Monday, February 6, 2012

Three-masted sailing ship / TUE 2-7-12 / Funny Fields / Its Internet addresses end in .ee / Up on things in 40s / Hispaniola's western half

Constructor: Mike Buckley

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: VANITY (50D: Unappealing personal trait ... or a word that can precede the start of 17-, 28-, 46- or 60-Across) — just what it says:

Theme answers:
  • MIRROR OF THE MIND (17A: Imagination, metaphorically)
  • CASE WORKER (28A: Investigator of family problems, say)
  • PLATE GLASS (46A: It's seen in shop windows)
  • FAIR-HAIRED CHILD (60A: One who's favorably looked upon)
Word of the Day: XEBEC (57A: Three-masted sailing ship) —
A xebec (play /ˈzbɛk/ or /zɨˈbɛk/), also spelled zebec, was a Mediterranean sailing ship that was used mostly for trading. It would have a long overhanging bowsprit and protruding mizzen mast. It also can refer to a small, fast vessel of the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries, used almost exclusively in the Mediterranean Sea. (wikipedia)
• • •

Clearly misplaced, difficulty-wise, by a good day at least. I was somewhat over my average Wednesday time, and the times at the NYT site are much higher than average. For all that work, I was hoping for something more than a simple "words that can follow" puzzle, especially one where two of the expressions aren't well known to me (MIRROR OF THE MIND, FAIR-HAIRED CHILD), and one of the VANITY phrases is completely unknown to me (VANITY case? Never heard of it). Further, XEBEC? "Outlier" doesn't begin to capture that word (in this puzzle). NIM? TOTIE? (65A: Funny Fields) (words I know only from crosswords) -IAL? -ISH? Cheater squares? It's not terrible, by any means, but it hardly felt worth the (above normal) effort.
I get lots of hits when I google "MIRROR OF THE MIND," but in the first handful of results, I'm seeing that the face is the MIRROR OF THE MIND, or that language is the MIRROR OF THE MIND ... seems like it's just a phrase that sounds profound (perhaps through the force of alliteration) but doesn't mean much of anything at all. The Jackson 5 had a song called "Mirrors of My Mind," and of course Dusty Springfield had a hit with "Windmills of Your Mind," but I can't see using this phrase as a simple substitute for "imagination." I assume the FAIR-HAIRED CHILD thing is a metaphor (and should be clued as such), because a FAIR-HAIRED CHILD is just as likely to be demonic as not.

Difficulty all over—which spelling of AMON-RA today (the "O" one) (6D: King of gods, in Egyptian myth). ASIA, not URSA Minor, a Saturday clue for ESTONIA (19D: Its Internet addresses end in .ee), a tough/vague clue for REACH (18D: Be rude at the dinner table, in a way) ... uh ... XEBEC! And, ugh, ISLED. I've been asked before, if I could kill one bit of crosswordese, what would it be; now I think I know: anything that suggests ISLE is a verb (though IRED is another good candidate).

  • 16A: Indiana's smallest county or the river it touches (OHIO) — again, I'd suggest this is very much a late-week clue
  • 64A: Dullea of "2001: A Space Odyssey" (KEIR) — got destroyed by his name in a previous puzzle, and that helped me semi-recall it here. Really wish he did anything noteworthy besides this movie. Really hard to remember.
  • 5D: There has been one with every Pixar film since 1998 (SHORT) — interesting trivia. I did not know that.
  • 12D: High tone? (TING) — I don't get this. Is it high, like, on the scale? Higher than what? A gong? Yuck.  

  • 52D: City across the Delaware River from Philadelphia (CAMDEN) — no idea. I remember NJ being over there, but I didn't remember which part. I seem to remember Rutgers, or a Rutgers campus (?), being relatively close to Philadelphia (I'm right: there's a CAMDEN campus). It's been a while.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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