Thursday, October 4, 2007

Friday, October 5 - Lynn Lempel

Hello, Howard B here stopping by for one last time. Had some technical difficulties earlier tonight, and had to wrestle an unruly Microsoft to the ground in order to get this connection back up and running.

So what do you do when you run into a puzzle that has you frustrated every which way, both by just not understanding the wordplay in some clues, but also knowing that you aren't going to know a lot of the answers?
a) Throw various objects at the paper or the screen, in increasing size and density.
b) Pray to the crossword gods for mystical enlightenment
c) invent new, creative swear words while you solve to clear your mind
d) Stay calm, walk away for a minute or an hour, come back fresh...Google if necessary.

If you answered (d), you're a better human than I tonight... I briefly dabbled with (b) and (c) before finally settling on (d) to finish the thing. here we have a challenging Lynn Lempel creation, which requires all sorts of esoteric knowledge combined with a smattering of quite literal clues. This left me off-balance a bit, not sure when a clue was either very vague, or very literal. So, what here confuzzled me? Here's a few examples:

1A, 32D: both 'Navigational hazard'. The first was DENSE FOG, the second SHOAL. Nothing tricky there, except the unexpected two-word phrase. Quite literal.

53A:Quiet craft (GLIDER) - again, quite literal, but also rather vague. If you got this with less than two letters, congratulations!

56A: Bunny backer? (HEFNER). OK, there's a '?' on the clue, so it's a tricky warning. But I just couldn't figure this one out until it slammed into my brain late in the puzzle. Just not on the wavelength tonight.

57A:Where workers gather (APIARIES). No question mark, just trickiness. That's an apiary, where they keep bees. As in 'worker bees'. Yep. That stings, alright.

32A Famously fussy pair of diners (SPRATS). I liked this clue; it's quite vague and yet clever. No, I didn't get this one easily either.

Finally, 4D: Some athletes shoot them (STEROIDS). Oh man, that's brutal; quite sneaky, and I like the currency of the clue. Didn't see it coming.

Beyond that level, there were simply answers that I knew I wasn't going to know; I felt like I was in one of those nightmares where you're back in school taking a final exam in a subject you know nothing about:
29A: When repeated, A 'Funny Girl' song (SADIE) - Not in my neighborhood of knowledge. Not in my area code. Likely not in my galaxy. Always humbling to learn stuff like this.

16A: Special delivery? (PREMIE) - Was my first instinct, but I've never encountered this alternate spelling, so it threw me for a few loops.

17A: Married man who had long been a bachelor (BENEDICT) - Help me please, I'm drowning here... is this a name of a character, or a literal clue for a word I haven't heard?

Also the clues for KAFKA, EIRE, SPARROW, and HARTE, which were no doubt 'gimme's for some poeple, but just chewed me up, every one of 'em.

Quite a construction and cluing feat - I'm tired, but feel this was a thoroughly challenging, mind-bending solve.
Be sure to welcome the guest bloggers this weekend as before, and to welcome back Linda G from her Pacific adventures.

Moral: Even the toughest puzzles, with a bit of practice and some random knowledge picked up through life, can become solvable with enough patience and stubbornness ;). Here's my finished grid, which I'll consider a badge of honor tonight just for completing it.


Anonymous said...

The character Benedict is from Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing." Two lively young people, Beatrice and Benedict, resist marriage for a long time but ultimately cannot resist each other. They are smart and clever and clearly a splendid match.

Hence "Benedict" became a kind of synonym for a married man.

I think there may be a variant spelling: Benedick.

Anonymous said...

i believe the reference is to BENEDICK, a character in shakespeare's "much ado about nothing" who is best decsribed as a recently married man who was somewhat of a previously sworn bachelor.

as i had a very similar solving dilemma, who alternately resorted to various degrees of a) and c) before succumbing to d)... i could be WAY wrong about that reference!

Linda G said...

Oh, Howard, I'm so sorry that this was your lot. But I'm so glad it wasn't mine.

We hiked through mud for almost five hours today, and it was nothing compared to this puzzle.

I'm not looking at the grid yet, and I'll come back later to the saved puzzle, but I couldn't have gotten as far as I did without your initial giveaways. I'll have to check the NYT website and see the posted times. I do hope that others had difficulty as well.

Thanks again for filling in and for a great (and honest!) writeup.

cornbread hell said...

amen to "great (and honest!) writeup.

sadie/chi-lites? ouch! plus, in that section i had LEGS for 'drawers units' and didn't want to give it up.

hefner(hahahahaha)and apiaries came easily, but benedict had me in a dense fog. so did dense fog...

Howard B said...

Thanks for the info, everyone. No wonder I missed the boat on that one; I appreciate the Bard, but it's a weak point for me (especially the ones I've never read). I'll have to brush up on that sometime ;).

I didn't know the Chi-Lites very well, but I'd seen the group name enough times on those K-Tel compilation ads to recognize it, and I'd heard them on the radio in the past. Any way you can get an answer to wriggle up from the subconscious is fair game.

coachjdc said...

Yikes! I guess I shouldn't anger the x-word Gods by claiming that Thursday's puzzle was easy. I almost through in the towel on this one. The NW and the center grid had me pulling my hair out!!

coachjdc said...

and, duh, I meant THREW not through LOL

Anonymous said...

Nice write-up Howard! All I kept thinking as I was looking at my blank grid last night was how happy I was that I wasn't on the hook to comment about this one today!

My last entry was the H crossing PHI and PEA SHELLER...I was pretty sure it was PSI for the optical illusion, and couldn't parse the seed splitter tool entry. Congrats to all who rassled this one to the ground!

Anonymous said...

Is anybody going to explain 35A? Who's Harte?

coachjdc said...

Bret Harte

Anonymous said...

Thanks coach. I have heard the name multiple times but never read anything by or about him. My wife is right again, I don't know everything.

Orange said...

Howard, save yourself a little time and just watch Much Ado About Nothing on DVD. Kenneth Branagh plays Benedick (and directs the film). The young lovers plot to get the perfect-for-each-other foes Benedick and Beatrice (Emma Thompson) married. Plus, Keanu Reeves is in it. Keanu + Shakespeare = total awesomeness.

Howard B said...

Orange - Never would have expected to hear 'Keanu' and 'Shakespeare' together ;). One of these days I'll check that out, seems like it may be of the more approachable works. Maybe my shying away from Shakespeare in the past really was much ado about nothing.

Evad, you finished the puzzle at the exact same letter as I. Weird. Eerie. KAFKA-esque (Well, not exactly that last one).

Anonymous said...

I got KARZAI,WARZONES,KAFKA,and OSS before I started googling then gave up and came here for the answers.Then I didn't feel so bad. Thanks Howard! Amy I put that movie on reserve. See if I can still remember what a BENEDICT is by the time I get it!

Anonymous said...

Yep, I slogged through this puzzle -- even using Mr.G a bit it was a tough one for me.

There were a few things I loved: "Sprats" "Sleeptight" (wanted to add don't let the bed bugs bite), "warzones."

So, I appreciated your commentary Howard. Really, really nice write-up.

And, Dave, didn't have time to post yesterday but I always love your thoughts on puzzles!

Orange said...

Howard, you mean you missed this back in the day? From the Wikipedia article on Keanu: "Returning to theatre in 1995, Reeves performed the title role in a Manitoba Theatre Centre production of Hamlet in Winnipeg, Manitoba."

There was plenty of mocking at the time. "To be or not to be...whoa."