Undersize keyboard / FRI 7-30-10 / Rare equine hybrid / User record-keeping device quipu / Sage exiled planet Dagobah / Amanti maker
Friday, July 30, 2010
A hinny is a domestic equine hybrid that is the offspring of a male horse and a female donkey (called a jenny). It is similar to the more common mule, which is the product of a female horse and a male donkey.
• • •
Was on phone with my sister (working out vacation details / gossiping) while solving this puzzle, so I don't know exactly how hard it is. Felt pretty Easy, but initial times at the NYT puzzle site seem more Medium. As is typical for a Friday, I had a few moments of "huh?" followed by a slowish hacking away at a small portion of the grid, and then bam: openness. Here's what my grid looked like after the first few minutes:
I've gotten more and more fascinated by *how* people solve—that is, the route by which they get from blank to done. Just watching the finals at the ACPT, where only three people's work is visible, you can see the incredibly different paths different minds take. Combination of special knowledge and luck (i.e. the luck of getting just the right crosses that will let you see a word you couldn't see before).
What's weird to me is how often my initial guess is correct for certain answers. Like today, I wanted SMASH UP right away at 1D: Bad traffic accident, but wouldn't commit to it. Ditto HIVED, which seems like a made-up word and yet is the word I immediately wanted (21A: Joined the swarm). It's tough when you want an answer but can't get any of the crosses to confirm its rightness. Today, my start was pretty pedestrian and cruddy—wrote in the -ED suffix at 21A and then the RE- prefix at 26A: Convened anew. Then put the "T" at the end of that answer because I knew it was either RESAT or REMET. DREARY came easily from there (22D: Overcast), as did ERRS (27D: Goes off). Got THANE with no crosses (30D: Ross, Lennox or Angus, in Shakespeare), and then PESTERER became the ugly-but-unavoidable solution to 29A: Nag. As you can see from the partial grid above, I was able to stake a cross right in the heart of the grid early on, which was a big help in breaking the puzzle open. HARD CLAMS was easy off the "HAR-" (32A: Quahogs), and then off only the "-ARC" I got GREEN ARCHITECTS (8D: Ones concerned with sustainable design). After that, I was able to move methodically through the rest of the puzzle—those stacks of 15 aren't that hard to blow up if you can get a few crosses through them.
The only trouble came at the very end, in the SW, which seemed to me the very hardest portion of the grid. I had two answers I didn't know crossing two answers I didn't know! Oy. Thankfully, I was able to infer ENFANTS (36D: "Jeux d'___" (42-Across [BIZET] keyboard work)) and PIANINO (35D: Undersize keyboard). "F" from ENFANTS made RAFE a virtual certainty (44A: ___ McCawley, Ben Affleck's role in "Pearl Harbor"), but I had to run the alphabet to see the last letter—the "H" in HINNY / SHRIVEL (kicked myself for not seeing SHRIVEL with S-RIVEL in place, ugh). HINNY made me laugh as just tonight, at the dinner table, I told my family something I learned via Katie Hamill on Facebook—that a rare zebra/donkey hybrid was recently born (in GA), and it is called a ZEDONK! Best Animal Name Ever. No wait ... I'm sorry, correction. The best animal name is HONEY BADGER. HONEY BADGER is the best. I apologize for any offense I might have given any HONEY BADGERs out there. Again, that's HONEY BADGER 1, ZEDONK 2.
- 1A: Christmas trifle (STOCKING STUFFER) — great answer. My favorite thing in the grid, right after LAZY SLOB, which is virtually unbeatable (33D: Epithet for an annoying roommate).
- 24A: Actress Edelstein of TV's "House" (LISA) — Do *not* understand popularity of this show. *Do* understand popularity of Hugh Laurie, though. So maybe sentence 2 takes care of sentence 1.
- 34A: Potential game stoppers (SPEARS) — G-r-r-eat clue. Took me a long time to get it, and the surprising answer was totally worth the wait.
- 6D: User of a record-keeping device called a quipu (INCA) — had the last "A" and honestly considered "PARA" (as in "PARAlegal").
- 11D: Japanese salad plants (UDOS) — no idea how I know this; I just do. UDON, UDO, same cuisine.
- 47D: Masur's New York Philharmonic predecessor (MEHTA) — As conductors go, he is kind of a big deal. Got him off the "M." Zubin! There's a name I could stand to see more of.
- 50D: Sage exiled on the planet Dagobah (YODA) — someday I want to compile every YODA and EWOK and ENDOR and other "Star Wars" answers; I'm pretty sure I could come close to reconstructing the plots of at least the first (last) three "Star Wars" movies just from crossword clues alone.
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]