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.