Friday, January 25, 2008

Saturday, January 26 - Karen M. Tracey

I struggled with Karen Tracey's last New York Times puzzle...and I struggled with this one. I checked in with Dogpile to get a few of the more obscure answers, then just kept at it.

Only a couple of gimmes...34A: Vitamin A (Retinol), 56A: Biblical woman who renamed herself Mara (Naomi), 55A: Minnelli of Broadway (Liza), 28D: Honeydew alternative (casaba) and 47D: Six-time Grammy winner Mary J. __ (Blige). To say that I didn't have much of a toehold would be putting it mildly.

Dogpile gave me several unknowns, including 19A: "Isaac's Storm" author Larson (Erik), 20A Player of the Queen Mother in "The Queen," 2006 (Syms), 42A: "Turandot" composer Ferruccio __ (Busoni), 62A: Blues guitarist Vaughan (Stevie Ray), 14D: Playwright/painter Wyspianski (Stanislaw)...can you imagine learning to spell that in preschool?, 30D: "The Thief's Journal" author (Jean Genet) and 35D: __ Raymonde, player of Alex Rousseau on "Lost" (Tania).

How Karen Tracey knew all of those names to include them in a puzzle is way beyond me.

That gave me enough of a start that I could actually start working some of the crosses. That's not my preferred method of solving, but sometimes that's what we amateurs have to do. In case I haven't said it lately, I don't think that using a search engine is cheating. I consider it a learning tool...whatever it takes to improve one's solving skills.

Favorite answers include 30A: It's prohibited by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (junk fax), 37A: Kind of party (pajama), 40A: "New York City Rhythm" singer (Manilow), 57A: What kids might roll down (hillsides), 8D: Peaked (anemic), 12D: Potential canine saver (root canal), 13D: Personal manager (majordomo)...the only one I know is Zazu from "The Lion King," 32D: Tops (number one), 39D: Reels (lurches), 43D: Look askance (squint), 45D: Rapture (bliss), 49D: Hyundai sedan (Azera), and 54D: Pomeranian or Dalmatian (Slav).

Favorite clues...1A: Cash cache, often (cookie jar), 29A: They don't stay hot for very long (fads), 38A: General equivalent (Admiral), 61A: Cold weather (teens), 7D: Peer group setting? (jury box), 9D: Dwarf, maybe (red star) and 50D: Fresh (sassy).

Oenophiles had a bit of an edge with a couple of clues...18A: Spanish table wine (Rioja) and 40D: Light white wine (Moselle).

My worst wrong answer was 45A: Dad's rival. Knowing that the second letter was an A, I wrote in A and W. When I couldn't get any of the downs, I knew I had something wrong. It finally dawned on me that another root beer competitor was Barq's.

Don was on the computer downstairs, so I couldn't confer with him on 24A: Please, to Pachelbel. In the first place, I couldn't figure out what language they were looking for. When I finally guessed it was German, I didn't have a clue about the answer...bitte.

If I've ever heard the word ecocar (27A: Green vehicle), I don't remember it. And I don't think I'd like to drive around in one of these.

I can hardly keep my eyes open...and I had two cups of coffee after dinner tonight. I'm looking forward to my day at home tomorrow. It was a tough week, and I'm ready to just chill for a couple of days.

Here's the grid...

...and I'll see you tomorrow.

Linda G


Bob said...

Hi dinner with Don last night?...I agree 100% that using a search engine is a learning tool. Information sticks better if you look it up rather than getting it from a completed puzzle....other than no W every letter was used.
Like yourself I had few gimmies and then I had two wrong..SAT for GRE and Hires for BARQS...with Google I was able to finish...I did actually enjoy the puzzle as a lot of the fill was quite cleaver...enjoy your no driving day and the rest of the weekend

Anonymous said...

Hi Linda,
I like you, needed a little assistance from Dr. Google for almost the same anchors you had help from Dogpile. I get a bit worried with clues like 55A (Minnelli of Broadway) on a Saturday puzzle as I think Mr. Shortz has something up his sleeve. 1-1/2 cups of java this AM to polish this one off.

Bob said...

A point to ponder...Monday through Thursday puzzles (I do not do Sunday's Puzzle) generally have a theme, a quip or a quirk to them, do you think that these are harder to construct than Friday and Saturday puzzles?

Linda G said...

Don and I did go out to dinner..but instead of sitting down to watch a movie, he sat down with a book and I with the puzzle. And it's good that I blogged last's 9:15 and I just got out of bed!

Karen Tracey's puzzles are usually tough, and I'm always happy if I can finish one...even if I need outside help.

It's hard to say which puzzles are harder to construct. Maybe Karen will comment today and address it. A themed puzzle may have more 3- and 4-letter words to accommodate the theme answers..but unthemed puzzles have stacks of long answers that must be hard to negotiate. Don thinks I should try to construct a puzzle some day...I think life is crazy enough without that ; )

Bob said...

I think Don is correct..I bet that you would construct one excellent and enjoyable puzzle!!!

mellocat said...

My take -- good themed puzzles require more talent/inspiration to construct, while good themeless ones just require more perseverance. You can start working on a themeless grid with just one or two interesting entries. It can be a bear to finish one though. You want to make nearly all the longer answers lively, and that can be hard to accomplish. So it can take a lot of searching around to find a fill that is interesting enough without too much obscurity or crosswordese in the short stuff.

For a themed puzzle, you first have to come up with the theme, and if you're not inspired in that way, how do you start? When I have done themed puzzles I find the grids easier to finish than the themeless ones (assuming the theme is not too constraining on the grid). But if I'm not struck by inspiration (as I rarely am) for a theme, I can't even get started.

Thanks for the comments!

Bob said...

Mellocat..Thanks for responding..I agree with your a very amature puzzle solver, it seems to me that as the week progressive the clues become a bit more obscure increasing the difficulity.

Anonymous said...

danke=thank you