Sant' Gria brand / SUN 4-10-16 / Jerusalem's province to Romans / Rich kid in Nancy / Grocery chain since 1926 / 1993 standoff site / Cowpoke's friend
Sunday, April 10, 2016
Constructor: Randolph Ross
Relative difficulty: Easy (unless you are younger than, say, 35, in which case the fill will make your eyes bleed with its staleness ... yes, I stand by that metaphor)
THEME: "Something in the Water" — bodies of water with various apt water crafts sitting on top of (or beneath!) them:
- UBOAT under the ATLANTIC OCEAN
- RAFT on the COLORADO RIVER
- GONDOLA on the GRAND CANAL
- OIL TANKER on the ARABIAN SEA
- TRAWLER on the CHESAPEAKE BAY
- FERRY in NEW YORK HARBOR
n. the spiritual life principle of the universe, especially when regarded as inherent in the real self of the individual.a person's soul. (google)
CLASSIC," but I'm not. This was painful to fill in. Frequently, literally, painful. This is a throwback to when crosswords were an exclusive, exclusionary test of all the dumb short and / or arcane words you needed to know to participate. Frame of reference, solidly 40-50 years ago. Please don't ever complain to me again about "popular culture" (boo hoo!) if you somehow think this puzzle, with its ROLLOs and ERNIEs and alt-spellings and OLEOS and prefixes galore is somehow OK. A single NAS does not a modern crossword puzzle make. If this reminds you of the good old days when you learned to do crosswords during the last regime (or even earlier regimes), I get it, we all have pangs of nostalgia from time to time. But Holy GNEISS, ATMAN, there has to be a way to balance and broaden a modern crossword's frame of reference. I had a conversation with some very smart novice solvers in their early twenties recently, and was brought up short by how much the NYT crossword's cultural center of gravity is beyond them. They are getting to be good solvers, and of course there is no reason at all that everything (or even most things) in a puzzle should be thrown softly into a millennial's strike zone. But now, when I do a puzzle like this, I realize how much the NYT appears not to care (at times) about solvers who are not already in The Club. I mean, son of a LEVERET, this was off-putting at every turn. Which is sad, because again, the theme concept is adorable.
YAGO??? I try to google [define "sant' gria"] and it's just stupid automated crossword clue sites and then YAGO's own ... site? Is "sant' gria" a thing that is different from "sangria"? Anyway, this is one of the stupidest, most "hell no"-ish things I've ever seen in crosswords. In Shortz era, it appeared once in 2013, but before that, it was 2003, and then 1997. And, in modern era, that's it. YAGO is terrible fill that is also an absurdity. NO WAY, as they say. AGE ONE is also a NO WAY, as all AGE-whatevers are (green paint, made up). SERIO- and SINO- are sequential Across answers? This is head-hangingly sad. That spelling of JUDAEA, same. NAH and NAE in the same grid? Again, as always, no one of these is unforgivable, but en masse, all this junk is suffocating. GRIDIRONS doesn't even get the football clue that it should have, probably because only unwashed heathens care about "sports." I don't know. This puzzle needs to rethink its priorities. Remember that people who aren't Exactly like you actually solve your crossword, constructors. Open it up. Broaden its focus. Let the air in. Please. Saloons and HICS!? Gah. Strive to go beyond the cliché! Also, kill ALER. Kill NLER. And their plurals. Trust me on this. It was bad to begin with, but with all the interleague play now (I mean, the Tigers opened in Miami? Miami!?!? Ugh), the terms mean even less than they did before.
A brief recap of last weekend's ACPT (contains one tiny possible spoiler for one of the puzzles, if you are planning to solve them at home and haven't done so; but it really is tiny):
The other great thing about the tournament was the finale. Back in 2007, when I arrived at the Stamford Marriott knowing virtually no one, my blog was only a few months old. It was beginning to get a sizable readership, but still, to most of the people there, "Rex Parker" was nobody. I was nobody. And not being an extroverted person, I was a bit lost. I remember walking in and seeing Merl ("... from the movie!" I remember thinking), and then seeing fellow blogger Amy Reynaldo (not here this year, much to my sadness and chagrin) and ace constructor Byron Walden, and meeting them in person for the first time. But beyond them, I didn't feel connected to many people at all, and I was sort of a wallflower. But there was this one guy I met fairly early whom I liked a lot. He was soooo nice, and he talked to me and filled me in on what the tournament was like and generally made me feel very much at ease. Like I belonged. His name was Howard Barkin. Since then, I have watched Howard compete year after year as one of the very top solvers in the country. Occasionally he'd make it onto the finals stage, but he never won. The times I remember seeing him on that stage (once? twice? I forget), he seemed to really struggle. Everyone loves Howard, and everyone roots for Howard, but it seemed that, especially with the impossibly fast (and, to be clear, equally beloved) Dan Feyer still living and breathing, Howard was destined to get close, but never win. And then this happened:
People leapt from their seats in joy and disbelief. You can actually see this happen with the lady in the lower right corner. I was in the back of the hall, lying on the ground, playing with my friend Jen's service dog, Emmy, not really focused on the boards, when I started to hear murmuring. Then I looked up to see Howard call "done" and I threw my hands in the air as if I just didn't care. I walked toward the front of the hall shouting in happy disbelief, "No way! ... No Way! ... " I high-fived people I don't even know. I hugged Anne Ellison (another perennial Top Solver). I generally lost my mind, as did so many others in the room. What you have to understand is that no one was rooting against Dan (who before this year had won the tourney six consecutive times). The vibe just isn't like that at ACPT. Everyone knows everyone, more or less, among the top solvers and longtime attendees, and it's all impossibly friendly and collegial. So the joy was all *for* Howard, who has been chasing this title for the better part of a decade, and, again—and I can't stress this enough—is The nicest guy.
I saw Patrick Berry but was afraid I would do some kind of fanboy swoon / faceplant if I tried to talk to him, so I just avoided. But I saw lots of old friends and met lots of readers and just had a blast. Best tournament ever, no joke, and that's *despite* shooting myself (and my dreams of another regional trophy) in the foot on Puzzle 5, when I ... well, I don't want to give puzzle details away, since some people will be solving the tourney puzzles at home. Let's just say I zigged when I should've zagged. Or, rather, I zigged too soon. I zigged at the wrong place. The zig part still made the right answer, but unfortunately CROITIA is not a country, so the resulting cross was a big fail. One error, and it cost me probably 20+ places in the standings, and it's quite possible I'd've caught it if I had eaten the minute and just Checked My Puzzle (which is what you're supposed to do). But no, rookie mistake—when I finished, I had only 4 seconds before the next minute elapsed, so I just handed it in. Never ever do this. Otherwise, I was happy with my performance, considering I hadn't trained at all. At the moment, it looks like I finished in 58th, tied with fellow former Michigan student Derek Allen (easily recognizable by his UM baseball cap) and just 5 measly points ahead of Washington Post crossword constructor (the man who succeeded Merl in that position), Evan Birnholz. Better luck next year, Evan.
Thanks to Will and Patrick Creadon and Chief Scoring Official (or some such big-shot title) Mike Nothnagel for running a great show, and thanks to everyone who came up to me and said mostly nice things (especially Kelly Kroehle and Daveon Coleman, brand-new puzzle friends whose ears I talked off, and vice VERSA).
Crossword tournaments are where you belong. If you are reading this, you definitely belong. Go to Indie 500 in DC (June 4, 2016), or to Lollapuzzoola in NYC (August 13, 2016), or to ACPT next year (March 24-26, 2017). You will not regret it. I have never met anyone who regretted it.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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