WEDNESDAY, May 9, 2007 - Patrick Merrell

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: "Winston Churchill's description of a fanatic" - ONE WHO CAN'T (17A) / CHANGE HIS MIND (27A) / AND WON'T CHANGE (44A) / THE SUBJECT (60A)

Not a big fan of quips, but this puzzle was So Easy that I hardly felt the pain. I did this puzzle faster than I did Monday's (that just shouldn't happen) - in fact, I did it faster than I've ever done any Wednesday puzzle, ever. The non-theme fill here is pretty Monday-ish overall, with only a couple of answers providing anything in the way of trouble. I should have taken it as an omen when I got the answer SPEED DEMON (11D: Leadfoot) off just the "S." I even got 14A: It's a killer (orca) with No crosses. So easy was this puzzle that I have very little to say about it, which should make light work for me tonight. I ran into trouble in just one place. I tried to anticipate the structure of the quip, and figured that since the first half begins ONE WHO CAN'T CHANGE, the second half would do the same. So I put CAN'T where WON'T was supposed to go, and off the (incorrect) "C" I entered CRINGE for 45D: Squirm (writhe). Since the "C" (from CAN'T) was plausible, and three other letters in CRINGE were correct, it took me a little time to unearth the problem. But as obstacles go, this was pretty minor.

Nothing terribly noteworthy about the puzzle, but lots of little things that are perhaps worth mentioning. I thought WRITHE a very good answer, especially when paired in alliteration with the puzzle's other motion word, ROIL (1A: Churn). There were several nice multiple-word answers, including SPEED DEMON, LAWMAN (4D: Tin star wearer - OK, that's one word, but it's made out of two), FOOTREST (5D: Barber chair feature - again compound word, sort of counts), REELED IN (25A: Secured, as a fish on a line), OLD HAT (46D: Commonplace) and the flashy three-word ALL DAY LONG (29D: From dawn till dusk). I especially like that that last one intersects yet another longish temporal answer, BIYEARLY (49A: How often federal elections are held). 43A: "Lead _____ King Eternal" (hymn) ("On O") is a colorful if desperate attempt to avoid referring to Yoko.

Sadly, there is a ton of crosswordese in this puzzle. Let's see, there's (deep inhale): TSAR, OBOES, SLOE, EINE, ETO, OTOE, TETE, ECON, STET, with the last four of these all coming from the very sad southeast corner - when RENT is the most original answer in a corner, you know that something is very wrong. My favorite word in the puzzle is ABYSMAL (39A: Dreadful) - it's an elegant word, and that "Y" in the third position is unusual and tricky - got that "Y" off of 22D: "Elder" of ancient history (Pliny) and couldn't do anything with it. Had to wait for some more crosses. One of those crosses - the "S" - came off of that damned chimp whose name I can never remember: 26D: Orbiting chimp of 1961 (Enos). Someday I want to see ENOS clued [Chimp, spinoff, or book in the Book of Mormon].

Yesterday's NY Sun puzzle had BEDIM as an answer, and I complained about it (elsewhere) for being just plain ugly and stupid-sounding. Even though today's BECLOUDS (40D: Obscures) is a somewhat more ridiculous word, I like it better. It sounds more poetic. Seriously. Say them out loud right now. You will see that my characterization is APT (39D: Bldg. unit). APT!

Many of you probably won't know who Stanislaw LEM is (51A: Science fiction author Stanislaw). He was a prolific Polish sci-fi writer who is probably best known for his novel Solaris, and only then because it was made into a (sadly) forgettable movie starring George Clooney. LEM died last year at the age of 85. I always liked the idea that this sci-fi writer had a name that was also an acronym for Lunar Excursion Module - the "lander portion of the Apollo spacecraft" (Wiki).

Lastly, I misunderstood 28D: Double-timed, assuming that the clue was synonymous with "Two-timed," or "cheated on." Briefly thought that HIED referred to some kind of sex act (or sex act euphemism) I'd never heard of, until I realized that "Double-timed" referred, innocently and anti-climactically, to tempo, not adultery.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS Forgot to mention how much I appreciated the highly and unintentionally comical Al HAIG quote in the clue for 18D: Alexander who said "I'm in control here" - for those who are too young to remember, HAIG said this to reporters immediately after Reagan got shot. Reagan's getting shot is not so funny, but HAIG's bold pronouncement of his own advancement to the throne - rich! (OK, so he wasn't really staging a one-man coup, but it's funnier to imagine it that way)


Linda G 12:34 AM  

I can't believe I forgot to mention BECLOUDS. I'm glad you did.

This really was incredibly easy for a Wednesday. My gut says we'll be in trouble on Thursday.

barrywep 12:37 AM  

I found it reasonably hard. I finished in my normal Wednesday time more or less and was surprised by my low rank. Maybe it's my post-blogging blues.I have new respect for you guys,Blogging is hard work.

Anonymous 12:41 AM  

and see, that "relative difficulty" thang is really just so ... relative. i thought monday was as easy -- simple as they come; you said "medium." i thought today's was "medium"; and by you it's "easy."

and that's what makes it all so interesting!!



Alex S. 12:58 AM  

Nothing worth noting for me about the puzzle (not super easy but I worked through it on my own (that happening later into the week lately which I'll take, even if it just means the puzzles are easier than normal).

But I do know Stanislaw Lem. In fact the clue caught my eye and it was the first thing in. And I know him from childhood reading. I liked the movie version of Solaris but I'd read it many times before that.

