Pseudopod formers — SATURDAY, Dec. 19 2003 — McCarthy cohort / Intraclub competition rankings / Casting device / Melliferous perhaps
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Constructors: Tyler Hinman and Byron Walden
Relative difficulty: Challenging
Word of the Day: QUI VIVE (15A: Alert) — n. A sentinel's challenge.
Idiom: on the qui vive — On the alert; vigilant: "a loathsome Dublin politico who is on the qui vive for . . . terrorists" (Julian Moynahan).
Found this very tough but not very entertaining. Love the (astonishingly timely) central crossing answers — ORAL ROBERTS (17D: "The Call" autobiographer) just died this past week and the CRIMSON TIDE (33A: Tigers' rival in the Southeastern Conference) will play for a National Championship in January (RB Mark Ingram just became the first player from that school — Alabama — to win the Heisman Trophy). The rest of the grid was mostly a chore, with all of the attempted entertainment in the clues, which were often too cute by half. I like a tough puzzle, but when the answers are mostly dull and the clues are so consciously forced into the realm of trickery and obscurity, then I start to lose the will to solve. Take little stuff like 21A: Cal ___ and 15D: Chili con ___ (Tex-Mex dish). My first guesses were TECH and CARNE, and there's no way I'm alone on that. I don't mind traps in general, but many of these clues were just screaming "trap!" But then when I would get the answers, there'd be no "AHA" or "WOW" moment. Just ... "huh, OK." None of the interlocking 15s did anything for me (though, again, some of the cluing is mighty imaginative, esp. on 10D: Thread used in briefs). The entire west coast was a slow, painful slog, mainly because I could not see the (seemingly redundant) FINAL in FINAL RESOLUTION (51A: Very end of a conflict) so the lower left section was a gaping hole. I mean ... I needed OCARINA (35D: Light wind) just to get into the SW, and I didn't even *know* OCARINA until I learned it (the hard way) at the 2008 Tournament.
[HORRIBLE TECHNICAL ERROR — I somehow deleted a chunk of text in here and cannot retrieve it .... attempting reconstruction. #$@#$!@!!!!! me.]
My failure to connect with today's puzzle is especially surprising, given that I can't remember ever not liking a puzzle by either of today's constructors. But after I crossed ORAL ROBERTS and CRIMSON TIDE, there just wasn't a lot of fun to be had. I wanted ECSTASY (23D: Transcendent state), but all I got was ... a TRIM DIE (22D: Casting device). Thanks, Santa.
Admittedly, some of my problem was my own damned ignorance, or pseudo(pod?!) ignorance — you know, not utter ignorance, but near-complete ignorance supplemented by a hazy ability to remember prior crosswords and make educated guesses. Take the NW. I couldn't do anything with 13A: Pseudopod formers, but then later, I guessed AMOEBAS, because it *felt* right. And it was. Same thing with 5D: Host of PBS's "Heritage: Civilization and the Jews" (Eban). Nothing, and then later ... "Hey, isn't there some famous Jewish guy named EBAN?" Yes, sure, try that. That's called "stumbling your way to victory." Yikes. Most maddening thing about the puzzle as having seen "Roger & Me" several times and having No Bleeping Idea what 18A / 4D could be (18A: With 4-Down, "Roger & Me" subject => URBAN DECAY). It's a very valid answer, but man I was racking my brain, recounting the plot, trying to think of "figures" (i.e. people, dead rabbits, something) from that movie. FLINT, MICH ... no. ROGER ... no, that can't be right. MICHAEL ... MIKE ... man. That NW was just ... like being in a painful ARMLOCK (26A: Hold in a ring). I still can't quite wrap my head around the clue at 1A: Intraclub competition rankings (ladder). So in ... some kind of club ... there is a competition ... is this tennis? I think so. How are LAY-UPS "standard" (1D: Standard buckets)? They are (comparatively) easy, but "standard" seems a (very) wrong adjective to apply to them. They aren't the most common type of "bucket" made in an "standard" NBA game, so this cluing is irksome — tries to be tricky (let's see how many definitions of "Standard" and "buckets" we can make them think of!) and ends up being just clunky.
Other stuff I just *didn't* know:
- SOTO (24A: All-Star Cubs catcher Geovany) — and I follow baseball!! Embarrassing (for me).
- NEILSON (34D: Roger who coached eight different N.H.L. teams) — not a great day for the sports-phobic. I feel like I've seen this name before (it's here only 'cause it's So grid-friendly), but that didn't help today.
- RED NOSE (37D: Item sported to support Britain's Comic Relief) — there's no part of that I understand. Thankfully, I knew this was REDNOSE before I ever looked at the clue (had only one letter missing at that point).
- OLEO (48D: Muffin stuffin?) — ... what? "Stuffin'?" I had EFFS at first. A much better answer than stupid OLEO. OLEO "stuffs" a muffin how? Or is it supposed to be the "stuff" on a muffin? Dear lord.
- APIAN (26D: Melliferous, perhaps) — eventually got this because I know APIAN means "related to bees" and I know "melliFLUOUS" means sweet (like honey). But "FER" means, what (aside from a "word" that may precede "sher!") — that the bees *carry* honey? Yeah, sort of — normally used of plants that contain substances that bees can turn into honey.
- SOAPIER (29A: More melodramatic) — ah, a word no one actually uses. OK. I see the connection only through the phrase "Soap Opera" (side note: they canceled "As The World Turns"! Oh, the humanity!)
Also thought "flibbertigibbets" were like "doodads" or "widgets," i.e. they are made, they don't do the making, so NO SENSE (55A: What flibbertigibbets make) was an educated guess at some point. I barely remember the eastern half of this puzzle, since So Much of my time was spent trying to bring down the west.
- 19A: Its leader's flag featured a black eagle: Abbr. (HRE) — Holy Roman Empire. So much of my (eventual) success today was just being a constant solver. Certain answers come to the forefront of my mind easily, certain letter combinations. Entered UAR here at first (!), but then got it sorted out quickly thereafter.
- 31A: McCarthy cohort (Snerd) — as in Mortimer, Edgar Bergen's dummy of yore.
- 46A: Italian site of a 1796 Napoleon victory (Lodi) — eerie. Just had a conversation on Facebook with my friend Wade yesterday that involved Boz Scaggs and his song "The LODI Shuffle." Oh, wait ... I mean LIDO. Never mind.
- 47A: Figure in Greek myth whose name means "desired" (Erato) — stumped me until I got a few crosses, and then ... "D'oh!" Seems so obvious in retrospect.
- 50A: They call themselves Suomalaiset (Finns) — had the FI-, so no sweat.
- 57A: Sandy who was national security adviser for Bill Clinton (Berger) — one that I "knew" ... only I couldn't retrieve it. Needed several crosses. That whole corner still took only about a quarter of the time it took me to get either of the corners in the W.
- 42D: "The Spirit" creator (Eisner) — my favoritest answer in the grid. So happy to see comics creators (especially legends like EISNER) get some recognition. "The Spirit" is a fantastic, funny crime strip from the 40s (originally), and I teach it in my "Comics" *and* "Crime Fiction" classes from time to time.
- 46D: About 33.8 fluid ounces (liter) — I'm off to drink about a LITER of coffee. Busy day ahead.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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