MONDAY, Nov. 9 2009 — Brinker with storied skates / Latino's Yankee buddy / Warty hopper / Chitchat at sweet sixteen sleepover
Monday, November 9, 2009
Constructor: Lynn Lempel
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
THEME: Going Down? — Five theme answers all end with words that indicate descent
Word of the Day: OTTO (15A: German king who became an early Roman Emperor) — Otto I the Great (23 November 912 in Wallhausen – 7 May 973 in Memleben), son of Henry I the Fowler and Matilda of Ringelheim, was Duke of Saxony, King of Germany, King of Italy, and "the first of the Germans to be called the emperor of Italy" according to Arnulf of Milan. While Charlemagne had been crowned emperor in 800, his empire had been divided amongst his grandsons, and following the assassination of Berengar of Friuli in 924, the imperial title had lain vacant for nearly forty years. On 2 February 962, Otto was crowned Emperor of what would later become the Holy Roman Empire.
Honestly, I didn't think this was any more challenging than your average Monday, but my time was a good half-minute off, so I gotta call it the way it falls. Falls! Get it? Yeah, I know. Good one. As for the puzzle, I didn't like it as much as I usually like Lynn Lempel puzzles. It's still pretty damned good, but the "all the last words mean roughly the same thing" is old hat, and old hat needs especially new and snazzy phrases to work well. These answer are ... nice, I guess. Lots of Ks. Bottom half of grid definitely more interesting than the top hat, if for no other reason than the Ks. All the "Descend" words are used in phrases where they do not, in fact, indicated descent, which is a very nice touch. The premise is leaving me cold, but beyond that, the puzzle is really well made. Ideally you wouldn't have TRY and TRI- in same grid, or so many odd plurals (COCOAS, OLES, LINENS, ATHENS, HANS), and KING-SIZE might like its terminal "D" back, but the LEOTARD-clad girls having their GIRL TALK, daring each other to SKINNY DIP while smoking MENTHOL cigarettes and sipping COCOAS in a KING-SIZE bed ... all that made the puzzle at least reasonably interesting.
- 18A: Throat soother (cough DROP)
- 23A: Time just after sunset (night FALL)
- 36A: Where dishes may pile up (kitchen SINK)
- 51A: Go in without a suit (skinny DIP)
- 57A: Problem-solving research institute (think TANK)
- 65A: Warty hopper (toad) — I love ridiculous clues like this — phrases that are accurate but that no one would ever say and that sound funny.
- 7D: Ring shaped island (atoll) — I made ATOLL house cookie last night. Several dozen, actually, to take to the Faculty/Student dinner at Hinman College on campus last night.
- 37D: Brinker with storied skates (Hans) — kind of cloying. Hans goes to med school at the end. I did not know that. Wikipedia tells me that the story of Hans Brinker, or The Silver Skates introduced the Dutch sport of speed skating to America.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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