Moravian capital — SATURDAY, Oct. 17 2009 — Matricidal figure of myth / Belgian balladeer / Klaxon-sounding occasion / Track speedster beginning 2000
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Constructor: Chuck Deodene
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
Word of the Day: BENTHIC (23A: Of the seafloor) — Occurring at the base of bodies of water: lakes, oceans, and seas. Benthos refers to life attached to the bottom or moving in the bottom mud. (Geography Dictionary)
A nice little workout. Found it (no surprise) vastly easier than yesterday's puzzle, though I still had to fight my way through many spots. Seems slightly unambitious for a Saturday. The SW corner is beautiful (especially like TAX DODGE — 36D: Bit of trickery on the schedule), but the rest is kind of blah. Two zingers today (i.e. a word I'd never seen and could not infer in any way shape or form): BENTHIC, which appears to mean "of or relate to the writings of Jeremy Bentham," but doesn't; and HEL (25A: Underworld goddess). What the HEL? There's a goddess named HEL? Indeed there is. I teach about HEL(L) all the time in Virgil, and Dante, and Milton, and yet somehow Ms. HEL has eluded my notice all these years. She now joins TYR in the "Norse Gods I learned from doing crosswords" category. My ignorance of HEL led to my favorite mistake of the day...
I had the most trouble (by far) getting into the NE corner. Even with the two potential points of entry, I got stuck. Had everything from ROVE (29A: Drift) down (i.e. the last three letters of ever Down up there) and made a good, solid, and ultimately correct guess at AGE LEVEL (12D: What pupils are separated by), and then just sat there for a bit, unable to work anything else. Finally, off -OPE, I decided that 11D: Offered a way out could mean only one thing: GAVE ROPE. And it worked! Got SUGAR (9A: Crystals used for dishes), then SUMAC (9D: Cause of a rash response?), and then a few seconds later I was done ... well, sort of. REL? There's a goddess named REL? I just couldn't accept that. Then I could. Then I couldn't again. Finally I decided to test other letters in R, E, and L's places, pulled the "R" and "H" popped right in. I am now totally in love with my wrong answer. I meant GAVE ROPE in the sense of "throw someone a lifeline," but now all I can imagine is someone saying "hey, I can offer you a way out ... hang yourself with this rope." The diametric opposition of my answer and the right answer is fantastic. Good Halloween-time morbidity.
- 1A: Through the efforts of (thanks to) — oddly, I started this puzzle by simply writing in the TO in this answer. Figured that would have be how the phrase ended, since the preposition "OF" was in the clue. Off of "TO" I immediately got ORESTES (8D: Matricidal figure of myth — which I could have gotten w/o crosses, frankly) and TETON (7D: County in Idaho, Montana or Wyoming). I should say that I got so excited by the mythology clue that I instinctively wrote in OEDIPUS before remembering that he killed his dad, not his mom. He did something else to his mom. ORESTES killed Clytemnestra for her role in killing ORESTES' (asshole) father, AGAMEMNON. This is all dramatized in Aeschylus's Oresteia (named after our boy here).
- 14A: Sputnik launch time (Soviet Era) — well, you knew it wasn't going to be something like "TEN A.M.," so you think Bigger period of time. Had the "ER" in ERA already sitting there, so piece of cake.
- 19A: Pooch in panels (Odie) — other options? OTTO. DAWG. That's all I can come up with right now.
- 21A: Track speedster beginning in 2000 (ACELA) — I learned this train name from crosswords, and had no idea it was so (relatively) new.
- 44A: Minute (bitsy) — yuck.
- 56A: Moravian capital (Brno) — I've been Brned by BRNO bfore. Never again!
- 58A: Get some quick lodging (rent a room) — not sure why this is "quick."
- 60A: Sen. Bayh's senior counterpart (Lugar) — R-IN. Nice counterpoint to SUGAR in the NE.
- 61A: Guard against drifting (snow fence) — that's a thing? OK.
- 2D: Hip-hop top (hoodie) — just 'cause it's got "'hood" in it doesn't mean it's hip-hop (though, yes, you can see HOODIES aplenty in hip-hop videos, I suppose). LOTS of people wear hoodies, just as lots (and lots) of people wear NIKE (4D: Brand that may be worn with a 2-Down). The NIKE tie-in feels really weak to me. ANY brand may be worn with a HOODIE.
- 5D: The New Yorker writer Auletta (Ken) — Never heard of him. I read Harper's and (for now) The Atlantic. Once The New Yorker dropped its cryptic (a decade ago?), I had no use for it.
- 13D: Klaxon-sounding occasion (red alert) — KLAXON was just in the puzzle, wasn't it? I thought it was an instrument, a horn you might blow on to signal the entrance of the king or something. But no, it's a trademark (!?) for an electromechanical horn or alerting device (wikipedia).
- 31D: He said "If Attila the Hun were alive today, he'd be a drama critic?" (Albee) — easy. Had the "AL," and ALBEE's up there with AGEE in grid frequency.
- 32D: Fusty greeting (Dear Sirs) — Oddly, my first guess. Didn't exactly trust it, but cross after cross proved correct.
- 41D: Fishing weapon (trident) — I thought this was mainly just a symbol for Neptune. You actually fish with it, eh? Cool.
- 46D: BP competitor (Sunoco) — wanted Conoco at first. That's something, right?
- 50D: Piazza de Ferrari setting (Genoa) — just wait for recognizable Italian city to show up. Once you've got the "G," no problem.
- 56D: Belgian balladeer (Brel) — as in Jacques. Learned him from crosswords. As Euro balladeers go, I prefer Yves Montand. Let's compare.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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