Indian water holder — FRIDAY, Dec. 18 2009 — Outfielder Chavez / Peninsula south of Gulf of Trieste / Opera quickie
Friday, December 18, 2009
Constructor: Brendan Emmett Quigley
Relative difficulty: Medium
Word of the Day: PIERROT (58A: Comic character in whiteface) —
Pierrot is a stock character of mime and Commedia dell'Arte, a French variant of the Italian Pedrolino. His character is that of the sad clown, pining for love of Columbine, who inevitably breaks his heart and leaves him for Harlequin. He is usually depicted wearing a loose, white tunic. The noticeable feature of Pierrot's behaviour is his naïveté, he is seen as a fool, always the butt of pranks, yet nonetheless trusting. Pierrot is also portrayed as moonstruck, distant and oblivious to reality. // One may be said to be Pierroting if one is behaving like Pierrot. [...] The 20th century Russian cabaret singer Alexander Vertinsky was famous for his portrayal of Pierrot, for which he wore a black costume and powdered his face.
Enjoyable, but pretty workmanlike by BEQ standards. If you aren't doing his puzzles 3x/week over at his website, "Can I Have A Word With You?," then you're missing out on a treat — some of the most inventive, experimental, and dazzling puzzles available today. No subscription fee. It's ridiculous. Today's grid structure doesn't allow for an answer over eight letters long. There's no reason this should be a drawback, but still, something about this puzzle felt ... restrained. I kept waiting to round a corner and run smack into something amazing, but mostly that didn't happen. It's all very solid, and there are some lovely moments (YOU JEST crossing AMUSE ME, for instance, or BON JOVI — 43D: First hard rock band to score a #1 country hit — sitting next to a YODELER). I'm just not used to seeing padding like AAARATED, ARIETTE (13D: Opera quickie), and RECESSES without seeing some kind of big payoff or "wow" moment.
My toughest areas were all along the lengths of two compound words that unfamiliar to me, but not in that wicked way that, say, ISTRIA (31A: Peninsula south of the Gulf of Trieste) was unfamiliar to me (i.e. "Whoa, what the hell?"), but more in a [shrug] kind of way. I've heard of a "skyway" (via the lovely Replacements song of the same name) but not an AIR WALK (24D: High passageway). And COAL TAR (55A: Certain pitch)? I guess that is ... a kind of TAR. Anyway, the parts where I had to struggle today felt like plodding. I like the struggle/REVELATION! model of solving. Sometimes I think I ask too much. If only BEQ (and a handful of others) hadn't set the bar so high.
I will say, however, that this puzzle has what may be my favorite clue of the year — the one on YODELER (44D: Producer of high and outside pitches?). Takes a phrase from baseball and uses it in a way that changes Every Part of it. High=in the mountains and not up in the strike zone, outside=outdoors and not wide of the strike zone, and pitches=notes and not balls hurled from the mound. Also cool — this baseball-sounding clue actually intersects two baseball answers (BLOOP and ENDY — 53A: Outfielder Chávez). Also cool — this altitude-oriented clue actually intersects two answers that involve going high in the air (FLY BYS — 42A: Means of obtaining data about planets — and BLOOP). If I stare at this puzzle long enough, I have a feeling it'll start revealing all kinds of connections and patterns to me. But I need breakfast / coffee, so I'll move on.
- 65A: Gritty TV series set in Baltimore ("The Wire") — I think Brendan has or is moving toward an IRON LAW for his puzzles — they must refer to "THE WIRE." He will sneak a "WIRE" reference into his puzzle any chance he gets (do his puzzles over at his website and find out), so seeing the full name of the show in the grid today made me smile really broadly. "THE WIRE" was on several "Best TV Shows of the Decade" lists, including this one.
- 51D: "My Fair Lady" actor Robert (Coote) — yipes. What the ...? I have probably seen this name before, but it rings zero bells. COOTE "created the role of Colonel Hugh Pickering in the long-running original Broadway production of My Fair Lady." (wikipedia)
- 7D: Digital detritus (toe jam) — I have Not had breakfast yet. Come on!
- 38A: Place for a collared person (squad car) — favorite answer of the day, probably.
- 16A: "The Imaginary Invalid" playwright (Molière) — yay, 7 years of French!
- 19A: 1984 historical novel, with "The" ("Haj") — Uris? Yep, URIS. If it's crosswords, it must be URIS.
- 6D: Hindu soul (Atman) — learned it from xwords. Also learned ARHAT from xwords, which was the first thing I put in here. Sigh.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]
P.S. for the world's awesomest crossword-related story of the year, go here.
P.P.S. in case you missed it yesterday, you can catch the "Simpsons" 20th anniversary tribute puzzle (by Patrick Blindauer and me) here.