SATURDAY, Nov. 22,2008 - Frank Longo (Italian port with ruins of an imposing Aragonese castle / Anne Nichols title protagonist / Bog youngster)
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Relative difficulty: Challenging
I have a 9:00am appt. this morning (on a Saturday!?) so this will be brief.
Love the grid shape. Honestly, I thought it was an Obama puzzle when I first saw it. That, or an Oprah puzzle. I rated the puzzle "Challenging" even though it's actually been made slightly easier since I test-solved it a couple weeks ago. Still, I think it's tough. Tough but good. I really enjoyed the struggle, despite running into several words I'd never heard of. Started off so happy and strong when I laid AMERICAN TABLOID in the grid right away. First thing. No crosses. That is one of my favorite books of the last century, which is weird, because the first time I picked it up, I thought "this is annoying as hell - I'm not reading this." Then I persisted. The brain-pounding tabloid style of writing never relents - for 500+ pages - and yet I think the book is Beautiful. Oh, I should add that it is essentially historical fiction (with actual historical figures imagined as characters throughout), which is a genre I typically avoid like beets.
After my AMERICAN TABLOID epiphany, it was slow from there on. Well, the bottom of the puzzle ended up being very tractable, but I was not able to move into the middle easily - you think 35A: A firefighter at work may be in it (immediate danger) is tough, try the original clue: [Peril that's upon one]. Ugh. Eventually I rebooted in the top section, starting with the gimme PTL (27A: Old TV ministry), guessing CATSUPS off of that (1D: Fast-food restaurant packets), and then working W to E from there. But the Center was where I made my Last Stand. Huge open space in the middle was tough to get ahold of, even with STAEL being a gimme for me (though I spelled her name STAHL to begin with - 46A: Author Madame de _____). The real toughies were SPRITES and BOTNETS. Despite currently teaching Shakespeare, I completely repressed the identity of Robin Goodfellow (Puck), as I (unlike many) can't stand that play and don't teach it if I don't have to (42A: Robin Goodfellow and others). And BOTNETS - just unknown to me. I know what BOTS are, I know what NETS are ... but this hybrid, no. I'm pretty sure cracking STRUDEL (25D: Cobbler alternative) was the primary key to finishing this puzzle off.
- 1A: Vis-à-vis (compared against)
- 16A: Age-old retaliation (a tooth for a tooth)
- 17A: Having no inaccuracy whatsoever (true to the letter)
Of those three, only A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH feels very solid. The others feel like phrase where someone meant to say a better known phrase but got confused.
- 31A: Fix things (solve the problem) - straightforward
- 35A: A firefighter at work may be in it (immediate danger) - we covered this; it's good
- 51A: James Ellroy novel that Time magazine named best fiction book of 1995 ("American Tabloid")
- 57A: Suitable for all (General Audience) - Like the movie-oriented adjectival use of this phrase here
- 58A: Idolizes (sets on a pedestal) - well, I had PUTS, initially, of course, but that's OK
- 36D: Writer whose novella "Carmen" is the basis of Bizet's opera (Merimee)
- 37D: Musical ornament using tow quickly alternating tones (mordent)
- 38D: "La Traviata" lover Alfredo _____ (Germont)
And the rest:
- 43A: "Blood hath been shed _____ now": Macbeth ("ere") - coincidence - this is the play I'm currently teaching in Shakespeare. Not that you need to know the play to get this. This answer should have been a gimme for most of you.
- 2D: Italian port with ruins of an imposing Aragonese castle (Otranto) - Know this place because friends of mine had to read the Gothic "Castle of Otranto" when I was in grad school. And I knew TORONTO wasn't Italian.
- 3D: Longtime Arizona congressman who ran for president in 1976 (Mo Udall) - I think two more UDALLs were just elected to the Senate. Yes, in New Mexico and Colorado.
- 4D: People who deal with stress successfully? (poets) - clever
- 5D: Quintillionth: Prefix (atto-) - mystery to me; don't use quintillionths very often.
- 6D: Pythagorean character (rho) - it's a Greek letter, and it fit
- 7D: Bog youngster (eft) - little newt
- 11D: Amenhotep IV's god (Aten) - having seen this in a recent puzzle Really helped
- 15D: Time for an emergency phone call? (three a.m.) - LOVE this answer.
- 33D: TV bear (Ben) - love this answer too. This goes out to Serena. Rest in peace, kitty:
- 50D: Anne Nichols title protagonist (Abie) - hard to recognize this piece of crosswordese without "Rose" or "Broadway" nearby.
- 55D: Shrovetide concluder: Abbr. (Tue.) - Ah, "concluder." That's the stuff.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld