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Have I learned a lot about myself, grew and changed as a person, discovered all I CANDO as a blogger? Yes. Have I figured out how to solve a crossword puzzle in under 20 minutes?.....These things take time.
This was probably the easiest puzzle I've done so far. I've never gotten so many Acrosses (does...does Across have a plural that actually works?) on my first try! So, perfect for a Monday, IMO. NESS/NEST, RHEA/AMENRA, and ADEN/OPEN were nice little touches.
Theme was a Monday thing, not a lot more to say for it except that I loved THREECENTPIECE. This was the first puzzle that I've blogged with a Down clue in the theme.
TECHNIQUES (35D: Ways to do things) — TECHNIQUE? TECHNIQUE?!??!?! TECHNIQUE TECHNIQUE TECHNIQUE TECHNIQUE!!!
(That part at the end is definitely still Spongebob.)
HOWTO (14A: Do-it-yourselfer's book genre) — Speaking of which, I have been learning HOWTO play rugby! Yep. I went to a random open rugby practice, loved it, and joined the team totally on a whim. It's so much fun, I get to tackle and maul people!!! No, seriously, "mauling" is an actual rugby thing. I love my sport. <3
NESS (65A: Loch ____ Monster) — also the name of an "Earthbound" character. Since ATARI was also in the puzzle (even though Earthbound is Nintendo), have some awesome music!
RHEAS (33A: Cousins of ostriches) — I was done with my writeup but then I was like, look at this bird.
THEME:"Sound Argument" — ["SOUND" is in the grid at 42D, but we'll just pretend that isn't true] ... "childish debate" (represented by "IS NOT" and "IS TOO") is represented aurally in the wacky theme answers, where the "IS" sound is either added to or subtracted from familiar names and phrases...
FICKLE THERAPIST (21A: *Shrink who's always changing his diagnosis?) (physical therapist minus "IS") (i.e. "physical" with no "IS" sound = "fickle")
DANCING CUISINE (26A: **What ballet patrons dine on?) ("Dancing Queen" + "IS") (i.e. "queen" with an added "IS" sound = "cuisine")
BEA AS A BEAVER (40A: *Oregon State's mascot played by actress Arthur?) (busy as a beaver minus "IS")
BUY ONE GET ONE FRIZZY (54A: **A deal on Afro wigs?) (buy one get one free + "IS")
MURRAY LOVES COMPANY (80A: *How actor Bill feels about houseguests?) (misery loves company minus "IS")
DIG UP DESSERT (95A: **Find cake or Jell-O in the back of the fridge?) (dig up dirt + "IS")
AUTUMN SPECTRUM (113A: *Fall colors?) (autism spectrum minus "IS")
ARE YOU FOR ISRAEL? (121A: **Question from El Al security?) ("are you for real?" + "IS")
Word of the Day: O'SHEAS (15D: Vegas casino with the mascot Lucky the Leprechaun) —
O'Sheas Casino is a casino located within The Linq Resort and Casino on the Las Vegas Strip in Paradise, Nevada. As part of The Linq, it is owned by Caesars Entertainment and is connected on the exterior to a shopping/dining promenade, also owned by Caesars. The revitalized O'Sheas has three bars - the main Dublin Up Bar, the Lucky Bar and the exterior-facing Blarney Bar. The casino includes beer pong tables, a stage, a dance floor and a pit with games including blackjack, roulette and craps. (wikipedia)
• • •
I definitely enjoyed this theme. I am a sucker for repurposed crosswordese. Why not make something pretty out of something terrible. The whole [Playground retort] genre is played right out, but here it's been made into an interesting theme concept. The argument doesn't quite work, because it would seem to be about whether there is or isn't an "IS" (sound), but what happens is the addition of one when it's not there, or the elimination of one when it is, so the two arguers are not arguing about the same thing ... but taken literally, removed from the "childish" argument context, the theme works fine. IS NOT = "IS" sound removed. IS TOO = "IS" sound added. My only issue with the theme is that the last two answers made me wince a little. "ARE YOU FOR ISRAEL?" clued as a security question from El Al just felt creepy and militaristic and ick. Conjured up interrogations and loyalty oaths and all kinds of other crap. In short, tonally, that clue sucked. The autism pun bugged me more, though. HA ha, autism ... is not a juxtaposition I'm comfortable with. I have no problem with AUTISM being an answer, but something about punning on it for your wacky theme answer felt yuck to me. I realize these are just personal feelings. I'm not particularly offended. Just saying the vibe was kinda wrecked for me there at the end. As I say, I enjoyed the puzzle overall.
It's a bit heavy on junk in places, though. It would be great if it had about half as many of these answers: ABORC, ODILE, OSHEAS, NOBU, ALB, SSS, ANYA, SSR, LON (esp. as clued, wtf?), ETALIA, and SATIVA, which is the worst of them all. You can think it's cool and hip because it's pot and all, but a Latin partial is a Latin partial, i.e. boo.
I supposed you could clue with the (re-)pronunciation in a few of these themers, but they seem close enough for government work to me. I had only a slight amount of trouble solving this, and most of that came in the NE, which had a casino I didn't know (ugh to today's poker STU, ugh to casinos), and an abbr. pop star w/o an abbr. clue, and SSS, and a (for me) tough clue on JUJITSU (13D: It has a variety of locks and pins), and what I thought was a comparative but what ended up being a superlative adjective in LEANEST (14D: Like buffalo meat vis-à-vis beef and pork). Oh, also, I couldn't get into the bottom of that section for a while because I couldn't see DECK OUT from DEC- (47A: Festoon). Kept wanting DECORATE or the like, and it kept not working. Had to do a late change of TODDER to DODDER (17A: Move unsteadily). Otherwise, no real issues.
Word of the Day: OYES (57A: Cry for silence and attention) —
• • •
Almost impossible for me to finish. Tough overall, but that's what I expect on a Saturday. Whole puzzle skews before my time, but that also happens. I mean, NYNEX? I can never remember that. The Dells? I listen to lots of old music, still didn't know that. LE CAR? More oldeyness. Silk's puzzles tend to be anchored in the '60s ('60s music, '60s TV, '60s Oswald), when I wasn't yet born, so I routinely find it hard to find footing in his puzzles. But this wasn't what made this puzzle miserable to solve. It all ended up coming down to OYES, which I can't remember ever seeing, and DRIER, which I still don't understand (56A: Oil or ink additive). Secondary problems were NO BET, which I now get but which I had no hope of seeing even with NO-E- in place (I wanted NOTED), and DELOS, which I had has DOLOZ and then DOLOR and then (after I attempted the horrendous but correct OYES) DOLOS, and then I finally realized that the answer to 47A: "Aha!" wasn't "I KNOW IT!" but "I KNEW IT!" And that's where it ended: with a could-be-either vowel crossing a minor Greek island crossing whatever alternate olde-timey junk OYES is. I like challenges! I don't like (at all) when the challenge ends up at the gunkiest, worst-conceived part of the puzzle.
As for DRIER? I just don't know. You add DRIER to oil? DRIER is an additive? My language skills just break down here, as they broke down trying to understand what the hell "provision" meant in 46D: Password provision (ENTRY), as they broke down trying to understand both "Metro" and "line" in 44A: Metro line: Abbr. (RTE). I was staring at this for so long, wishing I could just make the '60s TV sidekick be TONTO, which was the only sidekick I could think of:
I think the only way I pulled out of this was to just start forcing the issue, typing in random things that seemed right but weren't working, and then somehow I shoved ENTRY into 46D and it all came together. The only one I felt bad about not getting more quickly was ROBIN. But man, DRIER. Man. That was the real killer. Still means nothing to me. So that clue on DRIER I really don't like, but I guess I can forgive. The whole I KNEW IT / DELOS / OYES (!?!?) thing. No. That's just bad. DELOS / OYES is bad, and having the mystery vowel in I KNEW IT be inside DELOS is bad. Everything boils down to OYES, which is supremely bad. I think you all are imagining that DELOS is a *lot* more famous than it is. I mean, I recognize it. Now. But ugh. And OYES. Seriously, imagine you struggle with a puzzle only to find out that what you were snagged on was OYES, a terrible, bottom-barrel piece of fill (problem one) that you thought could be spelled only two ways: OYEZ (yes) and OYER (which is, in fact, a part of a legal term—oyer and terminer—but which doesn't, apparently, apply here). OYES? ONO. Boo. I don't really even care about or remember the rest of the puzzle, except COFFEE RUSH is not a thing and QUADRUPLE PLAY is not a thing (even though it is the one thing that broke my puzzle wide open, finally):
From LSTS to OYES. That was my puzzle. LSTS and OYES: appropriately ugly bookends for a puzzle I am happy to put behind me.
Word of the Day: NED Land (18D: Land in a nautical adventure) —
"Canadian whaler and master harpoonist Ned Land," a character in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne (wikipedia)
• • •
Wide open, smooth, and wicked easy (except for the NW, which I finished last and which gave me brief but discernible fits). It started oddly, with ALOU being the only thing I could muster in the NW. And then there was the out-and-out, absolute, I-can't-believe-anyone-doesn't-think-this-is-a *gimme* at 29A: Breakfast dish with hollandaise sauce (EGGS BENEDICT). I had crab cake benedict just last weekend in Minneapolis, but I think I would've nailed this regardless. So after a little bit, my grid looked very, very strange:
I usually build on the answers I already have, and I almost never get a long answer with no crosses in place. So the above grid is freakish-looking to me. Then it gets slightly weirder, as I manage to drop BIERCE (gimme) (30D: "The Devil's Dictionary" author) and LENTIL SOUP (gimme) (28D: Food that Esau sold his birthright for) and then move straight into the SE. So ... strike out in the NW, and then *torch* the puzzle from the middle, down, and over.
