Wood-cleaving tool / FRI 7-15-11 / Luff you lubber speaker of literature / Wyndham alternative familiarly / Fokker foe / Talent agent Swifty
Friday, July 15, 2011
A froe (or frow) is a tool for cleaving wood by splitting it along the grain. It is an L-shaped tool, used by hammering one edge of its blade into the end of a piece of wood in the direction of the grain, then twisting the blade in the wood by rotating the haft (handle). A froe uses the haft as a lever to multiply the force upon the blade, allowing wood to be torn apart with remarkably little force applied to the haft. By twisting one way or the other the direction of the split may be guided. (wikipedia)
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I'm told quad stacks of 15s are exceedingly difficult to pull off. Problem is: I don't care. The constructor's level of difficulty is meaningless to me unless the result is an interesting, thoughtful, entertaining, and mostly smooth puzzle. What I love about this puzzle is how beautifully it illustrates how Terrible stunt grids like this are. Check out the middle of the grid—fresh, bouncy, loaded with interesting fill, Scrabbly letters, etc. That's because There Are Black Squares In There. You know what happens (in the *best* case scenario) when you try to stack 4 15s on top of one another? FROE. FROE is what happens. Also LEYS (15D: Simon who wrote "The Death of Napoleon"). Also ALEKTANASPAD (next time I see an insane answer, instead of saying it's "from outer space," I'll just say it's from ALEKTANASPAD ... part of the former U.S.S.R., I think) (53D: Film director Keshishian + 52D: Lake ___ (Blue Nile source) + 49D: Fokker foe). But you knew I would say this (well, maybe not the ALEKTANASPAD part, but the rest). Because I always think stunt grids like this are disappointing. I never like being made to suffer through terrible fill just so a constructor (or two) can say "Look Ma!" Makes me say "RRR," only ... like a dog growl, not however you're supposed to say this visual representation of the "Three Rs," which cannot possibly be said aloud in any comprehensible way (47A: Basics of learning, briefly).
Very slow to start—had practically nothing up top on the first go 'round—then hit the middle and (surprise!) got a good toehold and swam right across the grid, west to east. Then hit the bottom and once again slowed. Had even less after my first go at the south than I had after my first go at the north. What broke the bottom was ARGYLE (44D: Diamond pattern), which I got without crosses, and which gave me RRR, then RASPS, and then (the ubiquitousest 15 in the whole wide world, of late) A LOT ON ONE'S PLATE (I'm told one of today's constructors once used both A LOT ON ONE'S PLATE *and* SCARLET TANAGERS in another puzzle he constructed. Recycling!) (Wait, wait, you're gonna love this—last person to use A LOT ON ONE'S PLATE in a NYT puzzle: Martin Ashwood-Smith. Before that: Joe Krozel. Before that: Martin Ashwood-Smith. Before that: (wait for it ...) Joe Krozel. That's a lot of A LOT ON ONE'S PLATE on one's plate. Times 2). All you really need is one 15 in place, and the whole stack starts to tip. Made short work of the south after that, and then went north, where things looked quite bleak. CHALK DUST (11D: School board output?) was my one solid anchor up there (well, that and SCALE). Then PENSÉE. Then (aha!) EDDIE (10D: Money making hits). From there I managed the awkward plural STERLING SILVERS, and the rest fell from there. Once again, that's FROE. Not ADZE, but FROE. That is all.
- 16A: 1970 film with much Sioux dialogue ("A MAN CALLED HORSE") — heard of it, but never seen it and couldn't tell you one thing about it.
- 17A: Game that kids fall for (RING AROUND A ROSY) — GREAT clue; I learned it as "THE Rosy," but no matter.
- 26A: "Kathy Griffin: My Life on the ___" (Emmy-winning reality show) ("D LIST") — big fat gimme. Used to love this show.
- 33A: Craze of 2005-06 (SUDOKU) — this is a stupid clue. Is SUDOKU not a "craze" any more? Was it ever? When did it stop being popular?
- 31A: Direction for a whaler? (THAR) — she blows. Indeed she does.
- 37A: Word often pig-Latinized (NIX) — Also [ESPN commentator Wendi]
- 3D: Frederiksberg resident (DANE) — I lived in Fredericksburg one summer. It was not in Denmark.
- 31D: Wyndham alternative, familiarly (THE HILTON) — Never heard of "Wyndham." Not sure how the clue signals the definite article.
- 4D: Artist with a self-named museum in Montauban, France (INGRES) — with a name like that (common letters in an odd arrangement) you'd think he'd show up more often.
- 56D: "Luff, you lubber" speaker of literature (SMEE) — meaningless to me. But I've seen SMEE a lot, so no problem to work out from a cross or two.
- 21D: Talent agent Swifty (LAZAR) — learned him from crosswords!
- 43D: Former AOL competitor (NETCOM) — ugh, bygone ISPS. I've heard of Netscape and NetZero, but not this. With such a terrible, hackneyed, forgettable name, it deserved to die.