Saturday, December 31, 2011

Diamonds to a yegg / SUN 1-1-12 / Twelve Oaks neighbor / Quijano Don Quixote's real name / Swirly marbles

Constructor: Patrick Berry

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "Addendum" — sound of "um" is added to end of familiar phrases, creating wacky phrases, which are clued "?"-style

Word of the Day: GOLEM (119A: Monster of Jewish folklore) —
In Jewish folklore, a golem [...] is an animated anthropomorphic being, created entirely from inanimate matter. The word was used to mean an amorphous, unformed material in Psalms and medieval writing. // The most famous golem narrative involves Judah Loew ben Bezalel, the late 16th century chief rabbi of Prague. // The word golem occurs once in the Bible in Psalm 139:16, which uses the word גלמי, meaning "my unshaped form". The Mishnah uses the term for an uncultivated person: "Seven characteristics are in an uncultivated person, and seven in a learned one", Pirkei Avos 5:9 in the Hebrew text (English translations vary). In modern Hebrew golem is used to mean "dumb" or "helpless". Similarly, its is often used today as a metaphor for a brainless lunk or entity who serves man under controlled conditions but is hostile to him and others. "Golem" passed into Yiddish as goylem to mean someone who is clumsy or slow. (wikipedia)
• • •

Reader wrote me ahead of time and told me this was probably the easiest Sunday puzzle she'd ever done, so I was expecting some kind of record time, but I wasn't even close. It's reasonably easy, but I was hardly faster than normal. There were enough odd words and crafty clues to keep me busy. No strong feelings about the puzzle one way or another. Seems pretty good to me — the "funny" phrases are at the very least interesting, the stacks of two theme answers (NW, SE) are impressive, and the fill is unsurprisingly smooth. What's most weird about this puzzle is the preponderance of cheater squares — black squares that do not add to the word count of the puzzle. These are typically added to make the grid easier to fill, and constructors tend to avoid them if possible. I count ten (!) in this grid. This makes for a choppier grid with shorter fill, especially through the middle. A handful of cheaters in a Sunday grid isn't that remarkable, but I'm a little surprised there are this many, especially in a Patrick Berry puzzle. Still, the result is smooth and mostly enjoyable, so I can't complain too much. Well, I can, but I won't.

Just a few hang-ups today, most notably in the SW, where LONG FOR really made a mess of things for a while. Took a while before I had the good sense to change it to ACHE FOR (89A: Desperately want). I thought TOM was the [Pal of Huck Finn] (JIM) and thought the [Injury symptom] was a CRINK or a CRICK before I ever got to SHOCK. Never heard of MUMM, as far as I know (83D: Big name in Champagne). Wanted MOËT, then wanted ... nothing. Had no idea where Twelve Oaks was. Thought maybe somewhere near NAPA. But no, it's fictional, and it's neighbor is TARA. Took an embarrassingly long time to see NOAH (105A: Rainy day planner?). And FORELEG, yikes. Not a body part I think of or read about much, if ever, so that took a while (19D: "Praying" part of a praying mantis). On the other hand, we had a Zener card-themed puzzle not too long ago, so ESP was easy (75D: Ability to identify Zener cards), and I read a lot of crime fiction, so ICE (70D: Diamonds, to a yegg) and BOGART (14D: "The Big Sleep" co-star, 1946) were cinches. I've read (most of) Don Quixote, but had no recollection of his "real" first name (ALONSO). Not sure I understand the clue on EAT IN (109A: Restaurant greeter's option). If I'm talking to a "greeter," I'm (almost by definition) eating in. Context is lost on me.

Theme answers:
  • 18A: Pool ball's "Watch this!" comment? ("SEE IF I CAROM") — awesome
  • 23A: High-mounted window you can't stop looking at? (HYPNOTIC TRANSOM)
  • 32A: Part of a watch touching the breastbone? (STEM TO STERNUM)
  • 46A: "You don't have to be busy to look busy," e.g.? (OFFICE MAXIM)
  • 59A: Pill that relieves computer-related anxiety? (SILICON VALIUM) — again, awesome
  • 71A: Inhuman group of golfers? (BRUTE FOURSOME)
  • 81A: Sultan's wife, perhaps? (HEAD OF HAREM)
  • 99A: Jungle king's jeans and overalls? (THE LION'S DENIM)
  • 110A: Ennui among quantum physicists? (PARTICLE BOREDOM)
  • 116A: Dessert delivered over the internet? (PIE A LA MODEM)    

  • 13A: Crosswise to the keel (ABEAM) — like ABAFT, I learned this from xwords.
  • 22A: Onetime first name in Israeli politics (GOLDA) — had this been four letters, I'd have been lost, but at five, GOLDA was the first name to come to mind.
  • 79A: Handbag monogram (YSL) — one of the few fashion monogram's I'm aware of (besides, perhaps, DKNY).
  • 86A: Reed of rock (LOU) — wanted OBOE (no, not really)

  • 87A: "1984" superstate (EURASIA) — somehow, this never seems fictional enough to be from "1984"; but there it is.
  • 2D: Jimi Hendrix's debut single ("HEY JOE") — already one of the most searched for terms of the day—I apparently covered it in a bygone write-up.
  • 8A: "___ hath an enemy called ignorance": Ben Jonson ("ART") — I teach Jonson every year but didn't know this. One of two literary quotes today, the other coming from Harriet Beecher STOWE (29D: Best-selling author who wrote "I did not write it. God wrote it. I merely did his dictation").
  • 13D: Swirly marbles (AGATES) — considered AGGIES for a bit. That's slang for AGATES, right? I've never played marbles, so what do I know?

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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