Asian spiritual guide / THU 4-29-10 / U.S. term for British saloon / Big name vacuum cleaners / King with statue in Trafalgar Square
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Constructor: David J.W. Simpson
Relative difficulty: Medium (might very well be "Easy" — I did it on the couch while watching baseball, so have no idea how fast I would have been under my "normal" — timed, undistracted — conditions)
THEME: ODD — I'll let 17-Across et al. explain: "EACH ANSWER HAS AN / ODD / NUMBER OF LETTERS"
Word of the Day: Maurice STANS (5D: Maurice of Nixon's cabinet) —
Maurice Hubert Stans (March 22, 1908 - April 14, 1998) was an American accountant, high-ranking civil servant, Cabinet member, and political organizer. He served as the finance chairman for the Committee to Re-elect the President, working for the re-election of Richard Nixon, and was a peripheral figure in the ensuing Watergate Scandal. (wikipedia)
Did not like. In general, I am not a fan of these types of puzzles — the ones where answer are instructions or explanations. You just have to wait around for crosses to fill it all in — no joy in that — and then ... what? Maybe you connect the dots or fold your puzzle or, as with today, learn about some architectural feature you wouldn't notice if you weren't looking for it. Odd number of letters in each answer. Hmmm. Who. Cares? How does this feature increase my solving enjoyment? What does the this theme add, value-wise? Zero. If anything, it takes up valuable grid real estate with lengthy, inherently dull explanations of its raison d'etre (ETRES = possibly the ugliest Fr. word I've ever seen in the grid — 34D: French beings). "Hey, look what I made." Yep, those are answers with odd numbers of letters, alright. Congratulations?
This puzzle has ZEN MASTER (32A: Asian spiritual guide) crossing ZONKED OUT (32D: Totally beat), clearly the marquee answers of the day. Sadly, they aren't anything close to redemptive. Just an interesting sidelight, a not-quite-successful attempt to make me forget the triple-partial nightmare in the NW — IS A and OR NOT and NO I ... and the last two cross ... and the clue for NO I has "not" in it ... train wreck. Nevermind MST crossing SSW, and ORA, which is essentially another partial disguised as an Italian word (2D: 60 minuti). It hurts.
- 23A: King with a statue in Trafalgar Square (JAMES II) — ousted in the Glorious Revolution of 1688, which brought William and Mary to power. I didn't know the answer here, though (briefly considered HENRY II), and not knowing STANS contributed to this section's being the toughest for me today, by far.
- 28A: "Interest paid on trouble before it falls due," per W. R. Inge (WORRY) — first, "W. R.?" I had no idea. Second, today appears to be "massive quote" day in the puzzle. There's this one, then 51A: "___ fancy you consult, consult your purse": Benjamin Franklin (ERE), and 48D: Who wrote "I was never kinder to the old man than during the whole week before I killed him" (POE).
- 42A: Lizard that chirps (GECKO) — did you see where the guy who does the voice in the GEIKO ads (no, not the voice of the GECKO, but the disembodied voiceover voice) got fired for prank-calling some conservative group? Absurd. It's a very calm, non-threatening call. It's just ... you don't prank call and then leave your *actual* phone number on the voicemail. As I understand it.
- 64A: U.S. term for a British "saloon" (SEDAN) — news to me. How the hell do does our word for a bar in the old west with the swinging doors and card-playing and what not become a four-door automobile overseas? Or vice versa? Absurd.
- 26D: Big name in vacuum cleaners (DYSON) — I think we have one of these. But not the one with the ball. The older kind. The purple kind.
- 44D: Mythological subject for Titian and Botticelli (VENUS) — I have a t-shirt with a "Simpsons" parody of the Botticelli painting. Features Marge on a half shell. Bare breast and all. Can't believe it's official, but it is.
- 47D: Mini-section of an almanac (ATLAS) — The "mini" part threw me, because I associate the word "ATLAS" with bigness.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]
P.S. this is my final plug for this weekend's "Crosswords L.A." charity crossword tournament at Loyola-Marymount University. Looks like I'm on the judging/scoring team with constructors Tyler Hinman, Doug Peterson, Todd McClary, and Alex Boisvert. Tyler and Andrea Carla Michaels are doing color commentary for the finals. It's cheap, it's fun, you can solve in teams if you want ... more info here. For those of you who are wondering if you are "good enough" to compete — you are. These tournaments are only stressful for the hyper-competitive. For the rest of us, they're just a chance to geek out about puzzles in a low-key, friendly environment. Hope to see L.A.-area folks there.