Thursday, April 18, 2013

Thursday, April 18, 2013, Stu Ockman


Two words: Bru. Tal. That's what this was. It had us on the run right from the start, and though we got the revealer - ALPS (68A: High points of which five are found going up in this puzzle) - somewhat early, and we even noticed the slanted letters A-L-P going up in a few places (and down in one!), it wasn't until the two-hour mark that we finally finished the south-central block and were left with LEG (67A: Long writers' blocks?), that we finally had the big breakthrough. That odd answer, combined with NATION (44A: Baseball, in America), finally did it. We both had wanted NATIONALPASTIME from the get-go, and lo and behold, there it was. All we had to do was climb the Alps to get all the answers we needed. Once you're up there the view is clear, but how exhausting! Hoc opus, hic labor est!

I actually like the trick, now that we finally found it, and ordinarily, I'd love such a clever puzzle, but this one fought us so hard even in the regular fill that I just can't give it a thumbs up. POME (14A: Apple, e.g.) crossing OMAR (6D: Stickup man on "The Wire")?? The M was a guess based solely on the French "pomme," and didn't really feel fair. PAROL (43A: Spoken, as evidence)? Again, sounds vaguely French, but I've never heard it used like that, without an E. ALDOL (51D: Perfume ingredient)? Never heard of it. SELAH (26A: Psalm ender)? Whaa? And finally (I could probably go on, but what's the point?) I only know "Aria da capo" from Bach's Goldberg Variations. It is used when the aria from the head (capo) of the piece returns at the end. I have seen many versions of that work, and never, ever, have I seen the words in the order given in this puzzle. They wouldn't make any sense that way. Order is important in Italian. It's not like Latin. "From the head aria" doesn't mean the same thing as "Aria from the head." It doesn't mean anything! Bah!

I loved the clues on FELON, ATLAS, OOM (pah-pah), and MRED. And the clue for the oft-seen AMATI (15A: Instrument bearing the coat of arms of France's Charles IX) was interesting and completely new to me.

A complex puzzle, and a real challenge, but too much obscure fill soured the thrill of completion. We stared at T_U_ and STE_S for a good twenty minutes before those last two squares finally fell. Again, I say, exhausting. Sometimes Thursdays are more work than Friday and Saturday, it seems. Here's hoping I don't have to eat my words tomorrow.

- Horace


  1. DNF (TITT worked on it for 66:51)
    Well, I'm glad to see you had trouble, too! I don't feel quite so stupid now. I had nearly the entire thick diagonal from NE to SW filled in in 36:32, but then...very slow and frustrating. As I went to work with all of that filled in I was feeling good about it, thinking "I've got this." I got SELAH right away, having remembered that from the end of nearly every, if not all, of the psalms. I also got ALPS, but thought that it referred somehow to names of the various peaks. Obviously, it was not that. I also got NATION right away, thinking of the oft-heard "Red Sox Nation." Anyway, this was ugly. I enjoy a challenge, but at this time this caliber puzzle is still a bit beyond my skills.

    BY CONTRAST: Telegram - 7:51, Webster Times - 15:24.

  2. I'm glad to know SOMEBODY knew "selah." (I suppose most Christians might have had an easier time than I with that one, actually...) And we thought that same thing about names of peaks! I thought at one point, one of the "---" answers was looking like "E_ER" (it would later turn out to be "OWER") and I thought, "Well, maybe there's a rebus in there, too, and this should be "EIGER." But no.

    It was horribly tough. I really hope the weekend is easy in comparison, but who knows. This one's got us reeling!

  3. Yes! I finished this be-atch. I made an educated guess on the H in SELAH/HILDA, and that was the last square to fall. One of the hardest Thursdays in memory. I actually started my watch on this one but then turned it off after about 55 minutes. At that point I had about 15-20% of the grid unfilled. I was going to leave it for a while, but I stayed at the table and FINALLY saw the trick to the damned thing. I finished in probably around 1:20. What's funny is that I had all five of the ALPs circled, but it wasn't until that 55-minute mark that I saw the way those --- clues worked. For some reason I thought that they were separate from the ALP theme, which, I have to say, is not exactly the most perfectly conceived and executed gimmick I have ever seen. One mistake that I made on this one, though, was underestimating the Times, which I should never do. You'd think I would know that by now. What I mean is that I had "Mechanic" written in for "Engine's output," and while I thought it was a very strange answer, I was content to let it lie uncontested, as it were. And man, was I mystified by "Baseball, in America" for the longest time. That was really humbling me since, of course, I fancy myself a baseball expert. Very satisfying to conquer this beast--and I usually applaud any very difficult Times offering--but I can't say this was among my favorites.

  4. One more note: I had the ALPS answer pretty early in the game, and for a long time I was periodically looking for specific alpine mountains going straight up in the grid. Of course, I couldn't name five alpine mountains, but look for them anyway I did. Never saw hide nor hair of "Blanc" or "Matterhorn." Oh yeah, how about "Eiger"?

  5. Do you ever even read what is written above? You don't make any reference to it, but it seems you had a similar experience to us and to Huygens.

    As I think back on this one, I like it more and more. The trick is just so nice. I think, even, that it stands out as one of the best that we have commented on, so far.