Author/architect Buzzi / SAT 6-18-11 / Franchise Affair novelist / Generative music pioneer / Athlete nicknamed O Rei / Scottish doctor/explorer John
Saturday, June 18, 2011
tr.v., knapped, knap·ping, knaps.
- To break or chip (stone) with sharp blows, as in shaping flint or obsidian into tools.
- Chiefly British.
- To strike sharply; rap.
- To snap at or bite.
[Middle English knappen, probably of imitative origin.]
• • •
So here's what typically happens to me at crossword tournaments. I do the easy puzzles quickly, but so do many other people, and so I am not at all distinguished and languish somewhere in the upper-middle part of the pack. Then the puzzles get tougher and I get a little better, comparatively. Then they get brutal, and I start to pull away from the bulk of the pack (you should understand, of course, that there are always a good chunk of people who are faster than me in every way no matter what I do). I Love the hard stuff. Thrive on on it. Why? Don't know. It's not always true. Some Fridays (far more often than Saturdays), I just bomb. Maybe I'm getting good at intuiting the way Will's cluing brain works (though lots of the clues on these things are most certainly original, i.e. created by the constructor, not Will). At any rate, this is a long-winded way of saying that I Destroyed this puzzle (7:49—not a record Saturday, but getting close). I then went to the NYT site to see what people's times were ... and no one had finished. I kept hitting "refresh" and still no times. When they started coming in, I was a good five minutes faster than the fastest times (checking back now, it seems Howard Barkin has beaten me by a solid three minutes. Ha ha. Sic transit gloria). I just had one of those absurd through-the-looking-glass days where luck combines with skill and I turn into a SPEED DEMON (19A: Flooring specialist?) (this clue made me think first of a boxer ...).
I think the place I lucked out was the SE, which seems to me the hardest part of the puzzle by far—and I *knew* EAU DE VIE and EMANANT and RUMPLY. Even with those in place, I got stymied for a bit. I can usually rely on at least one of a bank of short answers falling, but not here. SEWS I eventually guessed ("jumper" didn't fool me for a second, and I know from wife that "jumper" is the British/NZ word for "sweater," which may be why I wanted "KNITS" at first) (51D: Works on one's jumper, say), but the other 4s—pfft. Hopeless. Except ROLE. Which was wrong (56D: Romeo or Juliet=>TEEN). So, back to hopeless. The "lucky" part for me down here was having some strange voice in my head whispering "EVANSVILLE" (58A: City on the Ohio). I couldn't find it on a map. I'm not even sure what state it's in. Indiana? Anyway, the -VA- opening triggered "EVANSVILLE," which I resisted for a bit (see my complete ignorance of any facts about EVANSVILLE, above), but once I tested WINTER and SENATE (having no initial idea what came after either) (TIDE and SEAT, respectively, it turns out; 60A: "Snow-Bound" setting / 51A: One in 100), I guessed EV'RY (52D: "Lift ___ Voice and Sing" (old hymn)), and EVANSVILLE became undeniable. So I eventually got SITE (hard) (53D: Group of pages), ELIS (barely known to me) (54D: Home of the ancient Olympic games), and ALDO (not RUTH?) (55D: Author/architect Buzzi). Usually, solving goes the other way round, from short answers to longer.
Anyway, the NE and SW were easy. Each one was done in a minute or so, possibly less in the case of the SW. Once I guessed PRIM, all the long Downs fell in order. I was helped in the NE by having once seen an episode of "BRIDEZILLAs" on TLC or whatever horrid relentless non-stop reality network it was on (I'm a recovering reality TV watcher) (13D: Certain control freak). In the NW, where I started, I lucked out in that, coincidentally, I had seen the word PALLIATIVE earlier in the day, in an email from a fan/reader. So I went SUPS => PALLIATIVE almost instantly (1D: Takes night courses? / 17A: Providing relief, but not a cure). Got ARID in there, which got me UNDERLINED, and I was making headway! In the end, half my time was spent in the SE, half my time everywhere else.
Not surprisingly, the NE and SW corners are stronger than the rest of the puzzle. 3x10s are easier to fill well than 4x10s are. Overall, I liked the puzzle fine. The SE was a little on the arcane side, but the rest was mostly smooth and lively.
- 20A: Poetic work with an account of Ragnarok (EDDA) — Old Norse legends written down in 13th-century Iceland. As a medievalist, I have some familiarity with this stuff; however, today, I never saw the clue.
- 22A: "The Franchise Affair" novelist (TEY) — Josephine TEY. If she were still well known today, we'd see her name in the grid a lot more often, I think.
- 32A: ESPN reporter Andrews (ERIN) — I used her in a clue once a while back, I think. She's late-week material, beating Ireland and Moran for general difficulty level.
- 39A: Scottish doctor/explorer John (RAE) — essential crosswordese, just like AVILA (41A: Teresa's home) and ENO (27D: Generative music pioneer).
- 4D: Athlete nicknamed "O Rei" (PELE) — I should've guessed Portuguese, but somehow I was stuck on Spanish and considered SOSA and AROD first :(
- 10D: Its entrance was barred with a flaming sword (EDEN) — pretty easy, even if you have to guess. Four letters, "you can't come (back) in" ... not hard to get to EDEN.
- 23D: 1811 battle site (TIPPECANOE) — I got this more because I had -IPPE- in place than because I know much about history.
- 30D: Sch. whose alumni constitute the Long Gray Line (USMA) — figured it was military; just a question of "M" or "N" for me.
- 44D: Largely green kingdom (PLANTS) — figured it wasn't a kingdom like NEPAL is a kingdom, but definitely expected something more technical-/Latin-sounding than PLANTS.
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