Dutch city near Arnhem / SUN 1-20-13 / Dead Sea Scrolls preservers / Bygone Saudi king / Lounging robes / President who was electrician by profession / Firearm company for nearly five centuries / Dennis Quaid remake of 1950 film noir
Sunday, January 20, 2013
Constructor: Yaakov Bendavid
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
THEME: "All-Inspiring" — "L" sound is added to the ends of words in familiar phrases, creating wacky phrases, which are clued "?"-style
Word of the Day: EDE (40A: Dutch city near Arnhem) —
Ede (help·info) (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈeːdə]) is a municipality and a city in the center of the Netherlands, in the province of Gelderland. [...] Socially, Ede is a common city like any other in the Netherlands, with perhaps up to 40% Christian people in the city. Each year, there is a municipality-wide celebration called Heideweek (Week of the heather) which lasts a week largely involves traditional Dutch festivities, along with local customs. During the week, a Queen of the heather and a Princess of the heather are elected from several candidates and will be the representative for the municipality of Ede on various other festivities, until next year when another a new queen and princess are elected. (wikipedia)
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I didn't enjoy this one much, for reasons which are oddly complicated. First of all, I'd just gotten up from a nap, which is never a good time to do anything. I usually require a good hour to get back to normal after a nap. I know they're supposed to be refreshing, and maybe they are, ultimately, but I am most likely to be in a foul mood and not thinking quite clearly directly after a nap. So there's that, as far as context goes. I found the puzzle weirdly hard, and in a way that I found off-putting. There are different kinds of difficulty, and some I like and some I don't. Today, there was this odd disconnect between the theme (simple—once you pick it up) and the fill (tough, and listing toward awkward and ugly in some places). I'm gonna go ahead and blame the remarkably open grid. There's a ton of white space here, and while that can lead to greatness in themeless puzzles or very well constructed dailies, here what results is a strained feeling—like those pen corners in particular are barely holding together. Plus the cluing is not clever but vague—give me tricky over "that could be Anything" any day of the week. The result was that the effort required did not feel commensurate with the quality of the results. My feelings about the puzzle were set early, when it took me an Eternity to get the NW corner. Both theme answers felt impossible to get from their back ends, i.e. I had WHEEL and TRAIL and even knowing the theme (which I got from GET OUT OF THE WHALE), I couldn't think of Any base phrases that could work. "...Something Whee? Wee?" Couldn't see a TRAIL as a "strategy" for some reason. And the fill in there was pretty dire. APORT (5D: Left on board) ... which differs from PORT ... somehow? ... Crosswordy LEY totally eluded me. LAICAL (1A: Like some church matters) elicited several UGHS from me (once I Finally got it). EDE = LEY, in that I've seen both before but ... nope, just not coming today. Crosswordese of a high order. RACER clue = :( (26A: Indy entrant). Just a mess. Rest of the puzzle not nearly as tough, but rife with mediocre fill. I mean, look at the area under HEMATIC, for one arbitrary example. There's a domino effect here: partial Spanish ES SU, olde-timey BLEST, absurd and hateful E-LIST, ugsome OLEATES, and then the crutchiest of crutch answers: ESSENES (109A: Dead Sea Scrolls preservers).
Contrast that with some truly wonderful theme answers. "I TOLD YOU SOLE" is lol funny, and many of the others are very clever. One thing, though. I pronounce "W-" and "WH-" differently. This made THE ROYAL WHEEL especially rough, as WE and WHEE are simply different sounds. Also WHALE and WAIL. Different. If base phrase were "get out of the whey," then sure, GET OUT OF THE WHALE is perfect. But "get out of the whey" is not a thing (note to constructors—please do not build a wacky theme around "get out of the whey").
- 23A: Prince's pottery equipment? (THE ROYAL WHEEL) — additional difficulty: what kind of "prince." Like, prince the son of a king, or Prince the musician?
- 104A: Stop proceeding in the maze when you reach the end? (DO NOT PASS GOAL) — by far the most ungainly and strange of the theme clues.
- 3D: Strategy employed by a Siberian Hansel and Gretel? (ICE CUBE TRAIL) — very nice.
- 11D: Fencing coach's pronouncement? (DUEL AS I SAY)
- 14D: Haymakers? (GREEN BALE PACKERS)
- 36D: Advice to Jonah? (GET OUT OF THE WHALE)
- 58D: "Waiter, we ordered the fish!"? ("I TOLD YOU SOLE!")
- 67D: Approach a thruway booth? (HEAD TO TOLL)
- 25A: Firearm company for nearly five centuries (BERETTA) — always want BARETTA ... is that the TV detective? Or am I just being influenced by "barrette"? (both, probably)
- 27A: Bygone Saudi king (FAISAL) — still can't manage to commit this guy to memory. Always want FAISAD. ASSAD must be jamming my signal. FAISAL sounds like the name of that mouse from "An American Tail."
- 32A: Lounging robes (CAFTANS) — since FABER (33D: Name on pencils) was unknown to me and ILEAC (10D: Of the lower small intestine) was highly suspect and I've never used the word "caftan" in my life, this was slightly hard.
- 106A: Det. Bonasera on "CSI: NY" (STELLA) — ... [tumbleweed goes by] ...
- 18D: Biblical figure punished for hindsight? (LOT'S WIFE) — fantastic clue / answer.
- 79D: President who was an electrician by profession (WALESA) — LECH! Former president of Poland. Founder of "Solidarity" (per wikipedia, "Soviet bloc's first independent trade union").
- 104D: Dennis Quaid remake of a 1950 film noir ("D.O.A.") — There is something horrid about this clue. That something is: everything in the clue before "1950." I mean, can you really say the Quaid version is better known? Maybe the year it came out, but now? Whereas the original "D.O.A." is a noir classic.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld