Dapper Dan's doodad — SATURDAY, Jan. 2 2010 — Spinachlike potherb / Oxide used television tubes / Sigmoid architectural feature
Saturday, January 2, 2010
Constructor: Robert H. Wolfe
Relative difficulty: Medium
Word of the Day: YTTRIA (43A: Oxide used in television tubes) — Yttrium oxide is Y2O3. It is an air-stable, white solid substance. Yttrium oxide is used as a common starting material for both materials science as well as inorganic compounds
I'll take the beating I got yesterday over this dull slab of mostly 1-pt Scrabble tiles any day. Any Day. There were some great / tough clues here and there, but the fill!? Has no one learned the lesson of word count. Unless you are Patrick Berry, do NOT go under 60 words. Best to not even go close. You're just going to end up with a horde of -ER words (9 today, including a whopping FIVE in the SW alone) and a bunch of plurals (look at virtually every bottom-right square — where two answers terminat — to see what I mean). Found this one remarkably easy at first, and then suitably Saturdayish later on. RAISA (1A: Early 1990s first lady's first name)/ RESTAFF (1D: Fill positions differently) went in instantly, and the only thing that kept the NW interesting after that was a. the fact that I had FARADS where FERMIS was supposed to go (22A: Units in nuclear physics), and b. the fact that the STIPES (16A: Mushroom supporters) / SEPTIMES (4D: Defensive fencing positions in which the top of the blade is pointed at the opponent's knee) crossing was harrowing. Had no idea what went there, until I ran the alphabet and vaguely remembered STIPES. Why the long clue on SEPTIMES when none of that extra info helps with inferring the answer at all?
Followed YES MAN (26A: Rubber stamp) out of Puzzle 1 and down into Puzzle 2 (the SW). Threw down ATTAINER (27D: Goal getter) off just the initial "A" and ON RUNNERS (25D: How most sleds are mounted) off just the first "N." Slowed down in this section only by PROSED (39D: Wrote an essay, say) (!? ugsome word). I had PENNED, duh. Clue on ACER (44D: One not allowing a volley) is one of the worst I've ever seen. You never, ever, ever volley a serve, and an ACE is, by definition, a serve. So ... Clue Fail, to the extreme. ASSESS is the most dreadful of all crossword crutch words — typically lined up, as it is here, to provide the final letter for a large bank of words. Yuck.
OGEE (25A: Sigmoid architectural feature), a gimme, got me GASBAG (15D: One full of hot air), which helped me begin to get traction in the NE. This quadrant was by far the toughest for me. GAS BAG and GONE INTO (15A: Chosen as a career) were the only things up there for a bit. Many false starts until I locked in TEMPLE (8D: Congregation location) and things started to come together. Had INDUCTEE for ENLISTEE (7D: New face on base). Also had STAGES for STARES (11D: They're often drawn on the street). Not sure I get STARES. Why "the street?" What are you wearing that you are drawing STARES? Oh, best mistake of the NE — thought Dapper Dan was wearing a DICKEY (it's actually a TIE PIN, so I was in the correct general sartorial area at least — 9D: Dapper Dan's doodad).
Couldn't get REEFER at first (28A: One getting hit on?), off just the RE-, so had to jump into the utterly blank SE to try to finish off the puzzle. Wrote in SONES with a kind of crossword reflex that god knows I didn't have a few years ago (35A: Acoustic measures). From there, I went SEATERS (36D: Those who put you in your place?) -> SITTER (49A: Parents' hiree) (side note: really? You're gonna cross these?). Wanted ORACH at 47A: Spinachlike potherb, but it didn't fit. Only today is apparently "add-an-E" day, so ... ORACHE! Why not? Last letter in the grid was the "Y" in TYROS (41D: Pros' opposites) / YTTRIA. I've seen TYROS spelled TIROS before, so ... I had to think about it. Ended up going with the more customary spelling. Good move, that.
- 21A: A conductor may have it memorized (bus line) — really good clue. I could think only of a music conductor. "Doesn't (s)he *always* have the score 'memorized?'" Thought there might be something in music called the BAS LINE. It's French!
- 33A: Skipping syllables (tras) — That's the problem with skipping: So many TRAS (?). Do people skip any more, and if so, do they actually say "TRA la la?" Just checking.
- 42A: Kings Henry I and Stephen (Normans) — I'm a medievalist and this somehow wasn't a gimme. Stupid PROSED!
- 5D: Arterial problem: Var. (aneurism) — could've used a "Var." at ORACHE, though dictionary tells me that "ORACH/E" is an either / or situation. My crossword experience has been all ORACH.
- 14D: Eleanor who wrote "The Hundred Dresses" (Estes) — don't know you, but ESTES is the surname equivalent of ASSESS, fill-wise.
- 31D: Dramatic break (entr'acte) — like this. Hardly ever see the full thing in crosswords. Usually just the horrid ENTR
- 38D: Swank's co-star in "The Next Karate Kid" (Morita) — a gimme, but one whose spelling I question because (once again) I had PENNED instead of PROSED. PROSED!!!! (shakes fist at sky)
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]