Saturday, January 14, 2012

Vexations composer / SAT 1-14-12 / Yellow fever carrier / Roman count / Pfizer brand since 1997 / Coastal setting of The Birds / Provider of relief for finger / Thornburgh's predecessor as attorney general

Constructor: Mark Diehl

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: ESTRAY (8D: Animal that has escaped from its owner) —
Estray, in law, is any domestic animal found wandering at large or lost, particularly if the owner is unknown. (wikipedia) [so ... a stray, then]
• • •

This one kicked me around pretty bad. On the other hand, if I'd simply been able to recall CONROY as readily as I should have (big Duh moment when I got that one), and if I'd taken LUNATIC out sooner (34A: Nutty as can be => IDIOTIC), and if I'd simply been able to see the very obvious CREWMATES (I had CREWMA---S and couldn't think of word that would fit...) (1A: Aldrin, Armstrong and Collins), I might have had this done in half the time. Cluing and content was hard all around, though I started off very quickly. ADIT (crosswordese, wheeee!) and MEESE (5D: Thornburgh's predecessor as attorney general) and WISHI went in 1, 2, 3 (or UNO DUE TRE, I guess — that answer was brutal; 12D: Roman count?). But then the CREWMA- blank happened, and I wrote in UTAH STATE (not having read the clue very well, obviously), and then I was just stuck (19A: A.B.A. team that signed Moses Malone out of high school => UTAH STARS). Then for a while all I had in the NE was RELO, EMORY, and SPY STORY (14D: Le Carré specialty). NO MAS was easy, and that got me into the SE, where, after much fumbling around (including ESSES for MASTS (42A: The U.S.S. Constitution has three) and ETHOS for MORES), I got everything sorted out down there. NW and SE done, other corners, patchy and empty, respectively.

I worked on patchy (NE). And worked. All The Long Downs (the 9s) are "?" clues. That's torture. I've never seen anything like it, that kind of "?" density. What the hell is a CAMEO RING? I mean, I can guess, but come on (11D: Provider of relief for a finger?). Took me forever to get LIPITOR (30A: Pfizer brand since 1997) because I had TRACES for TRICES. Eventually my crosswordese skillz kicked in and I got AEDES (20A: Yellow fever carrier). Honestly, I can't even reconstruct the exact order of things in the NE. It was just ugly. Once I dared to put in CONOID and took out LUNATIC, the previously impossible SW opened right up. CIGAR ASH went right in (32D: Cuban remnant). How do I "know" BODEGA BAY?? I thought I was making it up, but then all the crosses worked (26D: Coastal setting of "The Birds"). "AGNES GREY"?? Wow, there's a Saturday answer. My Ph.D. in English did not prepare me for that one—maybe I've heard of it, but the bell it's ringing, if it's ringing one, is pretty faint (40A: Anne Brontë's first novel).

I'd say this grid looks pretty good overall (with the notable exception of the stupid word ESTRAY). Hard to fill a low word-count puzzle like this in such a smooth way. Commendable. Cluing was brutal, but it's Saturday. I can't expect to down them all in 10 minutes.

  • 47A: Grounation Day celebrant (RASTA) — April 21 – The anniversary of Haile Selassie's visit to Jamaica. Needless to say, I did not know this.
  • 37A: Storms on the road (GEOS) — I take issue with the "on the road" part of this clue, in that I haven't seen one ... lately. 
  • 31D: Locust tree feature (POD) — no idea what kind of tree this is, so I was clueless for a long time here. 
  • 45D: Post-marathon posts (TIMES) — Vexations! "Posts" can mean lots of things.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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