Limnological study — FRIDAY, Oct. 16 2009 — Chateaubriand accompaniment / Floppy headgear / 1997 Bell Atlantic acquisition
Friday, October 16, 2009
The scientific study of the life and phenomena of fresh water, especially lakes and ponds.
[Greek limnē, lake + -LOGY.]-----
I got wrecked by this puzzle. How bad? How bad was it? Well, I've decided that this is the symbol for my performance on this puzzle:
That, my friends, is the finished, showroom quality version of the birthday cake I made my wife. Yes, I love her that much. Started out great, but getting the cakes out of the pans proved almost comically impossible, and then what did get out, and then eventually stacked, kept falling apart — chunks of cake falling down the sides, like icebergs breaking away from glaciers. Frosting it was like ... well, imagine trying to frost a zombie. Or a leper. Most every time I touched the cake, it seemed I pulled more cake away than I left icing behind. And yet I managed to make an almost cake-like shape out of the whole mess. One major upside: It tastes @#$!ing awesome. My grandma's cake is something I would happily eat even if it were just a large pile of crumbs.
Now ... where were we? Oh right, puzzle. FAIL. You could have given me the softest of softball clues on much of this fill and I still would have struggled. TUXEDO JUNCTION (23A: "Where people go to dance the night away," in song) is a vaguely familiar phrase now that I look at it, but it means nothing to me as a song, esp. as a song with lyrics, and since NYNEX (4D: 1997 Bell Atlantic acquisition) also means nothing to me ... completely hidden "X." I still can't believe BEARNAISE SAUCE (47A: Chateaubriand accompaniment, often) is spelled like something the BE(A)Renstain BEARs would eat, but there it is. Yikes. And that's an answer I *didn't* have much trouble with. "Limnological study??" Needed every single cross to get LAKE. NEISSE (30A: Lusatian_____ (German/Polish border river))? It's been in some puzzle somewhere before, but no. Not in my Top 20 Euro Rivers (yes, such a list exists). SETHE (15A: "Beloved" heroine) was forgotten by me — 20 years since I read "Beloved," which I never liked as much as many others. If I have to read a Toni Morrison novel, I'll take "Song of Solomon," thanks. ADELIE (11D: Emperor's relative)? No. I mean, looking at it now, I can see it's some type of penguin the name of which has likely been before my eyes at some time in my life, but even the easiest clue wouldn't have helped much here. HANA? HANA (39D: Easternmost town on Maui, on one end of 52 miles of twisty highway)? You could have made your gigantic clue infinitely more gigantic and it never would have contained enough information for me to get HANA, a place I've never heard of. HANA is an 80s tennis player to me.
Let's keep going — I didn't know jewelry was made out of RED CORAL (35D: Its skeleton may be used to make jewelry), and couldn't make sense of the answer anyway for a long time because LESSORS was about seventeen different, related words before it was LESSORS. I got the gimmick in the clue Right Away (51A: Recipients of dollars for quarters?). I put in LEASERS. Later, LETTERS. LETTORS? LESSEES? Ugh. Also had CLASH for SLASH at some point (40D: Fractional bit?), and thus CANOE (?) for SKEET (40A: Summer Olympics event). Final square was a NATICK for me, though not a true one, as TENERIFE (36D: Largest of the Canary Islands) had a ring of rightness that allowed me to plunk down the "F." RAFE? (58A: Male protagonist in William Inge's "Good Luck, Miss Wyckoff") — Some guy from an Inge play? This puzzle has Zero that is contemporary about it, and not a lot of Scrabble letters, which leaves only viciousness as a Karen Tracey trademark feature. Usually her grids are fun and playful and modern. This one (solid as it is) was just groin-kicking for me.
Oh, and I had an error. After all that. An error. BUD / DTEN for BUB (25D: Sonny) / BTEN (32A: 1930s bomber). The Down was obviously ambiguous, and I guess I don't really know my 1930s bombers as well as I should. As I said, FAIL.
- 10A: Floppy headgear (tams) — oh, it's a disguised plural. Thanks. Puzzle wasn't hard enough already. Me: "KEPI? Is that floppy?"
- 14A: Writer of the history "Ab Urbe Condita" (Livy) — a gimme. Who takes LIVY as a gimme and then falls on his ass over LAKE?!
- 38A: What you probably have a head for (shower) — ugh, man, hard. And good. I mean, in addition to answers I just would never have gotten no matter what the clue (w/o serious help from crosses), there was stuff like this, which is just good, solid, late-week brutality.
- 50A: Kids in funny shorts (Our Gang) — got this quickly, back when I thought the clue meant "funny shorts" in a sartorial sense. I'm pretty sure "shorts" here refers to "short films," but the clue works either way.
- 53A: Reader's digest founder of 1984 (Utne) — the lowercase "d" on "digest" was the tip-off here.
- 6D: More than merely meet (get to know) — had the GET T... part and then most of what was below that was a mysterious disaster for much of my solve. Things got so bad that eventually, when I knew the last two letters were "OW," I considered scrapping the top and going with " .... something POW WOW?"
- 8D: Popular aquatic performer (Shamu) — proof that frustration can lead to idiocy / blindness: this answer took me a while to come up with. This very familiar, common answer kept eluding me. Initial answer was OTTER ... later, I had AGAPE at 5A: Stunned (agasp) and so answer appeared to start "PH..." PHISH? Seriously, how I finished this puzzle given all the incompetent stumbling is beyond me.
- 9D: Toy developed in China (Pekinese) — dang, she's not giving Anything away today. Have always hated the G-lessness of this (toy) dog breed.
- 31D: Old covenant keeper (Israelite) — wanted ABRAHAM. Or NOAH. Finally saved by the -ITE.
- 13D: Typical taxis (sedans) — how bad was my brain fried? I thought "taxis" was a Greek word. Singular. Like praxis. Or ... I don't know, parataxis. I'm not kidding.
- 43D: Setting for C.S. Lewis's "The Last Battle" (Narnia) — another glorious gimme. Entire west coast of puzzle was actually quite easy. Once I got to the Rockies, however ... well, by now you know.
- 45D: Early online discussion setting (usenet) — easy, but should USENET and USERS (49D: Detox population) be in puzzle together? USENET is, acc. to Wikipedia, portmanteau of "USER" and "NETWORK."
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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