Georges with best seller Life User's Manual / THU 1-7-10 / CBS newsman Bob / Citi Field mascot / 10 superiors / Distinctive Dilbert feature
Thursday, January 7, 2010
Constructor: Xan Vongsathorn
Relative difficulty: Challenging
THEME: PEST CONTROL (57D: With 65-Across, extermination ... or what can be done to 10 answers in this puzzle without affecting their clues?) — a rebus puzzle where "ANT" appears five times. All "ANT"-containing answers work with or without the "ANT" in place.
Word of the Day: Georges PEREC (50D: Georges with best seller Life User's Manual) —
Georges Perec (7 March 1936, Paris – 3 March 1982) was a French novelist, filmmaker and essayist. He was a member of the Oulipo group. // Life A User's Manual (the original title is La Vie mode d'emploi) is Georges Perec's most famous novel, published in 1978, first translated into English by David Bellos in 1987. Its title page describes it as "novels", in the plural, the reasons for which become apparent on reading. Some critics have cited the work as an example of postmodern fiction, though Perec himself preferred to avoid labels and his only long term affiliation with any movement was with the Oulipo or OUvroir de LIttérature POtentielle. (wikipedia)
An amazing feat of construction. A very frustrating solve. For the second day in a row, the puzzle is wildly out of step with the day's normal difficulty range. If early returns at the NYT site are any indication, this is shaping up to be one of the hardest Thursdays in recent memory. The times look more like Fri/Sat times. Mine sure was. Average Saturday time for me. Couldn't see the rebus to save my life, even though I *knew* (after just a few minutes) it was there, somewhere. Had to seek and solve the theme revealer before I had any clue what was going on (which almost never happens), and even then it was rough going (finally put it all together starting with I W[ANT] IN!" / [ANT]ARCTIC). What's weird is that clues were made deliberately hard when the whole structure of the puzzle already ensured that the solving experience would be challenging. Traps at 30D: Letters between two names (AKA — I had NÉE); 57A: An Ivy (PENN — could've been YALE); relatively obscure clues on familiar names like ABE (28D: Former Japanese P.M. Shinzo) and ORR (34D: CBS Newsman Bob). Yikes all around. Wanted GET IT instead of GET ME (10D: "See what I mean?"). Never heard of (or barely heard of) IKEBANA (37A: Japanese art of flower-arranging). Ditto Georges SEREC. Whew.
Again, I'm blown away by the concept and execution. Really first rate. Also, despite a head-scratcher here and there, there isn't any out-and-out crap fill. Most people who try to be crossword heroes and make stunt puzzles end up with dud fill all over the place. Not this kid.
This puzzle should've run tomorrow. Much harder than the typical Thursday. But that's not Xan's fault. I love this kid. Shout out to Claremont, CA. Xan = Pomona College class of '09! Chirp chirp!
- 7D: Set upon a slope, say (slANTed / sled)
- 16A: Enemy encounter (combatANT / combat)
- 20D: Trig function (secANT / sec) — worst of the bunch, as these mean the same thing ... right? Also, this was a brutal clue — I *know* I'm not the only one who had the "S" and instinctively, confidently, without blinking, wrote in SINE.
- 32A: Absolutely terrific (fANTabulous / fabulous)
- 29D: Yankee fighter (giANT / G.I.) — wanted REB.
- 40A: Gets upset (ANTagonizes / agonizes)
- 12D: Something that might work on a full stomach? (ANTacid / acid)
- 8A: They may have titles (pageANTs / pages)
- 45D: Cry at a poker game, maybe ("I wANT in!" / "I win!")
- 58A: Pole position (ANTarctic / arctic)
- 1A: Heebie-jeebies (jimjams) — man, the NW. I just tanked it. Only ever heard of JIMJAMS from xwords, and it just wasn't coming, even with the "J" from JACKS (1D: 10 superiors) and the (tentative) "J" from JIBE (4D: See eye to eye) in place. Also had NY MET for MR. MET (3D: Citi Field mascot).
- 23A: Teacups, e.g. (ride) — HARD! Fake plural and everything ... man.
- 42A: Plundering opportunity (foray) — I thought the plundering *was* the FORAY.
- 45A: Appearance of O or W (issue) — great clue.
- 27D: Soupy Sales and others (hams) — had to get in a time machine to solve this one.
59D: Distinctive Dilbert feature (tie) — even I, an inveterate "Dilbert" ignorer, knew this.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]