Saturday, November 16, 2013

Saturday, November 16, 2013, David Steinberg


Well, David, now you've done it! You've gone and upset Frannie. I've hardly seen her so despondent over a puzzle. Usually it's me who bemoans our fate, but today, after each of us spent quite a lot of time staring blankly at a nearly empty West side, she thought we might never finish! But lo and behold, things slowly trickled in, and as it happened, it was she who drove the final nail with ABEYANT (7D: Temporarily inactive).

But it wasn't just fear of a DNF that irritated her, it was also things like DOUBLEBED (15A: Tight squeeze for a couple?). We fought long and hard to keep "single bed" in there, which would have made more sense, but eventually PUTTER (3D: Green piece) (actually tried "enviro" first) forced our hand. Maybe that's why the question mark was included on 15A? Another that she didn't love was FORCEQUIT (60A: Prevent a crash, say), both because it is usually employed only after a crash (albeit on the program level, not the system level), and because it offended her PC-loyalist sensibilities. I think that in their world, they just say "Control-Alt-Delete," or some other nonsense. Also, and this isn't such a big deal, but who uses the POKE (30A: Contact on Facebook) function these days? As the daughter of a friend once told me, "The festival of poking is over!"

For my part, ever since Mr. Steinberg's puzzles of March 23, 2013 and April 20, 2013, the sight of his name on a Saturday fills me with a lot of hope and a little dread. I know he can be great, but, like in those other two, he can also be brutal. Take, for example, that SW corner. All the downs were very, very slow to come. We've never heard of ELEONORA (36D: Early tragedienne Duse), and Frannie just had some kind of vague idea that 35D: Pioneering underground publication of the 1960s (ZAPCOMIX) would end in "comix," but we really didn't have any idea how it would start. As for AEONFLUX (37D: 1990s sci-fi series), it might have eluded us forever had I not just spent the past two days in meetings about a software product named "Aeon."

As for the crosses, ALEYARD (39A: Long, slender glass for drinking beer) was first "pilsner," and then "tankard" (yeah, I know, they're not that slender), before the lesser known vessel was revealed. It seems to be lesser known even on Google, where the terms "yard glass," and even "yard of ale" are more easily found. After reading the Wikipedia entry for "Yard of Ale," I feel I should be on the lookout for "Sconce pot" in future Steinberg puzzles. Incidentally, the fastest downing of a yard of ale recorded in the Guinness Book of Records is 5 seconds.

Where was I? Oh, right... ONFIRE (53A: Killing it) and XAXES (64A: Baselines?) were both quite good, and in other areas, we chuckled at BADADVICE (63A: "Buy high and sell low," e.g.), and HAYSEEDS (14D: Provincials) brought a smile. Really, I thought there was quite a bit of good fill, and honestly, I think Franny did too.

Anyhoo... I, for one, have come to feel that all's fair in love and Saturday puzzles, and any time we can spend over two hours with the grid and then finish it, well, that's a good Saturday.

- Horace


  1. OK, I did not finish this one. Interruptions in the middle, and a complete inability to fill anything west of midline left me in major trouble. I did some looking up, and even then I couldn't finish it. I too liked XAXES and BADADVICE. And perhaps I could have gotten further if I had put in OATERS instead of deTERS, but there it is. Ah well, Saturday, you got me.

  2. Perhaps you're just not willing to stare blankly at it for as long as we are. I'd say we'd hit three hours at least before considering abandonment. Maybe when you whip through puzzles as quickly as you normally do, the thought of spending such a long time on them is completely alien.

    Also, there's two of us. Did you show it to Hope?

  3. I don't usually mind staring at a puzzle for a while. But that works better for me when it's pen and paper for some reason. Maybe it's that clock ticking away. In any case, it annoys me that I can't pause the puzzle when I leave the computer for something entirely un-puzzle related. Hope did help me (she got POKE and suggested IMTOOSEXY, although incorrect crossings made that seem wrong at the time). Anyway, better days ahead!

  4. This puzzle sucks. And not just because I missed six squares. I don't even know where to start. As I've said before, Nate Dogg was not a rapper. Yes, I know he's listed that way on many websites, but listen to his music; the man was a hip-hop, R-and-B singer. He sang on the songs of many rappers, but to call him a rapper is just not correct. Next, APPLECARE for "Air protection program" is complete bullshit. As is DOUBLEBED for "Tight squeeze for a couple?" NAYA also blows. I'm not saying it's unfair--not exactly, anyway--I'm just saying it seems pretty damned obscure. It's not available anywhere I've ever shopped. It reeks of a google search. I grudgingly accept things like NHLer and NBAer, but the way that ALER is clued is just plain unfair. Neither O's nor A's is really the name of a team: they are the Orioles and the Athletics. When the rest of the clue is "but not B," I think there should be some acknowledgement of that fact. I'm sure Steinberg is a fairly bright kid, but I prefer puzzles that exude more life experience and acquired knowledge and less "What can I look up that fits here?"