TUESDAY, Nov. 11, 2008 - Nancy Salomon and Larry Shearer (OP's forerunners / 1930s quints' name / Sadat's predecessor)
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
THEME: Direction-related answers ... I think
Well, Tuesday is back to being the freaky black sheep of the family. I haven't disliked a puzzle this much in a long time. The theme does not cohere. It just doesn't. One of the answers does in fact head DUE SOUTH (HEADING DUE SOUTH - 7D: Going straight to Antarctica, say), but the others (the diagonals) have nothing to do with compass directions. SLIP SLIDING AWAY (1Diag: Disappearing) has no clear relation to its placement in the grid. Further, it's a song more than it is a general expression. And RUNNING DOWNHILL (12Diag: Proceeding with little effort) is running backwards ... why? At least "DOWNHILL" has some relation to the answer's grid placement, but still, this is mostly just a mishmosh of direction-related answers that are 15 letters long and that the constructors got to intersect in a common letter at the middle ("D"). Not A Theme. The bar has been set too high when it comes to gimmick puzzles. I've seen diagonal answers before, in puzzles where that conceit was put to compelling (and comprehensible) use. [Pause for pretty music]
As architectural feats go, this one is middling. Further, there are torturous answers along the way, at least one of which is close to unforgivable. I've seen letter strings before - you get in a corner, you get desperate, and only MNO will get you out. Not pleasant, but in an excellent puzzle, completely overlookable. But KLMN (29A: OP's forerunners) has to be the ugliest letter string I have ever seen in a grid. Four letters is Too Long for a letter string (only ABCD and LMNOP can get away with that !@#$ and not look ridiculous). And the poor, poor, beautiful "K" - strung up in this pitiful, degrading manner. Ugh. This is one of those times when I think: "Breakfast Test" be damned. Change it to KLAN and change IGGY to EGGY and bam, you're in business [late addendum: Pete M rightly points out that my suggest emendations would screw up the Diagonals!]. If you can put NAZI in a puzzle (and you can), then you can put KLAN in. KLMN is an abomination, though even it would have been forgotten had this puzzle delivered the goods thematically. I see that "KLMN" has been in a handful of puzzles before. The last time it was in the NYT was in a Manny Nosowsky Thursday puzzle from 8 years ago. That puzzle was fantastic (as most of his are). I'm almost equally annoyed by SCHS (5A: Athletic conference members: Abbr.), but I don't have the energy left to slag on it this morning. I just remember groaning and feeling very depressed when I first entered it into the grid. Abbreviations no one uses and gangly letter strings must serve a higher cause. And I don't see it.
- 17A: Almost-sacrificed son in the Bible (Isaac) - rereading Genesis right now, coincidentally. Thank God for that ram (seriously, thank God)
- 22A: 1930s quints' name (Dionne) - I prefer this DION:
And not this DION (although this is, by far, my favorite Christmas Carol):
Another version of this carol (we'll return to the puzzle in a sec)
- 33A: Part of a ship's bow (hawse) - heard of a HAWSER, not a HAWSE
- 60A: Company that introduced NutraSweet (Searle) - this is fast becoming a puzzle staple, sadly
- 2D: Highland pattern (plaid) - Tartan!
- 10D: Bliss before the hard part begins (honeymoon) - this is good ... and timely.
- 11D: Tagged on a diamond (out) - yes, true enough. Well, you can tag a guy who is touching a base, either because your tag is late, or because you're trying to convince the ump that your glove was on him before the guy got there, but that's overthinking it.
- 36D: "Miss Universe" holder (sash) - mmm, "holder," one of the most oft-abused clue words in the lexicon.
- 44D: Certain rec centers (YWCAs) - went with YMCAs at first, not surprisingly
- 49D: Sadat's predecessor (Nasser) - Always want to spell it NASSAR, which looks like NASCAR, which should help me remember that I'm way off base.
- 54D: _____ Gravas, role in "Taxi" (Latka) - Andy Kaufman! Here's a clip to end this otherwise unsatisfying puzzling day
Let the spirited defense of this puzzle begin!
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
PS Best Repurposing of a Crossword Grid goes to ...