONE (57A) are ANAGRAMs (35A) that both total THIRTEEN (12D). The [PLUS] in both equations is entered as a rebus square (with whole word "PLUS" or "+" symbol going into a single square)
Word of the Day: TILSIT (2D: Swiss cheese) — Tilsit cheese or Tilsiter cheese is a light yellow semi-hard cheese, created in the mid-19th century by Prussian-Swiss settlers, the Westphal family, from the Emmental valley. The original buildings from the cheese plant still exist in Sovetsk, Russia, formerly Tilsit on the Neman River in East Prussia. (wikipedia)
Found this one very painful to solve. When I look at a clue like 17A: 35-Across of 57-Across that equals 12-Down, my eyes glaze over and I stop caring much about the puzzle. It's one (not so great) thing to be referred all over the grid in a puzzle theme, it's another to have the resulting clue be such an inelegant, clunky, almost unreadable disaster. Is it "13" day? Couldn't this have run on some day having to do with "13?" That would have given it at least some significance, some raison d'etre. I love Gorski puzzles, usually, and I love the spirit of this one, with her typical exciting use of multiple thematic elements, e.g. the equations, the anagrams, the rebus squares. But the process of filling it all in was a huge drag, and since the underlying basis for the puzzle is just an odd coincidence of math and language ... I felt the struggle unworth it. Hate having that "so what" feeling? at the end.
My time today was nearly twice my normal Thursday time. This is partly because I gave up mentally at the clue to 17A, and partly because I made Huge errors in the NW at first. Started easily enough with A DEEP (1D: "Take _____ breath") and PITT (22A: The Big East's Panthers, for short), but then wrote in "I'M LATE" for 3D: Cry just before a rabbit appears? Did she hear the cry before she saw the White Rabbit? I couldn't remember, but that was my justification for going the "Alice in Wonderland" route. Appropriate, since it caused me to fall down a hole that I had a hard time getting back out of. Compounded problems up there by going with EONS instead of AGES (5D: So, so long). Never having heard of TILSIT, I floundered muchly.
Non-theme fill was trouble throughout. Not one of the more smoothly filled grids I've seen from Ms. Gorski. Heavier on the crosswordese and abbrevs. than I would have expected (I tripped on CWTS, 54D: 100-lb. units, entering KWTS, which gave me the almost correct-looking DAMASKUS at 53A: Destination of Saul when he had his conversion, in the Bible). Many opportunities for me to screw up: OAST for OVEN (23D: Brickmaking need) and CASELOAD for CASEFILE (11D: Detective's work record) were among the more notable stumbles. I think my favorite thing about his puzzle is the answer "B + AVERAGE. Great use of the rebus square in a long, uncommon answer. Otherwise, fill is kind of blah and theme, while technically impressive, was not much pleasure to work out.
- 7A: Commercial prefix with vision (Uni-) — no idea what this is. Had this experience a few times today, most notably with ...
- 29A: French novelist Robert _____, upon whose work the 1973 thriller "The Day of the Dolphin" is based (Merle) — Thanks. That 1973 thriller I've never heard of really helps. MERLE Haggard would be rolling in his grave if he were dead. Norman and Oberon too.
- 14A: Ships whose rudders don't touch water (dirigibles) — OK, that's good fill. No idea they had "rudders."
- 19A: Bobsled challenges (esses) — embarrassingly long time spent figuring out what E-word this could possibly be.
- 39A: Container for folding scissors (etui) — speaking of E-words, this one is spearheading the crosswordese revival today. ASTI, APSE, and ELEA want their pensions! Clue on APSE, 61A: Half-dome construction, was a toughie. Had me thinking of Yosemite.
- 8D: Red-spotted _____ (newt) — wanted TIT. Considered trying TEAT.
- 9D: Singer of the Wagner aria "Liebestod" (Isolde) — a common enough crossword name, but I still needed many crosses to get it.
- 36D: Britain's Royal _____ Club, for plane enthusiasts (Aero) — lot of this hard clue dress-up going on with the common fill today, which is at least more interesting than run-of-the-mill clues, e.g. [Plane prefix].
- 46D: Puzzled (non [PLUS] ed) — got it quickly — the whole SE was oddly easy compared to the rest of the grid — but really thought there was another "S" in there. NONPLUSSED? No, that looks wrong too. No wonder I don't use this word.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld