Conqueror of Northumbria in 946 / SAT 2-13-10 / John who pioneered time-lapse photography / Like Old English coin worth 21 shillings
Saturday, February 13, 2010
Constructor: Ashish Vengsarkar
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: "You and others" — second-person clues that result in CRUCIVERBALISTS, a CROSSWORD SOLVER, and the FRESH VOCABULARY they (allegedly) appreciate ...
Word of the Day: ZARF (1D: Cup holder) —
A Zarf is a holder, usually of ornamental metal, for a coffee cup without a handle (demitasse or fincan). // Although coffee was probably discovered in Ethiopia, it was in Turkey at around the thirteenth century that it became popular as a beverage. As with the serving of tea in China and Japan, the serving of coffee in Turkey was a complex, ritualized process. It was served in small cups without handles (known as fincan), which were placed in holders known as zarf (from the Arabic word, meaning container, envelope) to protect the cup and also the fingers of the drinker from the hot fluid. Cups were typically made of porcelain, but also of glass and wood. However, because it was the holder that was more visible, it was typically more heavily ornamented. (wikipedia)
I'm usually not a fan of these winky, self-referential kinds of puzzles. They always come off as a little smug and self-congratulatory ("Aren't we all wonderful people for engaging in this wonderful hobby?"). But this puzzle as ZARF, which I may start using as a kind of "je ne sais quoi," the "X Factor" in a puzzle that makes it likable for reasons I can't quite put my finger on. ZARF almost single-handedly makes me admire this puzzle. It's a word so freakishly fantastic that it seems like it could only have come from some fabulous Seussian creation. And yet it's real. What's also real: RATEL (46D: Honey badger). As I was solving, I just stared at his answer. And stared. And stared, thinking, "That can't possibly be right..." Sounds like a pest control device: RAT + MOTEL = RATEL. These two oddities made the puzzle memorable. Otherwise, it was a decent but not exceptional walk in the park. Ooh, except for EDRED (29D: Conqueror of Northumbria in 946), which I had as a solid ESROD when I finished. Didn't read 34A: Like Cuba and Venezuela, e.g. closely enough, I guess — the "Like" should've clued me to an adjective, but I went with ALLIES. And then I misremembered BEL PAESE (39A: Mozzarella alternative) as BEL PAESO (the cheese best loved by practitioners of BEL CANTO?).
- 36A: You, e.g. (crossword solver)
- 7D: You and others (cruciverbalists)
- 20A: What 36-Across and 7-Down appreciate (fresh vocabulary)
Did not care for RIDE A STORM (3D: Endure difficulties, with "out") — way too long to be a non-stand-alone answer. Just looks silly sitting there, enormous but incomplete. Again today we had a pair of cross-referenced clues in the same little section, only today, it happened twice (NE and SW). ASIA (11D: It's west of the Sea of Okhotsk) / USSR (12D: Former part of 11-Down: Abbr.) pair was somewhat easier to figure out than the BEER (50D: Contents of a 56-Across) / STEIN (56A: 50-Down holder) pair, perhaps because the latter cross. Too many agcy abbrevs. for my taste today: ICC, NSA, OAS (23A: Charter of Punta del Este grp.) ... Not much else of note. I had IT SO for I TOO (6D: "Was ___ hard ...?").
- 1A: 1968 hit musical with the song "Life Is" ("Zorba") — wanted ZORBA after the -BA dropped into place, but really, really could not allow myself to commit to the "Z" — ZARF!
- 14A: "Caesar, now be still: / I kill'd not thee with half so good ___": Brutus ("a will") — the rhyme made this easy! No crosses needed. Note: these are the words that Brutus utters between running onto his sword (held by Strato) and dying. An oddly theatrical suicide.
- 17A: One making waves in the news business? (radio journalist) — had the RADIO part early, but took a while to get the rest.
- 21A: Gray and others (Asas) — I had TEAS at first.
- 57A: John who pioneered time-lapse photography (Ott) — no idea. Luckily, it didn't matter. I never saw the clue. Checked to see if the OTT I had in place was MEL. It wasn't. But OTT seemed a reasonable name for ... someone. So I moved on.
- 27D: Like an old English coin worth 21 shillings (five guinea) — yes, 21 goes into 5 very nicely. [Looks like the NYT botched the e-version of the puzzle yet again — in the paper, the clue reads (correctly) "105 shillings," not "21."]
- 34D: It's sometimes seen in the corner of a TV screen: Abbr. (ASL) — maybe the cleverest clue of the day. ASL = American Sign Language. I wanted TV-G or ESP.
- 43D: Singer profiled in "Sweet Dreams" (Cline) — 80s biopic that is very familiar to me. No problems here.
- 45D: Holder of a "leaf-fringed legend," to Keats (urn) — the Grecian one that he's always nattering on about.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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