Game stew / SAT 2-22-14 / First drink ever ordered by James Bond / Punk rocker Armstrong with 2012 Grammy / High line in Middle East / Composer of opera Rusalka / Obama's favorite character on Wire
Saturday, February 22, 2014
Constructor: Evan Birnholz
Relative difficulty: Easy
Word of the Day: SALMI (53D: Game stew) —
n., pl., -mis.
A highly spiced dish consisting of roasted game birds minced and stewed in wine.
[French salmis, short for salmigondis, salmagundi. See salmagundi.]
Read more: http://www.answers.com/topic/salmi#ixzz2u17CeQTh
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SALMI is, but everything else was fairly well within my ken. This is a very clean 72-worder, and has many lovely longer answers—four banks of 9-stacks and then two 10s across the middle, all of them solid. All of them. Nice work. The real trick is to make sure the short crosses on your longer stacks aren't dreck, and here (with the exception of the slightly wobbly AREAR / SALMI section in the SE), the crosses hold up pretty well. The only issue I had today was the easiness. Clues didn't seem to have any teeth, and I was genuinely surprised at how easy many of the answers were to get without any crosses. Take 1D—where I started: [Vaulted areas]. In five letters, my first thought, and any constant solver's first thought, is going to be APSES. Just did a clue search of "vaulted" at the cruciverb.com database, and (unsurprisingly, to me) a huge percentage (21 of 26, to be precise) of those clues were for APSE/S (21/22 where "vaulted" was used adjectivally). Certain clue words just trigger certain answers because of how commonly they're used, and the "vaulted"-APSE/S connection is a strong one. This same clue word trigger happened at 19A: Coastal fish consumers (ERNS). "Coastal" = ERN/S. [Coastal raptors] is the clue I would write for ERNS if I had just two seconds to write one, i.e. it's the hackneyed clue. So 19A was transparent. SEE TO and CRANE followed very quickly and that whole NW corner just didn't last that long.
Because I moved fairly quickly today, there weren't that many notable struggles. My favorite mistake was PEA at 46A: Split second? My reasoning was that peas are "split," of course, and … well, my brain somehow decided "second" could refer to a course at a meal. Like, maybe you have salad (first) and then (split PEA) soup, second? Anyway, it worked great until the field goal clue came up. -IDAR- (at 37D: Like some missed field goals) made no sense, and once I got to WIDAR- I knew the "A" was wrong. It had to be WIDE RIGHT. But ... "PEE!?! How is that even … oh, it's the second letter in the word 'split'. Ah. Cleeeever." Thought it was "Good LAWD A'mighty!" (which still seems reasonable) at first. Had ABAFT for AREAR (52D: In the back). Had RESOD until the very end at 48D: Plant in subsequent seasons (RESOW). Only a final grid scan revealed the mistake—I had no memory of seeing DRED Scott in the puzzle … and that's because I hadn't. The clue was 66A: Tied and the answer was DREW.
Today's constructor, Mr. Birnholz, asked me just yesterday to test-solve his latest independent puzzle—a metapuzzle contest—now up at his puzzle website, "Devil Cross." I see now that it was probably a ploy to get me to plug said puzzle today, when he knew I'd be talking about his work. So I toyed with the idea of thwarting him and not mentioning his metapuzzle at all. But then that seemed petty. Plus, his puzzle is very, very clever. So you should probably do it.
See you tomorrow.