Saturday, November 23, 2013

Saturday, November 23, 2013, Frederick J. Healy


We came home last night, tired and tipsy, and finished all but a handful of squares in fifteen minutes or so, then fell asleep. By the time I woke up this morning, Frannie had finished it off. This must be the first time all year that our times went backwards from Thursday to Saturday. Very odd.

This wasn't terrible, but I didn't like several pieces of it. The crossing of SPICA (24A: Star in Virgo) and LITA (21D: Grammy-nominated Ford) ("nominated?") seemed especially unfair. Frannie says she tried "I" simply because the rules of the English language made it seem plausible. "E" was equally plausible, I think, but either way, it was a crapshoot. Another quibble was BOOTEES (18A: Couple seen at a baby shower). Who has ever spelled "booties" that way? And RESHOES (57A: Does some farrier's work on) was weak, but not horrible. TABUS (30D: They're off-limits: Var.), on the other hand…

On the bright side, I enjoyed that "Irani" fit into 28A: Modern Persian (FARSI), and that either could have been correct. I liked SALTON (31A: California's ___ Sea (rift lake)), because I haven't thought of that in a while, but why did they feel that adding "rift lake" was a good idea? or necessary? or helpful? Just because it's not really a sea? Does that matter? I also quite liked the three esses in a row in 13D: Tepid consent (GUESSSO). That looks great.

Tons of "scrabble letters" in the grid today. Maybe Mr. Healy was going for the highest scrabble point value ever in a puzzle. Is that a thing, I wonder? I'll check over on Wordplay after I write this. They'll mention it if it is. It might explain the unevenness and relative easiness.

ULALUME (2D: Title name written "on the door of this leg ended tomb" in poetry) twice in one month? And as Huygens pointed out recently, a knowledge of French comes in handy when solving these. Today's SAIS (44A: "Que ____-je?" ("What do I know?": Fr.)) was one of the tougher ones (although still pure French I stuff) that we've seen lately. And right after that, AUSSI (48A: Too, to Thérèse). He could have gone one step further and clued SOI (6D: "____ see") with French, too, but perhaps two was enough.

Bottom line: too easy for Saturday.

- Horace


  1. 55 minutes
    Yes, very easy for a Saturday, but there was some good stuff. I starred 34A Person with small inventions (FIBBER) and 31D Pole star? (SANTA). I also liked the BART/BELCH pairing. But I did NOT like TABUS. I've never seen it spelled that way, but it is an accepted variation, so OK. I was able to fill in SPICA right away, and JUJITSU/JETSFAN crossing in the NW let me start there and solve the grid clockwise. FARSI held me up for a short time and had me rethinking the correctness of the VISE/VALET pair, but all-in-all I was challenged sufficiently (like Thursday) and was able to finish the grid, which is nice.

  2. 30:11. What's with ULALUME? Never heard of it before doing these puzzles recently. I liked IPANEMA, and the cluing for SEDER was fun. Also JAZZAGE was good, because I was stuck on Jail for the first for letters.

  3. Huygens, SANTA and the BART/BELCH pairing were quite nice. Interesting that you knew SPICA, but, I guess, not terribly surprising.

    And Colum, I had already been singing "Girl from Ipanema" all week, and this only makes it worse.

  4. Oh, and it's always nice when Big Daddy Bach (as Peter Schickele calls him) makes an appearance.

  5. I will join the chorus of folks saying this was easy. I liked it quite a bit, though. SALTON takes me back to my first ever visit to San Diego with Cindi, must have been in the early 80s. The pilot, in one of his folksy, reassuring announcements, informed us that we were passing over that body of water, which I had never heard of before. I'm sure we can all agree on the great cluing of the over-used TNT. And yes, Hope (or Colum), what's with the double dose of ULALUME. That's a relatively obscure Poe poem, noteworthy mostly for its cool sound play. I loved the clue for HANGTIME, since, as far as I'm aware, that's not an actual NBA-kept statistic. Not sure I knew that definition of PASEOS. I thought it was a dance, and a car. Thought the proper names were of very good quality: (in) ZANZIBAR (a shootin' star was ridin' in a side car hummin' a lunar tune), CEZANNE, JAKARTA, . . . BLITZEN, EPSTEIN. Yes, Horace, LITA-SPICA, and PENTE-PIAS were both potential Naticks, for sure. I knew the star and the game, so they were not hard at all for me. Usually it's "pia mater," right? And I certainly couldn't have told you where that was in the body. Perhaps Colum could have. ; )

  6. The pia mater is the closest layer of surrounding membrane around the brain and spinal cord. It is very thin, and defines the subarachnoid space. The thicker layer that comes next is called the dura mater and defines the subdural space. However, I don't see how you can really pluralize pia (you only have one in your body). I was looking for CSFs (for cerebral-spinal fluids) which also doesn't really go plural.