Ratchet bar / SUN 11-6-11 / Brightly colored lizards / Odyssey temptress / PJ-clad mansion owner / Musician who won 2011 Presidential Medal of Freedom
Sunday, November 6, 2011
Constructor: Elizabeth C. Gorski
Relative difficulty: Challenging
THEME: "Baker's Dozen" — 12 different theme answers are kinds of cakes. They are clued in non-cake fashion, and are in the grid upside-down (Down answers that run upward) — hence the theme-revealing answer (the 13th theme answer in the "Baker's Dozen"): UPSIDEDOWN CAKES (47D: Pastry chef creations ... and a hint to 12 other answers in this puzzle)
Word of the Day: PAWL (75A: Ratchet bar) —
A hinged or pivoted device adapted to fit into a notch of a ratchet wheel to impart forward motion or prevent backward motion.
[Probably from Dutch pal, from Latin pālus, stake.]
As solvers, we all compensate for our ignorance by relying on crosses. Some people, for instance, will not have known LARA Logan, but all her crosses are gettable, so ... who cares? You don't have to fret or complain about not knowing her. But GAGE / ONEGA is a dangerous cross. Definite Natick territory for some. Not for me, but for some. Where *I* got Naticked was EWA / PAWL. EWA is something I "know" Only because I have a reader from EWA Beach (it's not famous—if you haven't been to Hawaii and haven't solved a ton of crosswords, you don't know it ... it's not MAUI or OAHU or NENE, is what I'm saying). Sadly, I remembered it as EWO, and never ever having heard of a PAWL, there was No way I was getting out of that mistake. If I thought I was alone or in a tiny minority in muffing these crosses (well, one of them), I would just slap myself and move on. But there will be others who have the same experience (which I know, from experience). The times at the NYT site are terrible, which I'm betting is due not to the challenging quality of the theme (once you pick it up, it's not that tough), but to the same problem with short obscurities that I had. My particular problem areas were part of an overall over-reliance on short, odd, ugly, and/or obscure fill, which ended up overshadowing the loveliness of the theme.
- 1D: Not having quite enough money (TROHS) — short cake!
- 110D: Bed cover (TEESH) —sheet cake!
- 12D: The "mode" of "a la mode" (MAERC ECI) — ice cream cake!
- 87D: Cause for bringing out candles (YADHTRIB) — birthday cake!
- 3D: Schokolade (ETALOCOHCNAMREG) — German chocolate cake!
- 15D: Canine shelter (DNUOP) — pound cake!
- 103D: Coat of paint (REYAL) — layer cake!
- 5D: Manna, according to the Bible (DOOFLEGNA) — angel food cake!
- 84D: Girl's holiday party dress fabric (TEVLEVDER) — red velvet cake!
- 40D: Wooded area near the Rhine Valley (TSEROFKCALB) — Black Forest cake!
- 50D: Squishy dish cleaner (EGNOPS) — sponge cake!
- 61D: Word before republic or seat (ANANAB) — banana cake!
The puzzle's theme is great because of the title — nice use of a baking phrase that also ties to the number of theme answers — and because of the amazing symmetry of the theme answers. Also, it's just dang clever. Took me a looong time to cop the theme, mostly because I was sure that TROHS (1D: Not having quite enough money) was a representation of "[Coming up] SHORT." See, it's the word SHORT, and instead of going Down, like it's supposed to, it's coming up. I didn't get to the theme revealer until something like half the grid was already filled in. I could see answers were running upwards, but I had No idea why. After I hit the revealer, things got a lot easier. But not easy enough, apparently.
- 19A: Invader of 1066 (NORMAN) — the NORMAN Invasion comes up every time I teach Brit Lit I and I *still* balked at this clue the first time around. "Some random invader!? How should I know!?" Smooth.
- 37A: "Odyssey" temptress (CIRCE) — This one I knew. Sometimes I actually recall the things I teach. We call those "good days."
- 81A: PJ-clad mansion owner (HEF) — I like this clue. Shortened "PJ" cuing shortened "HEF."
- 87A: Musician who won a 2011 Presidential Medal of Freedom (YO-YO MA) — he has this new album with a few other guys called "The Goat Rodeo Sessions"; it's pretty great:
- 97A: Peak leaf-peeping time in Pennsylvania (MID-OCTOBER) — I really like this answer. Inventive, and seasonal!
- 42D: Area known to the Chinese as Dongbei (MANCHURIA) — this reminds me: just received the latest edition (18th) of Oxford UP's stunning "Atlas of the World"; we were looking at the topographical maps of western China today. Dramatic rise to the Himalayas signified visually by a vivid and abrupt florescence of purple.
- 76D: "___ loves believes the impossible": Elizabeth Barrett Browning ("WHOSO") — Argh. I had HE WHO. If the clue had been ["___ list to hunt, I know where is an hind": Wyatt], I'd have nailed it.