Handel work featuring David / SAT 2-22-13 / Cretan peak / Yucca named by Mormon settlers / Live at Apollo airer / Coiner of phrase global village / Phishing string / Noted Titanic couple / Biblical figure believed to be buried near Basra / 1994 Emmy winner for Dvorak in Prague
Friday, February 22, 2013
Constructor: Martin Ashwood-Smith
Relative difficulty: Challenging
Word of the Day: "Mrs. 'ARRIS" (11D: "Mrs." in a Paul Gallico novel title) —
Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Paris is the title of a Paul Gallico novel originally published in 1958. In the United Kingdom, it was published as Flowers for Mrs Harris. It was the first in a series of four books about the adventures of a London charwoman. (wikipedia)
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As quad-stacks go, this is fine, but quad-stacks are generally miserable things, and I mostly felt miserable solving this thing. First, it was misplaced on a Friday (very clearly a Saturday puzzle, difficulty-wise). Second, just ... all the junk you get with quad-stacks. MARSHALL MCLUHAN is a very fine 15 (29A: Coiner of the phrase "global village"), but the rest are just OK at best. WTF is an ORATORIO SOCIETY? (38A: Group that might perform 16-Across) That's a thing? I know each of those words individually, but would never think to put them together. That's the thing about most tall stacks—you get at least one if not several 15s that are perhaps defensible, but pretty weak. ACCOUTERING is a word I hope never to encounter again (24D: Getting in gear). I eat OATMEAL every morning. I suppose that I have OATMEAL CEREAL every morning (9D: Quaker offering), but of course I'd never say that. The most irksome thing about the puzzle was how many "?" clues there were. Ridiculous. Lost their charm Very quickly. I think half a dozen should be about the max, and they should be *spot* on. Today, 11 (?!?!). And most are ... you know, OK, though "suggestion" is absurd for SEDAN (13D: Auto suggestion?) and the distance between your average BOXER and "lord" is pretty great (49D: Lord of the ring?). Overall, this was just a slog, with only Mr. Mcluhan, JOSHUA TREE, and JUDY GARLAND giving me any pleasure (15D: "Judgment at Nuremberg" Oscar nominee).
Pretty quick start in the NW, but this is a highly segmented grid, so making good progress in one area doesn't have much bearing on your overall success. So I came out of there and couldn't turn down, so went across and methodically put away the NE. But no matter what I did, the quad-stack wouldn't budge. Even when I drove ASTORS (26D: Noted Titanic couple), TEN HORSEPOWER (19D: Like some outboard motors), and JUDY GARLAND right through it, none of the Acrosses made any sense to me. A lot of those short Downs in there were super-ambiguous. In fact ... I think AT ME and NYE'S were the only ones I had. PEAK for HEAP (35D: Mountain). GYNS (is that a thing?) for MOMS (29D: Delivery people?). ROOF for LIEN (32D: It may be on the house). EAVE for LIEN. MARIO'S for LUIGI'S (26D: Nintendo's ___ Mansion). Bumbled around in the south and eventually worked it all out, but that still left a ridiculously empty middle. So I just started throwing in answers off the top of my head, just to get some kind of action going, something that might turn up a juxtaposition or letter string that triggered a correct 15. It was changing MARIO'S to LUIGI'S that got me both -GAME and -SOCIETY, which finally tipped the scales in my favor. I think I ended with A RAT—somewhere in there.
You have to admire the alliteration in 14A: Biblical figure believed to be buried near Basra (EZRA), if nothing else. I always thought of JOSHUA TREE as a place (in CA), not an actual tree, so that clue / answer surprised me a bit (15A: Yucca named by Mormon settlers). I'd complain about there being nothing to signal the abbrev. in MT. IDA, but a. I've been told that, arbitrarily, one doesn't really have to signal it in "hard" puzzles (?), and b. I knew instantly that it was MT. something (20A: Cretan peak). OSSA was too long, so ... IDA. SSNS is bad fill, but [Phishing string: Abbr.] is about as good a clue as that answer's ever gonna get. Steinbeck's twins? Ugh, I don't even remember what this is from. East of Eden? Yup. Caleb (CAL) and Aaron. OK. Probably should remember that. Thought the "That '70s Show" answer was OWEN WILSON at first (it's been a while since I saw that show) (and it's LUKE WILSON) (57A: He played Casey Kelso on "That '70s Show"). Needed 3 of 4 crosses to get [Linchpin locale] (AXLE). Strangely, CRUET was the first thing I put in the grid (3D: Oil vessel). Without it, man, I'd've been lost up there. OZAWA won an Emmy? (2D: 1994 Emmy winner for "Dvorák in Prague) JESSE Reno is ... somebody? (1D: General Reno for whom Reno, Nev. is named) "SAUL" is a Handel work? (16A: Handel work featuring David) Easy with CRUET, likely impossible without it.