I also tried various ways of trying to fit Henry Fonda (and when that didn't work Anthony Perkins) into Tin Star Wearer.

Anonymous 1:22 AM  

This one was tougher than Monday's for me. Perhaps because I'm coming off a migraine and doped up on meds. I couldn't figure out the NW portion of the puzzle until I finished everything else. I had stir for churn as in butter as opposed to roil and "it's a killer" did not lead me to orcauntil the very end. For the barber's chair feature, I had headrest before I corrected it to footrest. They usually have both. Lawman stumped me until the end too. I thought of sheriff and deputy but not lawman. Although after almost giving up after staring at it for 10 minutes, it finally came to me.

ScottK 7:58 AM  

I'd like to nominate ENOS for the pantheon, if for nothing other than valor. These space-chimps were trained to perform complex tasks to get food pellets and avoid electric shocks. During Enos' Mercury flight, his equipment malfunctioned and he received shocks no matter what he did. On his second orbit the heat exchanger froze up and the capsule overheated, nearly boiling the poor monkey. Nevertheless, he continued to perform his tasks flawlessly, although I recall reading that he was so pissed off by the time he splashed down that he bit every handler that got near him. Now that's the right stuff!

Anonymous 8:08 AM  

I found that it helps tremendously if you actually read the clue correctly. I read "Legal Assignment" (27D) as "Legal Assistant" and had "aide" in there forever. Also had deputy for tin star wearer way too long... Once I fixed those mistakes, you're right, Rex, not as difficult as some Wednesdays can be.

Rex Parker 8:14 AM  

I think I just got off to a fortuitous start - getting FABLES and OBOES with no crosses gave me the first two letters of all five Downs in the North, all of which I rattled off in order. After that, it's all a blur. My time was 5:14, just for frame of reference (not a top tier time, but good for me).


Anonymous 9:36 AM  

"i think i just got off to a fortuitous start..."

and that, dear rex, is why you are "the 166th Greatest Crossword Puzzle Solver In The Universe" and i'm, oh, the 400 + change-ieth!

fond greetings from a (*far*) outer star --



Anonymous 9:59 AM  


You are brilliant and bad. HIED, indeed!

Howard B 11:01 AM  

Ummm, Rex? That's fast. Whether or not people time themselves, or just plop down on the couch, relax, and work these things through at leisure, it just shows the more of these you do, the easier it becomes, once you get past the intimidation factor of "Ohmigod, I can't solve the Times [on a Tuesday/Wednesday/pick a day]!".

You're getting the hang of these things in a hurry, Rex. In a short time, you may be posting a diatribe about being unable to solve a puzzle in under 4 minutes. Be very afraid... ;).

I'm kidding around, of course. Sort of...

Linda G 11:59 AM  

While my time wasn't anywhere near that of our King, I also breezed through the same area -- getting FABLE and OBOES was a great start.

If you haven't heard me say it before...if it's a musical instrument and obviously not a viola, it's an OBOE.

But Ultra Vi would prefer to see viola ; )

Rex Parker 1:01 PM  

LYRE and LUTE are pretty common, too. In crosswords, I mean. I'd put them behind OBOE (the king) but ahead of VIOLA (no offense, Vi).


DONALD 1:24 PM  

Timing detracts from any "pleasure" of doing it!

Campesite 1:35 PM  

I chuckled when I saw the Al Haig cluing in the puzzle and couldn't wait to see your blog. My High School government class was at that very moment discussing the line of succession as we watched the press conference together. Even as sophomores we knew the guy was overreaching and it to this day it informs my attitude towards politicians and whether or not they really know better.

Anonymous 2:49 PM  

There is an older, better movie of "Solaris" directed by a then famous (Russian?Pole?) and without George. I think I remember that Lem disapproved of it.

Anonymous 4:04 PM  

Dear Rex,

OK, I accept VIOLA in fourth place behind the others. I am only happy that people have stopped thinking "viola" is a typo for "violin" and "correcting" it.

I absolutely LOVE that the viola is occasionally a topic of discussion here. If there is another Talent Nite at ACPT, I will bring it and play for you all there.

DONALD 4:18 PM  

Things get EDGY (66A Pushing the envelope) when the BIBLE (49D Oath taker’s aid) reduces “Satan wills me!” to WRITHE (45D Squirm) in an anagram for LEM (51A Science fiction author Stanislaw).

Anonymous 4:19 PM  

My beefs:

Chunks of the south: eto, etons sen
Also Southeast: Tete, Otoe, Sloe
Honestly, these words stink.
Also, Beclouded is an ugly word in my opinion

My Likes:

The Churchill quote

Anonymous 7:14 PM  

I was pleased that for once the quote wasn't one of the same Oscar Wilde-isms that tend to appear here with annoying regularity. Churchill was just as quotable, and although I didn't know the exact quote previously, it was, as Rex says, "inferrable," which means I'm getting better, sports fans!!!! Two months ago I'd probably have had to google it.

Linda G 7:47 PM  

Oh, yeah. LYRE and LUTE. Guess I lost my mind temporarily...

I'll bring my piano to talent night, Vi, and we can play a duet : )

learp17 10:46 PM  

Oh boy, I guess I need more practice if this one was ridiculously easy for you. I did eventually complete it but I needed some help from you and the Internet. Cool blog though, glad I found it.

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