Thursday, May 15, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: SUNRISE, SUNSET (36A: Classic Broadway show tune, or a hint to the word ladder revealed by the answers to the eight starred clues) - word ladder goes from DAWN to DUSK
The sun rises in the east and sets in the west, and yet this puzzle has DAWN in the west and DUSK in the east. Isn't anyone editing this puzzle!?!? I am of course kidding. This puzzle is fantastic - everything a Thursday puzzle should be. It's got a complex theme that covers the grid in an unexpected pattern, and though I'm not big on Broadway, the central theme answer, SUNRISE, SUNSET, clues the word ladder perfectly. There are also a host of wacky, odd, offbeat answers in the non-theme fill that made the entire solving experience a real pleasure. Oh, I didn't even mention the majestic 3x8 letter columns in the NE and SW. Really professional work all around.
- 1: *Beginning (dawn)
- 18A: *"Rats!" ("darn!")
- 22A: *Makeshift hangar (barn)
- 33A: *_____ center (burn)
- 41A: *Right face, e.g. (turn)
- 53A: *Relative of an Azerbaijani (Turk)
- 59A: *Narwhal feature (tusk)
- 66A: *End (dusk)
Also very impressive to have completed the word ladder without having gone through DARK, which would have screwed up the theme but good. If it's DARK before DUSK ... you've got one of three problems: 1. Blindness, 2. Eclipse, 3. Armageddon.
There are lots of names in this puzzle, many of them delightfully uncommon. We've seen OLEG before, but usually as Cassini, not as whoever this guy is: 15A: Former heavyweight champ Maskaev. We've seen RENEE before, but usually not in a gaggle (RENEES!?) and almost certainly not in the form of an actress who played a secondary role on a (mercifully) bygone TV show (40A: Taylor of "The Nanny" and others). Fleming and Zellweger will have to sit this one out. I've read ALISON Lurie before, otherwise I might have been in trouble there (2D: "Familiar Spirits" author Lurie), and I remember Melvin BELLI as a famous attorney from the pre-OJ era of famous attorneys (61A: Attorney with the autobiography "My Life on Trial"). I thank "The Daily Show" for hammering the name Porter GOSS into my head (65A: Porter _____, former C.I.A. director). I guess I should have known that Llosa was from PERU, but I did not (25A: Home of novelist Mario Vargas Llosa). Further, "film producer" is not the first thing that pops into my head for DODI Al-Fayed (5D: Film producer _____ Al-Fayed), though what does pop into my head involves either sex or death in ways that probably aren't puzzle-appropriate. I enjoyed seeing a blast from my 70s TV past in KRIS (54D: "Charlie's Angels" role) - though I wrote in KATE, confusing a character with the actress KATE Jackson, who played Sabrina. But my favorite of all names in the puzzle, and the one I'm proud came back to me as quickly as it did, was NANOOK (48D: Title subject of a 1922 documentary in the National Film Registry). I don't think I knew what the phrase "Nanook of the North" referred to until very receently - I must have looked it up for something crossword-related (I mean, what else do I do all day?). This would have been easy enough to piece together from crosses, but it was nice to get it off just the "K" today.
- 5A: Year of Pope Sabinian's death (DCVI) - oh, the dreaded Roman numerical pope clue! My first response to this clue: "Pope who?"
- 14A: Program of variety acts (olio) - the other OLEO. I know OLIO as a general hodgepodge; didn't know it had any theatrical significance.
- 21A: _____ jure (by the law itself) (ipso) - one of many instance where ordinary fill is hiding behind fancy cluing. The "itself" part of the clue tells you IPSO (or IPSA, I guess, theoretically).
- 27A: Peter who wrote "Underboss" (Maas) - I've been fooled by this @#$# several times. By "fooled" I mean "completely stumped." Never again, Mr. MAAS. Mafia + Boss = MAAS.
- 31A: Sight from Lake Victoria (Entebbe) - had a word ending in -BBE ... hmm, what could that be. Buster CRABBE? ... too short.
- 49A: Some particulates (soot) - I wanted SOFT. Is that a thing? SOFT particulates?
- 42A: Apple picker? (Mac user) - hey, the puzzle's talking about me. This clue / answer pairing is So good. I looked at my grid this morning and thought I had an error: "What's a MACUSER!" A: Someone who sullies you by accusing you of a horrible crime while holding artwork by Constantin Brancusi. It's a very specialized word.
- 52A: Lobster claw (chela) - welcome to wonderful word of high-end crosswordese. "How will I remember this?," you ask. Well, just start calling all the lobsters that you meet "Sheila," and you are well on your way.
- 7A: They've got a lot of pull (oxen) - cute, but, not being familiar with how one controls OXEN, I balked at the tie-in answer, GEES (55A: Calls to 57-Across). I thought GEES were for horses.
- 60D: Nearest major airport to Bush's Crawford ranch (Waco) - busy airport this past weekend, I bet, what with all the wedding festivities and what not.
- 62A: Culturally showy (arty) - not sure about "culturally" here. What does that even mean? It's too vague and imprecise a word here. Clue needs some indication of self-consciousness or pretentiousness.
- 64A: Leaves in a salad (cress) - very nice. Seen the clue before (or one like it), but not for CRESS.
- 1D: Mater _____ (Mary, in Latin prayers) (Domini) - OK, I guess I had DOMINE here ... it's all fuzzy at this point.
- 7A: The "16" in "3:16" (verse) - here's Matthew 3:16, for example:
And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him.
In other dove news, I have been seeing doves lighting upon my garage.
- 10D: Portion of a trick-or-treater's haul (caramels) - just a fantastic clue. Trying to write clues for my first puzzle, and it is Way harder than you might imagine (I mean, you can just steal old clues from the cruciverb database, but I tend to go there only as a last resort, just to see what the conventions have been).
- 13D: J.F.K. visitor, once (SST) - aha, the old anthropomorphosis trick (didn't fool me for one second, so find it adorable).
- 32D: Kind of acid found in oak (tannic) - for all you (insufferable) wine experts out there.
- 36D: Heaviest member of the weasel family (sea otter) - THIS is my favorite clue in the whole puzzle, in that I imagine a big otter floating on his back eating abalone (if there's any left in the ocean at this point), hearing this clue and replying "Hey, who you callin' heavy!?" Or I imagine a big, fat weasel sitting in his lounge chair in front of the TV making one of the other members of his weasel family get him another beer.
- 38D: Swiss nationals, historically (neutrals) - one step below "Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeys."
- 46D: Austin school, informally (Texas U.) - ??????? So "informally" that I've Never heard this expression. Emily, I need a ruling. Do you guys actually call yourselves this?
- 58D: "Dirty Sexy Money" airer (ABC) - I miss this show. It can't decide if it's campy or serious ... which is a kind of confusion I love.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld