Friday, August 31, 2007
Relative difficulty: Challenging
THEME: "GH" words (or, none)
I had a horrible time with this puzzle, possibly because I did it first thing in the morning - literally, rolled out of bed, went to my desk, and started the puzzle. Even with some fairly substantial gimmes, it took me a while to really get going, and then at about the 2/3 mark, I got completely stuck, with the NE and the far W being wide open and recalcitrant.
Started with MAHALO (15A: Hawaiian "thank you") - if you ever go to Hawaii, you learn this word. We had a sign inside our condo that said "MAHALO for taking your shoes off." Only other true gimmes for me were DANTE'S (37A: "_____ Peak" (1997 Pierce Brosnan film)) and RICHTER (8D: Scale developer), though I managed to get SOUTHERN CROSS (33A: Constellation seen on the flags of Australia, Samoa and Papua New Guinea) very quickly, with just the last two letters in place. Still, after many minutes, only the Eastern portion of the puzzle was substantially filled in.
This puzzle was admirably tough, with lots of crafty cluing and colorful answers, but still, there were some answers that bugged the hell out of me. What in the world is a HUG-ME-TIGHT (29D: Short, close-fitting jacket)!? I mean, I'm guessing that it's a short, close-fitting jacket, but Damn. Ugh. Come on! Google Image Search doesn't even turn up an image of one of these - nothing that makes it clear what species of jacket we're talking about. There appear to be pictures of hand-knitted something-or-others, but... the term only gets 25K Google hits, period, which is tiny. So this answer was Rough for me. Same goes for "LAUGH AT ME" (28A: 1965 Sonny Bono hit), which stretches the meaning of "hit" to the breaking point. I don't believe I've ever heard this song, and I spent the entirety of my junior / senior years in high school listening to oldies stations. This title was really really hard to divine from crosses. The "G" was giving me fits - was it "LET GO OF ME"? So I struggled a lot. Didn't help that HUG-ME-TIGHT and "LAUGH AT ME" intersect!
Other "GH" words / phrases of note include RIGHT ARM (16A: Exchange for something you really want?) - a tough but perfect clue; TOUGH (47A: "Deal with it!"); and HEIGHTEN (59A: Opposite of diminish).
Clues that gave me trouble:
- 38A: Parliamentary address? ("Madame Speaker") - I had SPEAKER, but ... couldn't figure out how "address" fit in. Wrote in SENATE SPEAKER and kept it for a while. :(
- 42A: This, in Thuringen (diese) - don't speak German
- 5D: Hockey player Tverdovsky (Oleg) - Where's Cassini when you need him?
- 6D: Youngest of the Culkin brothers (Rory) - Where's Calhoun when you need him?
- 19A: Wrestler Flair (Ric) - Where's Ocasek when you need him?
- 9D: One-room house, typically (igloo) - a one-room house is not typically an IGLOO. An IGLOO is typically a one-room house
- 44D: Tree with double-toothed leaves and durable wood (red elm) - I knew it was some kind of ELM, but ...
Really really disliked the following (and again, intersecting) pair of simple answers with insane, trying-too-hard clues:
- 21D: It has many functions (math) - ... ? OK. It sure does. I mean, I get it, but ... are the "functions" of MATH actually finite? Can you count them, such that "many" makes sense? If so, how many functions?
- 24A: Runners with hoods (autos) - my least favorite clue. As with MATH, it occurred to me, but then seemed too ridiculously easy or ordinary to be correct. I think I don't like that both MATH and AUTOS are abbreviations too (of a sort). Just got a rubbed-the-wrong-way feeling off of both these answers
Loved the twin skin pic clues:
- 10D: Skin pics? (cheesecake)
- 12D: Skin pic? (tat)
If I ever got a TAT, there's a high likelihood that it would involve CHEESECAKE. So far, though, I'm TAT-free - except for this temporary TAT of the local minor league baseball team's mascot that I'm currently sporting on my left hip (long story involving daughter). In addition to the 2x skin pics, nice doubling of Teddy Roosevelt on 34D: Home of Theo. Roosevelt Natl. Park (N. Dak.) and 46A: Regulation targets for Theodore Roosevelt: Abbr. (RRs). Another great doubling effect is the intersection of PIGPENS (40D: Dumps) and DIRT POOR (50A: Hard up). PIG PEN is my second-favorite "Peanuts" character behind Franklin.
Liked the cluing on PICKETERS (43A: Striking figures) and GYM SHOES (20A: They might just squeak by in a basketball game) and PRICE TAG (7A: Shock source, sometimes), though that last one should probably be STICKER, since that's the phrase that's in the language: sticker shock. There were a couple of ancient clues that might have proved tricky for some - 2D: Pantheon heads? (capita) and 23D: Ancient meeting places (agoras); actually, that last one should be a near-gimme for frequent solvers.
I have never in my life seen POE's name written thusly: E.A. POE (31A: "Berenice" author, briefly). Feel about HAIR (36D: Eyebrow makeup) the same way I feel about MATH and AUTOS, above. Boo! Never watched "Entourage" so didn't know 13D: Agent Gold on HBO's "Entourage" (Ari) - I guessed IRA at one point, which is anagrammatically correct. Super happy to remember 32D: Desert Storm reporter (Arnett), even if I did have him as ARNESS to start. Lastly, and most embarrassingly, it took me For Ever to get what should have been the gimme-est of gimmes for this erstwhile medievalist - was looking for something much more generic at 3D: Fights with knights (The Crusades). JOUSTS? TOURNAMENTS? I studied this stuff for Years!!! So sad. And yet ATRA (22A: Grooming brand introduced in 1977) I got almost instantly. Can't remember what he studied in school forever, but shaving products he knows only from TV ads ... those leap straight to the front of his mind.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld