Saturday, October 6, 2012
Constructor: Steve Salitan
Relative difficulty: Medium
Word of the Day: IMPALAS (1D: Savanna leapers) n. An African antelope noted for its leaping ability; the male has rigid, curved horns (wiktionary).
I’m pretty surprised that, after four years of constructing, I don’t know this word: what great vowels! Alas, the CrossWorld has only taught me one antelope native to East Africa – the ORYX.
No doubt the King of CrossWorld would have known IMPALAS. This is Anna Shechtman again, subbing in for Rex, who is on vacation. To start with, I should say that I am completely enamored of this puzzle’s grid: the 15-letter “triple stack” never fails to amaze me. ONE CELLED ANIMAL over CALCULATING MIND over ANTIPERSPIRANTS! Swoon!
In general, this was not one of those coolhipyoung puzzles, marked with the traces of twitter, youtube, and reality TV. I am totally okay with that. It had great fill, impressively few pseudo-words, and clues that, if not inspiring, stumped me well enough. I really liked 40A: Need for war games (CARDS), but it threw me off for 37A: Justify (WARRANTS), which I got from the rest of the fill and kept reading as WAR-RANTS...some offshoot of the war cry?
I will never understand the crossword rules of the “?”. My gut tells me that it should apply when polysemy is involved: when the clue plays on a double meaning. Alternatively, it just goes wherever Will Shortz says it does?? Let’s take a few examples to see if we can figure out the abiding “?” rule:
- 23A: Sweep spots? (SOOT) -- Not at all sure what this question mark means…is a “sweep spot” a (terrible) pun on “sweet spot”? Is it a place to watch sweeps week?
- 46A: Turn around on Wall Street? (RALLY) -- Is this an Occupy reference? If so, the puzzle’s one effort at coolhipyoungness flops in my book. I guess it’s a pun, literalizing the phrase “turn a profit”?
48A: Real lowlife? (ONE CELLED ANIMAL) -- Now, this! This is a question mark used as it should be! I think…
26D: Core units? (SEEDS) -- Again, I think this is an apt use of the mark, assuming that “core units” means something. Like core courses? Or each pack on a 6-pack?
- 46D: Not go out of service? (RE-UP). -- Someone please explain this "?-usage" to me. Am I too accustomed to seeing cell phones associated with "service" that I am missing the pun? Is the "?" just there to buffer a mediocre clue?
My other quibble – and it is quibbling, because this really is a beautiful grid – is Salitan’s use of pluralization.
- 10D: Former Senate majority leader and family (LOTTS) A mouthful of clue – generally means that something’s not quite right with answer.
- 9D: Afflictions for the world-weary (ENNUIS) This strikes me as preposterous. I guess in French, ennui can be pluralized (meaning something like troubles, problems, or snags) but no way does it work in English. Waves of ennui? Yes. Ennuis? No.
- 35D: Tiny dots on maps (HAMLETS) Apparently hamlets are “small villages or groups of houses” (wiktionary), but, I would have gone with something like “princes with ennuis.” See below for an ad-hoc greatest hits reel of such HAMLETS.
Thanks again for the blog-opportunity, Rex!
A pleasure as always,