Saturday, March 19, 2011
Constructor: Joe DiPietro
Relative difficulty: easy-medium
Word of the Day: MASTIC (Resin used in varnishes) —
(Greek: Μαστίχα) is a resin obtained from the mastic tree (Pistacia lentiscus). In pharmacies and Nature shops it is called "arabic gum" (not to be confused with gum arabic) and "Yemen gum". . . Mastic is used as a raw material in the production of some varnishes. Mastic varnish was used to protect and preserve photographic negatives. (wikipedia)
Hello, treedweller here. For those who may not be aware, this weekend is the ACPT in Brooklyn, so our regular host is occupied and he has given me another opportunity to sit in the driver's seat. Some of you may recall my previous outing was also on a Saturday and I got slaughtered. My saving grace that weekend was to give a little solace to all the other clueless (answer-less?) puzzlers who are routinely demoralized by Rex's comments in the vein of "I dropped in [something you never imagined was even a word] immediately with no crosses and was done in four minutes."
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This time, I find myself discussing another Saturday puzzle. I've improved over the last year or two and no longer consider it a miracle when I finish a Fri/Sat puzzle, but I still fail as often as I succeed (yesterday, for example). Today, I actually finished without cheating in just over half an hour, which is not quite good enough for the ACPT but faster than most of the Saturdays I've completed. It's probably Rex-Easy, but I threw in the hyphen-medium to make myself feel a little better about my success*. Those of you who still can't even get a toehold on Saturday have my permission to rate it Beyond Challenging. Go ahead, have fun, it's just us kids today.
This struck me as a light offering for the weekend. It was definitely a tough puzzle, but seemed a little mundane. Saturdays, I expect to be quizzed on the moons of Jupiter or the operatic works of [someone opera people would know but I don't because the only opera I know came from puzzles]. This was all pretty in-the-language stuff clued Saturday Hard. As with most of my successful Saturdays, I got a smattering of answers, some of which proved wrong, and I was sure I'd never finish, but then I slowly picked up an AAVERAGE (57A: It's between 90 and 100) here and an AIR IRAN (47A / 48D: it stopped flying to New York in 1979) there, and before I realized it I was closing in on the final squares (*correcting my error at 28D: Pitch setter -- CLEF, as it turns out--more on that later). The most obscure trivia I see is BARI (52A: Basilica di San Nicola locale) and my word of the day, MASTIC (27A: Resin used in varnishes). Unfortunately for me, the latter tripped me up and I finished with an error.
Actually, the problem started with DEFIANT (40A: Unwilling to stay in line), where I got the 'D' and the ANT and confidently threw down "deviant". So when I came to 28D: Pitch setter (which, I must say, had me mystified for most of the time I was solving), I suddenly realized it had to be "elev", never mind there's no indication of an abbreviation in the clue. And so I spent a few minutes post-solve trying to figure out what "mastie" was. Some of you are probably saying, "How long has he been at this that he doesn't know MASTIC?" but it's a new one on me, or at least one I figured out once and promptly forgot.
- 29D: Spirit of the Caribbean (JAMAICARUM)— I totally fell for the "spirit" misdirection, which contributed to the struggle I had in the SE until almost the end, and then realization dawned. And then I spent several seconds trying to figure out how to fit JAMAICANRUM in there. I'm still a little bitter about that, truth be told.
- 38A: Strategy game with disks (REVERSI) — Started with Othello (and wondered why the play wasn't referenced in the clue), then briefly tried PACHISI, though I was grumbling to myself that there's precious little strategy in that game. Maybe this should have been W-O-T-D, since I am a game fiend and yet I have never seen, much less played, REVERSI. Oh, wait, a little googling reveals that it's just an alternate name for Othello. Which is, of course, just a simplified version of Go. Which will make it into precious few puzzles since it's only two letters. God forbid we ever see "gos" or "goes" (clued in this context). I might welcome an outlaw puzzle with two-letter entries, but it had better be pretty damn good.
- 59A: To a very great degree (INSPADES) — This was one of those Saturday clues that revealed a very colloquial phrase. I like those.
- 37A: Borderline fare? (TEXMEX) — This was an obvious ploy to me, in that I was immediately looking for food, but I still took awhile getting the right answer. I kept trying "tacos" and "enchiladas" and other yummy-sounding stuff that didn't fit. Being as I'm in / from Texas, this may be an example of the specialist struggling where the amateur has no problems.
- 15A: Item removed before showering (TOUPEE) — FTW!
- 56D: "Knots Landing" actress ___ Park Lincoln (LAR) — sounds like a car dealership to me--which reminds me--
- 7A: They make vehicles very volatile (CARBOMBS) — I was quite pleased to quickly fill in "gas tanks" here, and a little disturbed to finally reveal the correct answer. Given the recent news from Japan, I had a similar reaction at 60A: Shake (TREMOR). I usually frown when the PC crowd starts trying to arbitrarily limit options based on personal concerns, and I am not lobbying to take these words out of the mix for future puzzles, but, nevertheless.
on behalf of
Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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