Career diplomat Philip / SAT 2-6-10 / Blue II Harlequin's Carnival / Relief pitcher Craig / Tasty torus
Saturday, February 6, 2010
Something that is insignificant or worthless.
There's some debate over whether this phrase should be tinker's dam - a small dam to hold solder, made by tinkers when mending pans, or tinker's damn - a tinker's curse, considered of little significance because tinkers were reputed to swear habitually. (read more on this phrase's origin at phrases.org.uk)
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This was fairly enjoyable, but man, the -ERs, yikes. At the ends of answers, in the middles of answers, just ... everywhere. Plus, notice how often words / phrases in the puzzle end in -ER, -S, or -ED. Virtually every answer that ends on the northern side of the central black diagonal, and then there's all the S-enders created by CREVASSES (9D: Levee breaches), and then check out the 6-E diagonal running NE from the second "E" in GOOD DEEDS (44A: Samaritans' doings). And a 4-R diagonal immediately under that. All that in the middle of a MOTHER / FATHER / LUTHER / MASHER mash-up. And PRESS crossing PRESS (up top) ... the other stuff is just annoying, but that ... that is flat-out horrid. Duplicating letter strings that long *anywhere* in the grid is rare / frowned upon. Crossing them!? Seems like something that should have at least raised an eyebrow.
This played out like two puzzles — the first one in the NW, where I died a hard death. Fell flat on my face with DONUT for BAGEL (16A: Tasty torus), and not much else. Tried ARETE right away (11A: Alpine feature), but yanked it when I couldn't get any of the Downs to work: never heard of HABIB (1D: Career diplomat Philip) or ARAME (2D: Mild-flavored seaweed in Japanese cuisine), and REGIS (while familiar now) (3D: Denver university) was invisible to me, blocked in part by the tasty torus doppelganger, DONUT. Actually wrote in STUNTED GROWTH for 4D: Slow an increase (stem the tide).
So ... I abandoned that disaster and started hacking at the N / NE. Put in ESSEN without even thinking (14D: Ruhr Museum locale), and followed that with NEED (6D: Grant consideration). Somehow that "N" got me NONCE (6A: Present), which got me EDNAS (10D: "Hairspray" mom and others), which got me UVA (20A: Cavaliers' home, for short) and CPAS (22A: Calculating bunch, briefly), though I probably could have gotten EDNAS, UVA, and CPAS without any help at all. This is what I mean about this seeming like two puzzles. The NW killed me, and then ... easy clues came out of the woodwork, in droves. I mean ... 29A: ___ Mae (Fannie)? 43A: Pulitzer-winning poet Mark Van ___ (Doren)? 33A: King's middle name (Luther)!? 41A: "The lady in red" betrayed him (Dillinger)!!? That last one is a Monday clue, for crying out loud. Anyway, once I made that initial breakthrough in the NE, I headed back west across the grid and then counterclockwise all the way around to finish in the SE with the "A" in TINKER'S DAM (a phrase I didn't know at all).
- 23A: Relief pitcher Craig (Hansen) — really annoyed with myself that I can't picture him, can't place him, don't know what team(s) he pitched for, whether he still pitches, etc. I follow baseball reasonably closely, and I'm just blanking on him. This is especially weird (I just looked him up) as he started his career with the Red Sox (!) in 2005 (it appears he is now a Pirate). He is so marginal a player, with such a short career under his belt, that I am completely stunned he was deemed worthy to be a crossword clue. Most of his career in the minors?! Including all of 2007? His career (CAREER!) stats are 4-9 with a 6.39 E.R.A. and 65 strikeouts. Maybe he'll go on to be a legend, but right now, there are probably several dozen active relief pitchers in the majors with greater stature ... how he got into the puzzle is absolutely befuddling.
- 47A: Socialite who inspired "Call Me Madam" (Mesta) — as in Perle MESTA. She's been in the grid a bunch, at least once with this very clue (or something very close). She killed me once, long ago, and I've never forgotten.
- 7D: Goose, in Spain or Italy (oca) — I know that in French it's "OYE" ... and I thought OCA was some kind of seed or grain or fruit ... aha, a tuber! What's this "goose" stuff?
- 35D: Mysterious word repeated in Daniel 5:25 (Mene) — as in "Mene, Mene, Tekel"; that was the title of a book my grandma got me when I was a teen-ager. I never read it, but I sure did remember the title. Sorry/thanks, grandma.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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