Philosophy in Bedroom author 1795 — SATURDAY, Nov. 21 2009 — Egyptian king credited with founding First Dynasty / Emperor's Snuff Box novelist
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Constructor: Gary J. Whitehead
Relative difficulty: Medium
Word of the Day: MENES (3D: Egyptian king credited with founding the First Dynasty) — Menes is the name of the Egyptian king credited with founding the First dynasty, sometime around 3100 BC. Menes was seen as a founding figure for much of the history of Ancient Egypt, and was possibly a mythical founding king similar to Romulus and Remus for Ancient Rome. [MENES is a really dull and unimposing name for someone this important] (wikipedia)
This was tough the way a Saturday puzzle should be, but blah in a way that a Saturday puzzle should not be. I kind of like the phrase RAMP UP SALES (1A: Increase business), but all the other long answers in this puzzle are forgettable bores, with the "J" at the beginning of JAPANESE LANTERN being about the most exciting going on in the grid. Actually, I take that back. Having CENTER ICE dead center is pretty sweet, but dear god, PEER ASSESSMENTS (6D: Some workshop critiques)?! First of all, take out the "E"s and "S"s and there's hardly any phrase there. I've heard the word ASSESSMENTS specifically derided by constructors as something you might want to keep Out of your grid. Zzzzzzz. Second, having been in and run many workshops where students read each other works, I can tell you that the phrase is not PEER ASSESSMENTS (though that's accurate enough on a literal level). It's PEER REVIEW(S). Terser, and with more interesting letters. SEEDAGE is the only answer that really makes me want to hurl (11D: Horitcultural practice), so it's not an offensive grid by any means. There's just nothing Scrabbly or sparkly or memorable about it. Oh, and the grid is the same as this grid from earlier in the year, with the one difference being that the center square here is white not black. I guess that ups the level of difficulty for the constructor, but as far as puzzle quality, it isn't even close. Sometimes (most times?) the less ambitious grid results in the more interesting puzzle.
I had real trouble getting any of the long Acrosses, esp. up top. I had a feeling the "line" in 12A: Green line was going to be something someone said, a "line" someone uttered, but I figured it would be a phrase popularized by someone named Green. But who? Lorne GREENE? Wrong spelling. Seth GREEN? I really doubt it. It was late in the puzzle, and only after I (finally) got the "P" from SPLITS (7D: Stock options), that SAVE THE PLANET came into view. That NW corner (where I normally start my puzzles) was the last thing to go. Thought I was done when I dropped MENOS into the grid ... then stared at UNITOR and thought "that ... isn't right" (16A: Minister at a wedding, e.g.). IDEAS (18A: Brains' gains) and AVATAR (2D: Personification) were the first things in the grid, and I figured that "V" would send me on my merry way. But no. Ended up rebooting in the NE and then headed diagonal to the SW, then over to SE. Then jumped all the way back to the ragged-looking top part in order to SAVE THE PUZZLE.
- 21A: "The Emperor's Snuff-Box" novelist (Carr) — saw same clue earlier this year. Helped me a bit today, though as I was solving, I was thinking it was Caleb CARR. It's John Dickson CARR.
- 24A: World Match Play Championship champ a record seven times (Els) — I don't know what "World Match Play" is in golf, but if it were all that important, Tiger would have won it more.
- 47A: Breaks while lifting, say (rest intervals) — this must be a technical weight-lifting term. Only vaguely familiar to me. Clue is nicely misdirective. Sounds like it refers to a clumsy shoplifter.
- 38A: "Philosophy in the Bedroom" author, 1795 (Sade) — Before "The Joy of Sex," there was this. I would describe the plot to you, but, well, it's pretty, uh, sadistic. If you don't flinch at sexually explicit *and* violent content, you can read about it here.
- 39A: "Man of La Mancha" production org. (ANTA) — OK, I take it back. SEEDAGE *wasn't* the only nauseating answer. ANTA stands for "American Norfolk Terrier Association."
- 42A: Roller near a derailleur (rear tire) — a welcome gimme. I'm no cyclist, but I rode plenty of bikes with derailleurs as a kid (though I couldn't have spelled the word for you, then or now).
- 15D: Desert trial, for short (N-test) — thought this might have something to do with Moses or Jesus, but no — standard crosswordese, only question being A, N, or H?
- 30D: Karaoke problem (tin ear) — Not "karaoke standard?"
- 35D: Early American diplomat (Deane) — we Just had him, so despite knowing nothing about him, I got him here with no crosses.
- 44D: Mountain lake (tarn) — one of the few old-school repeaters from pre-Shortz days that *doesn't* grate on my nerves. Refreshing! You can keep your AMAHs and your ESNEs, but TARN's cool. So is ADIT, if it ever comes up.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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