Friday, January 30, 2015

Friday, January 30, 2015, David Phillips


I found this an odd puzzle. On my first passthrough, I had a number of down answers entered (incorrectly in several cases), but almost no acrosses. I like the shape of the grid, with nice open chunks of real estate and connections between sections that are several spaces across usually. Somehow, though, it didn't play as enjoyably as I might have hoped.

2D was my first entry, with a nice quotation from Desmond Tutu, which didn't hide the love of my life very well (HOPE). ETHAN was an easy answer, and a reference to an outstanding movie. Then I entered 8D: Not much, as of salt (ADASH) and the straightforward BLEU at 10D. I toyed with putting AINT in immediately, but held off. Next I erroneously entered lAttE at 22D and AWAIT for 23D: Expect. I put in AWHIRL unhappily (my first across entry!), and then wanted RHein, which slowed me for a while because of ETE.

Anyway, then it was on to the central east section, where I once again erroneously entered "Cleopatra", who shares the same number of letters, remarkably, as NEFERTITI. I knew LOMA and guessed "erect" for 27D: Upright. That answer later morphed to "build" (?! - not a synonym for "Upright", but it is a synonym for "erect" so I clearly lost sight of my clue), and finally much later to the correct ONEND. But with the incorrect Queen of the Nile, I was stuck there too. I should have known sooner, as I immediately had thought of ALLEMANDE for 41A from all of those lovely J.S. Bach solo keyboard suites.

Where I finally started getting traction was in the SW, where FRERE was another French gimme (one of three in the puzzle, thank goodness). I couldn't immediately recall Anna FARIS's last name, but ENTERIN was the thing that opened everything up. After Horace's recent comment on how to solve a crossword puzzle (thank you, sir!), it should come as no surprise that it takes a crossing to make things easier. PEP, PASTES, Ms. FARIS, OFFHOURS, and then SLOE, and then recognizing that Caffe and Cleopatra were wrong. Etc., etc.

I guess the lesson from a solving perspective is when a section refuses to come together, be prepared to "kill your darlings," and erase something.

1A: Sharp (SHREWD) is a great opening to this puzzle. 13A: Take for the road? (HOTWIRE) is another very fine clue-answer pairing. But I have issues with EPEEIST, although it's a great clue. I briefly entered "spearer" and very quickly erased it, but the true answer is not much better. And that was a pattern elsewhere.

CARTOONED - blah. AWHIRL - yuck. FAINTLY, FINESSES - excellent. The pair of heavy metal clues were unknown to me. I like SCHOOLSOUT but not PANTERA. Who?

Anyway, maybe I'm splitting hairs. It's a pretty well done puzzle with just a few things I didn't like.

- Colum


  1. 14:58 - after finding the one error (FWOE)

    I, like you, Colum, got almost nothing on my first pass through the Acrosses, but the downs started to go, and then everything just started crumbling. Frannie only got a chance to play at the very end when the NE wasn't working out for me. She got REAGENT (17A: Chemical synthesis component), HAT (12D: One getting a tip), and then we were both stumped by S_GOS and BED_LIA. I guessed an A, then, figuring it was the one bad square, put in the E. I'm sure that most people are more up on current TV shows than we are, and I guess Bonnie BEDELIA sounds a little familiar, but then, so does a sego lily. Maybe if I hadn't been so impulsive it would have come to me, but, well, I am impulsive.

    I, too, had "lAttE" at first, and though I immediately thought of EPEEIST, I held off from filling it in until it was forced upon me. I also tried "lAmpOONED" at first for CARTOONED. The former would have been better.

    Nice point about having to "kill your darlings." I'm getting ahead a day (because I'm behind a day), but in tomorrow's puzzle we had to rip out our only three answers in the NE (again the NE!) before we could finally finish the thing. Sometimes that's what it takes. And speaking of tomorrow, I tried "recRoom" for STORAGE. Hah!

  2. 31:53
    I had trouble with the E crossing of BEDELIA and SEGOS, as well as, oddly, CASBAH, which I should have known faster. DRUMSOLOS was a gimme, no? I also don't know much about heavy metal, but PANTERA is known to me. I liked BROADAX (15D Weapon in a fantasy role-playing game) crossing XEROXED. Also, DRSCHOLLS looks great in the grid. I agree that "lampooned" would have been much better than CARTOONED, and I originally hoped for the former, but alas. Anyway, typical difficulty level for a Friday.

  3. BTW, I should have written this earlier, but I was surprised by this quite dated clue (46A: Setting for TV's "The Mentalist"). The Mentalist used to be set in SACRAMENTO, but it's been a season and a half since the setting shifted to Houston. Maybe that's quibbling, but it strikes me as too unaware for the usually astute Mr. Shortz and I'm lead to wonder how long puzzles sit in his figurative pipeline before getting published.