Pitt athlete / FRI 8-12-11 / Coins for Cicero / Varmints in classic cartoon line / Language with no word for hello / British dish American Hot Brown
Friday, August 12, 2011
intr.v., fleered, fleer·ing, fleers.
To smirk or laugh in contempt or derision.
A taunting, scoffing, or derisive look or gibe.
[Middle English flerien, of Scandinavian origin.]
• • •Wow, this was two, two, two puzzles in one. Ate up the NW and then hit the middle and went nowhere. Got ITCHIER (26A: Having more bites, say) and thus tried to get into the NE — no luck. Plugged FROWN into the SE and quickly knocked that corner out, then went back to the middle ... and again went nowhere (you can see now that ST. JOE (23D: Missouri metro) and ENJOY were trouble—I had 3/4 of the puzzle done before I finally got them). Thanked god for PANTHER (39A: Pitt athlete) (because before that I had ADESTE where FALALA should be and SOPS where RETS [wince] should be: 40D: Softens in water, in a way) and easily took care of the SW. Mopped up the middle and headed for the NE. And went nowhere. Fast. In retrospect, this is not surprising. There's no way I would've gotten DENARII (new to me: 6D: Coins for Cicero) from the "I" or REGRADE from the "E" — at least in part because I have trouble imagining the request: "Uh, yeah, I wasn't really happy with this grade, so ... REGRADE?" I guess if the professor or T.A. missed something or made an out-and-out mistake, maybe. Anyway, let's talk about LOVE-SHY (15D: Having a hard time connecting?). Why have I never heard this phrase before? I see that there is a pop song with the name, and the phrase is in dictionaries, but me, I got SHY, and GUN SHY, and then I got Nothing. Run LOVE-SHY and DENARII through FLEERED (another new-to-me word) and you have the recipe for a hard-Saturday-slow corner. If you look at all the other corners—chock full of familiar words and phrases and reasonably in-the-language stuff—and then look at the NE, I *hope* you can see how inferior that corner is.
I know it often looks like "oh, he doesn't like it when he has to struggle." This just isn't true. I don't like it when I'm struggling because of a chunk of obscurish fill. DENARII is easily the most obscure answer in the puzzle. I'm gonna say FLEERED is the second-most obscure (although RETS is up there; RETS at least has some crossword currency). LOVE-SHY is probably in the top ten obscure answers in this grid. These words should not all be running through one another. I think this is a gorgeous puzzle in the parts that aren't the NE. Also, I think LONG BED (17A: Kind of pickup) should've been FLAT BED, if only because of the Eagles song:
Also, the clue for MEECES should NOT have a comma in it (9D: Varmints, in a classic cartoon line). Mice (MEECES) are a subset of "Varmints." You would not clue BEARS as [Animals]. The comma in the clue implies the word will be a synonym for "Varmints," where the lack of a comma would imply that the latter part of the clue [in a classic cartoon line] was restrictive, i.e. specifying a *kind* of varmint (which it is). [Cat prey, in a classic cartoon line] works. This clue doesn't.
- 19A: Tenth Commandment subject (AVARICE) — damn tough clue. I don't have the numbers of my Commandments memorized, so I had to scroll: "NEIGHBOR'S WIFE? KILL? GODS BEFORE ME? Come on!"
- 24A: Beans and others (SIDES) — you almost never see a plural followed by "and others"—would seem to be redundant. Found this clue, like most things in the NE, tough.
- 13D: Creator of "The Simpsons" (GROENING) — this is the kind of answer where it's either a flat-out gimme (as it was for me) or a total "WTF."
- 30D: It's typed with the left pinkie (LETTER A) — Looked at my left pinkie and thought "well, it's LETTER-something." "T" from PANTHER helped confirm this suspicion.
- 4D: "My" girl in a 1979 hit (SHARONA) — I have spent the past few days lost in Spotify (which is amazing; google it if you don't know what it is—and look for it to appear in your crossword puzzle in the next 3-6 months. I guarantee you that all the top constructors have put it in their databases by now). For reasons I'll tell you about some day, I have been wanting to create a playlist of every song that charted on the Billboard Top 40 between 1978 and 1980. With the help of my "Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits" and Spotify, I am just about halfway done. Haven't quite made it to the "M"s yet—I should hit "My SHARONA" today. I hit this other hit from The Knack a couple days ago:
- 12D: Big name in wafers (NECCO) — not NILLA.
- 45A: British dish with an American version called a Hot Brown (RAREBIT) — dear lord, who named "Hot Brown??" Was able to get this one off just [British dish]. "Dream of the RAREBIT FIEND" is a class comic by Winsor McKay. I wonder if they were linked in the original clues for this puzzle. Weirdly coincidental to have RAREBIT and FIEND (35A: Enthusiast) in the same quadrant.