Olympians brought them down / FRI 4-13-12 / Upper house support / Big inits in paperback publishing / Pulitzer-winning poet Armantrout / Home of U.S. Army Women's Museum / Word repeated before lama sabachthani in Mark 15
Friday, April 13, 2012
Constructor: Tim Croce
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
Word of the Day: COWBIRD (36A: Follower of grazing cattle) —
Cowbirds are birds belonging to the genus Molothrus in the family Icteridae. They are brood parasitic New World birds which are unrelated to the Old World cuckoos, one of which, the Common Cuckoo, is the best-known brood parasitic bird. (wikipedia)
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I think I was psyched out / put off my game just by the sight of this one. I am over the whole 15-stacks thing. Just seeing them now makes me depressed. 15-stacks are the new pangram, i.e. a pointless achievement that's been done many times so who cares? Now, when they're really great, they can be reasonably delightful. But it's hard to get all good phrases and mostly non-ridiculous crosses. The 15s on this one are actually 2/3 strong up top (not a fan of any phrase with "ONE'S" in it) and 2/3 strong below (PASSES ON DESSERT = PAINTS ONE'S HOUSE = not a thing). The crosses, however, are dire, esp. up top. That stretch of Downs from ESTS to RAES (inclusive) is about the worst set of five consecutive Downs I've ever seen. No one answer is beyond the pale, but together they're a mess. So, stack-wise, you've got mixed results.
The rest of it is OK, though ROOF TRUSS is ??? (32D: Upper house support) and the non-"Time Machine" ELOI is annoying (39A: Word repeated before "lama sabachthani" in Mark 15)—look, you've got ELOI in your grid; accept it. Don't pretend it's something interesting. It's cruddy fill you had to use. Just "Time Machine" it and move on. Actually, the whole west area is unattractive: FT. LEE, ROOF TRUSS, WTO, ELOI. I like IT HURTS (40D: "Ow-w-w!"), which rescues that section from utter ruin. Middle was really, really hard for me to get into, mostly because I (stupidly) couldn't come up with DEO volente, which, even though it's small, would've helped a lot with every one of its crosses (all of which stumped me for a long time). Having ENSNARE for ENTWINE (21D: Tangle up) was my big undoing. That was hard to come back from. If I've heard of a COWBIRD, I don't know when. Anyway, if I hadn't bit on ENSNARE, and if I'd remembered DEO, I could have shaved minutes off this thing. As it was, this took me longer than any puzzle (including Sundays!) I've done since Mar. 19 (when I started keeping track of my times on paper). Not astronomically long, but way longer than a Friday should be taking me. I blame the 15 stacks, or rather my disgusted reaction to them, for putting me off my game.
- 19A: Flutter the eyelids, say (STIR) — this puzzle is definitely clued at a Saturday level. I had three crosses (ST-R) before I figured this one out.
- 30A: "Roxana: The Fortunate Mistress" novelist (DEFOE) — a much-needed gimme, though of course I misspelled it (Willem) DAFOE. Also nailed LETHE (43A: River that the dead drank from, in myth). Yay, literature background.
- 35A: Intl. group whose biennial conferences are focuses of protest (WTO) — I could see the damned fake anarchists in my mind, but couldn't bring up more than the "W" part of the initialism. World ... Health Organization? No. No. You wouldn't clue WHO that way! Ugh. My bad.
- 41A: Frames wind up on them (FILM REELS) — this is what I mean about Saturday cluing. There are hardly any reliable toeholds in that center section. 45A: "Love Actually" co-star, 2003 (NEESON)??? Didn't that movie have like a thousand "famous" people in it?
- 1D: You'll get it from CliffsNotes (GIST) — yuck on this clue, for a number of reasons. Much as I think CliffsNotes is a stupid product, those pamphlety things provide *way* more than the GIST.
- 10D: Pulitzer-winning poet Armantrout and others (RAES) — more mutton dressed as lamb. See also ELOI.
- 31D: Home of the U.S. Army Women's Museum (FT. LEE) — hell if I know. Being in the awkward west section, this was a tough pick-up for me.
- 25D: Chiwere speakers (IOWAS) — not a gimme, but I had the "IO-" so ... easy.
- 49D: "Rotten School" series author (STINE) — As in R.L. Inferrable since he did that whatever series for kids in the '90s. "Goosebumps!" I associate that series with "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," because I associate both with the godawful early '90s.
- 23D: Winner of over 100 Pulitzer Prizes, briefly (NY TIMES) — gratuitous self-promotion? Why not? Not off-putting at all.
- 58D: "Odi et ___": Catullus (AMO) — "I hate and I love": don't go getting any ideas about ODI in your puzzle, please, constructors.