[I am pretty PASTY. I am not (I hope) "cadaverous"]
You can see how WENCES got me quickly into that SW corner. That is a gimme for those who are Xers or older, probably, but just as probably baffling and arcane to younger folk. An answer like that can probably be the difference between breezing through a corner and struggling a little. Also, WENCES is never going to look right to you if you don't know it. But I knew it, so ... hurray? Got the brilliant L'ETAT, C'EST MOI and moved easily up the grid and into the NE. That left just the NW, which, as I said, was a totally different puzzle for me. Those two "?" clues side by side meant that I had to work much harder up there, despite having ALOU, and EGGS-, and correctly guessing ERRED and MEDLEY (though I kept doubting the latter). I had the back end of STAGNATION, but couldn't find the front. [Threads] looks plural, though even after guessing it referred to clothing, I could think only of WEAR (?). [Material problem] is exceedingly vague clue for TEAR. Wasn't sure what "Base" meant in [Base players], or what "bill" meant in [It's read for a bill]. But the real toughies were the "?" clues, 2D: You again? (ALTER EGO) and 3D: Fits on a hard drive? (ROAD RAGE), good and great clues, respectively. Good way to slow me down is to bunch up your "?" clues. Drives me mad. With Rage. Of the non-road variety. But the puzzle was undeniably lovely overall.
Very uneven. Unusual and ambitious, but also, at heart, just a boring old word ladder. From WARM to COLD. Why? And why in tiny boxes? Don't know. It definitely required some effort to piece together, that's for sure. Couldn't see the theme at all, or even fill in all the rebus squares properly, until the grid was completed, and I could work backward from COLD—CORD—WORD. Some of the rebus answer clues were almost no help. [Renaissance fair props] for SWORDS??? Ha, no. I could've guessed all day long and not solved S-S. Further, I had no idea what kind of BODY was called for at [Any old person], and I was convinced that ___UP was CUE UP (1D: Get ready to play). I've heard of BIRD'S EYE VIEW, but never ever WORM'S, and EAR ___ made me think only of EAR CANDY. Even after I figured out it was EAR WORM, I thought there was something going on with BIRD'S EYE VIEW and EAR WORM, i.e. a rebus where the crossing elements ... act out adages? The early BIRD catches the WORM? Honestly, I was giving this serious consideration for a while. So I had to work for it, which is great. It's just that figuring out that it was all for the sake of ... a word ladder? That was something of a let-down.
The fill was also uneven, with a bunch of stuff giving me great joy (INFERNO! OTTO DIX! BESTIARIES! SCREEN SHOT!) and some stuff leaving me wondering "what?" AZOTH? NITRILE? (41D: Latex-like glove material). Those two and TRASK (7D: "East of Eden" family name) I would've tried desperately to ditch if this had been my puzzle. Still, overall, I think the good outweighs the bad. It was important that the non-rebus fill be pretty gettable, because you need it to fill in the areas around and eventually *find* the rebus squares. It was pretty clear early on that a rebus was in play. Here's what my grid looked like a couple minutes in:
At this point I've located the first two rebus squares, but still have no idea what goes in them, how many there are going to be, etc. Once you know they're out there, you end up looking for them everywhere, including places they're not (which, today, included the NE and SW corners). I just noticed that the rebus squares today are symmetrical. I generally don't think much of symmetrical rebuses—too easy to find. Better to make people really look, and let maximal grid smoothness dictate where the rebus square goes (rather than forcing the grid to accommodate a fixed rebus square). But today I clearly didn't even notice the symmetry, and the grid doesn't seem to have suffered too much. So symmetry seems neither plus nor minus.
5D: The P.L.O.'s Arafat (YASSER) — Spelled it YASSIR, one of a string of misspellings today that included PADMA for PADMÉ (56D: "Star Wars" queen) and WOPNER for WAPNER (55A: Judge of 1980s-'90s TV)
38D: "___ the light!" ("I SAW") — I went with "I SEE." I'm not sure what context is intended in either case.
14D: 2003 OutKast hit that was #1 for nine weeks ("HEY YA") — I'm happy to be reminded of this catchy song. Given its popularity and its five-letterness (i.e. shortness) and its vowel-endingness, I'm kind of surprised I don't see it in puzzles more often. I'm kind of horrified by how the old the song is now. Still feels current to me :(