Anise-flavored liquid / MON 1-13-14 / Britain's last King Henry / Rio carnival dance / Wine-producing area of SE France
Monday, January 13, 2014
Constructor: Lynn Lempel
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
- PHONE CALL (18A: An operator may help place one)
- RHONE VALLEY (25A: Wine-producing area of SE France)
- GONE BALLISTIC (36A: Flown into a rage)
- STONEWALLED (50A: Refused to cooperate)
Samba is a lively, rhythmical dance of Brazilian origin in 2/4 time danced under the Samba music. However, there are three steps to every bar, making the Samba feel like a 3/4 timed dance. Its origins include the Maxixe. (wikipedia)
• • •GOOSES (28A: Pokes in the rear). I just *liked* this one. I don't know if I'd call the fill sparkly, but it is smooth as all get out. This is a first-rate, professional Monday puzzle, by a constructor who knows what the hell she's doing when it comes to early-week puzzles.
The weirdest moment, for me, was having BLO- at 38D: Hard hit (BLOW) and having no idea what that last letter could be. Brain: "BLOP? BLOP? No, BLOP is not a thing. Does not compute. Abort, Abort." My brain is a 1950s robot sometimes. I thought my time would be a tad slower than usual, as the open NW was not as easy to get into as your typical Monday corner. This may seem an odd thing to say about that corner, which is, of course, pretty easy in the end, but 3s and 4s are far, far easier to take down quickly than 5s. So there's just a little bit of added resistance, even in an easy puzzle, every time a corner opens up even a little. Anyway, I still came in with a normal, fast Monday time. Surprised to see this is just 74 words. Not sure I've ever done a 74-worder this easy (most easy/Monday puzzles are 78, maybe 76—typically, in general, as a rule, but by no means always, the lower the word count, the tougher the grid is to fill, and difference between 78 ad 74 is actually considerable). I guess the cheaters in the far NE / SW corners helped mellow out the fill, allowing for actual, in-the-language, non-forced, non-crosswordese words. If that's what it takes, then (and pretty much only then) I'm all for cheater squares.
Did I ever teach you the trick for quickly establishing a crossword's word count? I learned this from my friend Amy, who, I think, learned from her friend Byron. Anyway, you take the number of the last Across clue (today, 68) and then add the total number of boxes that start both an Across and Down answer (today, the boxes containing the numbers 1, 6, 10, 33, 44 and 48—a total of 6 boxes). 68 + 6 = 74 words. Much easier than actually counting them all.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld