Friday, April 27, 2007

April is the cruelest month and Friday the meanest day

The Friday New York Sun puzzle is "Weekend Warrior" by Byron Walden. You can download this puzzle and join in on the fun for free here. (Admittedly, today's puzzle is more fun if you're a masochist.)

Whoa, I'm sorry, you're going to have to give me a minute here.

This puzzle has got me reeling. I think Byron Walden just may turn out to be my arch-nemesis. But of course crossword nemeses are different, aren't they? I doubt Spider-Man secretly admires the Green Goblin or that Sherlock Holmes has a soft spot for Professor Moriarity, but I am in so in awe of the Sadistic Walden, I want to buy him an extreme beer -- right after I have one, this puzzle was a workout.

On my first trip through the Acrosses and Downs, all I got was 24D: Big ___ (nickname of ballplayer David Ortiz) PAPI (which is a gimme for even a casual baseball fan) and 31D: He interviewed Miles Davis in the first Playboy interview ALEX HALEY. I only knew this because the first CD-ROM I ever bought (Hey, remember CD-ROMs?) was of the complete Playboy interviews and I actually read most of them. Playboy's reputation for great interviews is well-deserved.

Ten minutes later I didn't have much more. I wanted 1A: See stars, perhaps so bad I could taste it. I mentally went straight to stars of the show-biz variety, avoiding the astronomical and side-stepping the rake in the face. I had "Go to a movie" then "Go see a show" and a couple more I've forgotten. At one point I thought 10D: Compact cleaners might be "Vacuums" and I almost put in "Watch bad TV".

Well, what can I say? 14A: Place for a car race known as the icekhana FROZENLAKE was no help. I actually had every letter filled in on 16A: Front end? LOWERCASET before I figured out what was going on there. I blanked on 18A: New Balance rival (ASICS) all I could think was Avia.

Moving to another area, (doing a RELO as real estate people allegedly say) didn't help much. 43A: Highly potent potable (EXTREMEBEER)eluded me for a long time. All I had was the X and I couldn't shake the mental image of the cartoon hillbilly moonshine jug with all the X's on it. Even after I got the "beer" I was still thinking extra something beer, not extreme.

Extreme beer, by the way, is not necessarily more potent, although it often is. According to Beer Advocate magazine, extreme beer is "a movement to showcase the craft and how complex and versatile beer can actually be." It can also refer to
- Beers made with no hops but plenty of heather and lavender.
- Beers aged in Jack Daniels oak barrels.
- Traditional beer styles, but with double, triple or more hops or malt.
- Beers brewed with chocolate, peanut butter or espresso beans.
- Strong Porters brewed with Chinese candied ginger.
- Ales brewed with oysters or seaweed.
- Sharp tasting beers inoculated with various wild bacteria and yeast strains.

Hmmm, chocolate and espresso beans maybe, oysters, seaweed and wild bacteria I'm not so sure about. (And is there a thing as tame bacteria?)

Here are some more examples of Byron Walden's amazing ability to mislead.

34A: Like someone being anaesthetised, perhaps (INHOSPITAL) Notice how he uses the British spelling of "anesthetized" to lead to a British colloquialism.

11D: It helps keep a Persian's home from smelling bad (CATLITTER)

13D: Bud light? Yeah, I see the question mark, but he's already got me thinking about beer. FLOWERLET was the last word I filled in on this puzzle.

4D: Language that gave us the word "Polka" Unless you're a world-class etymologist you're thinking "Polish" not CZECH

And how about SLAW and HASH side by side, both clued as "Chopped chow"? That's pretty impressive.

This guy, even his three-letter entries, which is how I usually try to get a foot in a hard puzzle's door, are tough -- fair but tough. To wit:

37A: Banks, for example. (CUB) I love baseball, but I'm thinking savings and loans, I'm thinking Jane and Michael banks from "Mary Poppins" I'm thinking levees, I'm thinking billiards shots, everywhere but Ernie.

15D: It can make a scene (Mob) You don't even want to know what I was thinking here.

53D: Like keeners (SAD) I wasn't thinking anything here other than "What the hell's a keener?" It turns out I do know what keen (and by extension keener) means, but the few times I've heard it it's always in its gerund form "keening."

25A: RĂ©union, e.g. (ILE) the only reason I knew this one is because I'm somewhat of an amateur expert on dodo birds (well, hell, somebody had to do it) and the dodo's closest cousins were the RĂ©union Solitaire and the Rodriguez Solitaire, both named after the islands they inhabited.

I also knew 35A: Woman drawn by Hal Foster (ALETA) because I've spent my life reading comics and Foster's Prince Valiant is a true classic. Even so, it took me a bit to call her her name up because their son Arn shows up in crosswords much more often than Mom.

All right, it's Friday, so we've got the weekend to rest up before Monday's puzzle. I'll probably still be here marveling at this one.

62: Peer-to-peer networking? (EYECONTACT) Man, this guy is good! In an evil way, of course.


Linda G said...

After your warning, I didn't even attempt to do today's. Just read (and immensely enjoyed) your blog, as always.

I generally blog at night, but the Friday NYT kicked my butt. I finished it before bed but just posted my blog a few minutes ago.

Totally agree with your extreme beer assessment. Chocolate or espresso, yes. Seaweed or whatever, no no no. I think I'll stick to coffee this morning, though.

Rex Parker said...

This puzzle hurt me. But I'm always prepared for brutality on a Friday Sun. And I never should have looked up and notice Byron's name - equivalent of looking down when you are hundreds of feet in the air.

Loved the CUB clue - super clever. Didn't understand half the clues / answers in the S and SW, but managed to piece it together somehow. Most proud that I got that tricky Spanish pot clue straight away.


DONALD said...

You hit the nail on the head with this write-up -- he's a tough one!
Nice dodo illustration!

Linda G said...

Just checked out the Ramones CD you recommended. I think Rex was the one who said all the songs sound alike. They sort of did...

Just finished the Saturday puzzle, with only a couple of Googles. I'll blog in the morning, though. It was nice to have coffee while doing it.

Orange said...

I tried a chocolate beer at Stamford. It was not quite inedible, but very strange. In the end, I just couldn't bring myself to keep drinking it. Really, what is chocolate beer but a waste of chocolate? Better to have a regular beer and a chocolate bar.