Patron of barristers notaries — SAT., Sep. 26 2009— Axiom producer / Momentous 1960s convention / 1971-97 nation name / Cousin of catnip / Hindu maxim
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Constructor: Joon Pahk
Relative difficulty: Medium
Word of the Day: KAON (54A: Particle named for a letter of the alphabet) — n. (Abbr. K)
Any of a subgroup of unstable mesons that consist of an electrically charged form with a mass 966 times that of an electron and a neutral form with a mass 974 times that of an electron, produced as a result of a high-energy particle collision. Also called K-meson. (answers.com)
A tough and thoughtfully filled puzzle, with a mess of Scrabbly letters and vibrant words and phrases. There is a big difference between a themeless puzzle that is crafted and one that is simply churned out. Compare today's puzzle to yesterday's to see that difference, vividly. This is a standard themeless grid — one that opts for medium-sized and potentially brutal corners over huge white spaces and/or multiple grid-spanning answers (other common late-week grid features). The upside of a more modest grid like this is that it can be filled, really, really cleanly (as it is today), while the multiple nooks and crannies have the potential to create lots and lots of trouble spots, so the difficulty level can stay relative high. You aren't apt to build a momentum and blow through a grid that is shaped like this and clued Saturday-tough. Speaking of cluing, today's cluing was almost over-the-top in its trickiness. There must be a dozen or more clues that either have "?"s on the end or rely on really effective misdirection via wordplay.
I wanted to start the puzzle with VERO (23A: _____ Beach (former home of Dodgertown)), but couldn't confirm any of the letter, so moved on. First real foray into the grid came with CHERI at 6D: Dijon darling. That was wrong, but quickly replaced with my next guess, AMOUR. The "R" there reminded me that my RED SOX used to be the Americans (25A: Team known as the Americans until 1907), so I went AMOUR, REDSOX ... then up to IN A MOMENT (15A: "Hold your horses!"), Down with IT IS SAID (9D: "According to some ..."), and back Across with SANS SOUCI (17A: Carefree). That pretty much had me on my way to downing the entire NW.
Puzzle had exactly three trouble spots for me. First, the NE. RADIX was not coming (wanted INDEX)(10D: Base of a number system), didn't initially pick up the "punches" meaning of "socks" in 21A: They may come with socks (shiners) [technically SHINERS come *after* socks, but whatever...], and never would have thought to call a gemstone a "symbol" (13D: May symbol => EMERALD). Also, had no way of getting KILL from 31A: Take out until I came back around and picked up the "K" via KARNAK (31D: Egyptian temple complex near Luxor). Wanted DELE. Then wanted it again at 18A: Takes out (dates).
Next trouble spot was the upper SE, specifically where DIABOLO (44D: Game involving spinning a top on a string) comes together with KAON. Now that I look at them, there is an eerie, vague familiarity to the pair, but I really had to hack my way to that last square via all the crosses, and then make an educated (but extremely probable) guess at the "A." "A" made a word that at least looked like the Spanish word for "devil," and I figured that if you pronounced "KAON" as "KAY-on," then that would make sense as a particle named after a letter. I had TOMBOLO and MUON in their places at some stage of the game.
Hardest part by far, for me, was the SW, where -AT-N as the answer to 60A: 1-Across topic resulted in SATAN (1A: Momentous 1960s convention => VATICAN II). Bad, bad mistake, because I ended up with a grid where all entries looked like real words except one: FIRESIT? (39D: Romantic, perhaps). I sort of knew something was off when I came up with TARE for 56D: Flag, but I knew TARE was a word with multiple meanings, and I figured I just didn't know one of them. But FIRESIT? That's absurd. Sounds like something that would be better clued [What FDR did?]. That *has* to be wrong. Only by (eventually) tearing out FIRESIT *and* TARE was I able to see another possibility at 60A: LATIN! Then I had FIRELIT and TIRE and I was done.
- 28A: Axiom producer (Isuzu) — criminy, the new car models just keep coming. I wanted something like OLD GUY or QUIPPER.
- 30A: Enjoyed London or France (read) — Jack London, Anatole France
- 32A: Patron of barristers and notaries (St. Mark) — read it as "Patron of barristas ..." and thought "they had those in biblical times?"
- 34A: Swing set players? (big bands) — the clue cuteness just keeps on coming as well.
- 36A: Capital of East London (Rand) — "capital" as in currency. East London is in S. Africa.
- 39A: Domain of Paul Bunyan (folklore) — ah, a figurative domain. Really wanted something like BACKWOOD(S).
- 48A: Pope who excommunicated Martin Luther (Leo X) — Knew it was LEO somebody, so, since it was Saturday, I tried "X" — XERXES slipped right into place at 49D: Victor at Thermopylae, 480 B.C.
- 43A: Author of the controversial kids' book "In the Night Kitchen" (Sendak) — "Controversial?" Why, 'cause you could see the kid's penis? O, man. That's sad. I'm quite excited to see the Spike Jonze movie adaptation of "Where the Wild Things Are" next month.
- 50A: 1971-97 nation (Zaire) — HA ha, I just considered putting this in a puzzle I was constructing without realizing it wasn't a "nation" any more. I guess if I'd kept it, I would have found out while cluing.
- 55A: Nathaniel Hawthorne story subtitled "The Bosom-Serpent" ("Egotism") — man, I thought that serpent was "jealousy" or "envy."
- 57A: Part of an Avignon address (rue) — never saw this clue. Seems surprising in a puzzle that took a good deal of thought/work.
- 59A: Do without much daring? (bun) — I don't know ... I couldn't make a passable BUN if I tried, so it takes more "daring" than I've got. Plus ... they can be kind of hot, I think.
- 66A: Where the owl and the pussycat went, in a poem (to sea) — and not, as I found out the hard way, KOREA.
- 67A: Cell organelle with microtubules (basal body) — OMG blah blah blah science get crosses and guess something. For being gibberish to me ... wasn't that hard.
- 2D: "In the Mood," e.g. (anapest) — unstressed unstressed stressed. A metrical foot. Think the opening of "I Feel For You" by ... Chaka KHAN ... Chaka KHAN ... Chaka KHAN Chaka KHAN ...
- 7D: Like it (neuter) — "it" is neither masculine nor feminine in gender, hence NEUTER.
- 22D: His #14 was retired by the Mets (Hodges) — Gil HODGES. Third baseball clue of the day, nicely intersecting RED SOX.
- 24D: Location of the Boston Mountains and Buffalo River (Ozarks) — so ... not Boston or Buffalo, I'm guessing. I started with OREGON.
- 29D: Territory east of Ukraine on a Risk board (Ural) — never played, but this was easy enough to guess.
- 35D: "And a Voice to Sing With" memoirist (Baez) — had no idea, but again, easy to guess with a cross or two.
- 40D: Cousin of catnip (oregano) — nice tie-in with 45D: Like a cat playing in catnip (aroused).
- 41D: Figure of speech like "no mean feat" (litotes) — good day to be an English professor. ANAPEST and LITOTES are just part of the professional jargon. LITOTES is simply a means of expressing something by negating its opposite.
- 42A: Gigayear (eon) — "Gigayear?" Is that a real thing? That sounds made up.
- 46D: Successor to Powell on the Supreme Court (Kennedy) — easy to pick up off last three letters, which were already in place when I first looked at this clue.
- 53D: Hindu maxim (sutra) — at least the Hindu Maxim wasn't a car model.
- 58D: N.B.A. legend Monroe with a signature spin move (Earl) — "the Pearl" ...
- 63D: Bath suds spot? (pub) — Bath as in the English city. Suds as in beer.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]