Monday, May 26, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: DENTISTS (29A: Experts with the ends of 17- and 55-Across and 10- and 24-Down)
I'm having a lot of trouble with the way the puzzle is using "with" lately. Three times in the past few days I have misunderstood a clue that had "with" in it. In normal cluing parlance, "with" signifies an addition, e.g. [Vegas landmark, with "The"] => SANDS. In today's theme-identifying clue, "with" does not mean that the "Experts" have the things in their possession, but that they are "expert" at installing or otherwise putting them on. This may sound like a small matter ... and it is. It's just that the "with" creates a lot of ambiguity here. Am I looking for suffixes? Words that can be added to the end of some word? This is not a complaint about the puzzle, just an explanation (perhaps) of why this puzzle took me somewhat longer than normal to finish.
Another odd feature of this puzzle is that DENTISTS does not have a symmetrical theme entry to balance it out ... unless DENTISTS are also experts at FIREARMS (42A: Rifle and revolver). Again, not a complaint. I like that the puzzle will allow for some lack of symmetry now and again, especially when the element lacking symmetry is different in kind from the other theme answers (i.e. is a theme-revealing answer, or a complementary answer, as JAMES was yesterday).
- 17A: Strap-on leg supports (knee BRACES)
- 10D: It sets things off (blasting CAP)
- 24D: Feat for Secretariat (Triple CROWN)
- 55A: Mincemeat, e.g. (pie FILLING)
I had trouble right out of the box with 1A: Irons or Woods (actor) - Clearly Irons was Jeremy, but Woods meant only TIGER to me, and since the clue was clearly punning on golf terminology, my confusion deepened. Took me forever (after I had ACTOR in place) to figure out what actor was named WOODS (James - he's very good, just not, you know, the first WOODS you think of). As I told Orange last night after finishing the puzzle in a somewhat above-average time, there were a good handful of answers that just didn't come to me instantly (the way good Monday answers are supposed to). I tripped over:
- 57D: Debt-incurring Wall St. deal (LBO) - I know what those letters stand for, but clearly I had no idea what they meant. If my brain wanted anything here, it was IPO.
- 44D: Tax-exempt investment, for short (Muni) - mmm, more financial fill. Nothing livens up a puzzle like finances. If only there were a TBILL or IRA in this puzzle.
- 23D: Bank statement abbr. (int.) - ah yeah, that's the stuff... (this one I got instantly, actually)
- 47D: 2007 Masters champion Johnson (Zach) - he has given legitimacy to this name, so look out. The guy is still "Generic White Man #847" to me, but maybe eventually he'll turn into something more memorable.
- 27D: Title heroine played by Shirley Temple in 1937 (Heidi) - I wasn't quite alive then. In that my parents weren't quite alive then.
- 63A: Things to salve (sores) - Gross. I went with the salve itself here, and wrote in BALMS ... :(
- 46A: Waste reservoir (sump) - about as attractive an answer as SORES. Needed a cross or two to jar this word loose.
- 25D: Three wishes granter (genie) - I feel as if this answer can be spelled about a billion ways. Today, I went with GENII, which is probably a plural.
- 41A: Cancel, at Cape Canaveral (scrub) - this started out as ABORT, then went to SCRAP ... then finally to SCRUB. Apparently getting your song onto the show "Scrubs" can have a tremendous impact on your career as a musical group. This was the ultra-depressing fact I learned yesterday while listening to NPR. The most generic-sounding group in the world was ecstatic that their song had gotten onto "Scrubs," and then heavy rotation at VH1 (that's still a station?). One of the band members contended that "there are literally thousands of bands out there trying to get that slot on 'Grey's Anatomy' or 'Scrubs'..." I wanted to stop him right there, Right There, and say "Stop. That, THAT is why the music on my radio Sucks So Bad." Everyone wants to sound like background music to a trumped-up emotional moment on a TV show geared toward consumers aged 18-39. Hence, everyone sounds like Matchbox 20 and I want to gouge my ears out.
- 14A: Old Big Apple restaurateur (Sardi) - wanted only TOOTS.
Good stuff today includes:
- MIASMA (44A: Poisonous atmosphere) - a fantastic word that reminds me of a word I've never seen in the puzzle, but would like to: FUG.
- ROUE (18D: Rakish sort) - in my mind, this guy is always skinny and leering and sporting a magnificent long mustache that he twirls in devilish fashion. He's also living in 1883.
- DARK SPOT (37D: Appearing and disappearing feature on Jupiter) - we landed another rover on Mars last night. Are we really hoping to extend human presence throughout the universe? We suck at taking care of ourselves on this planet, and it's Custom-Made for us...
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld