Solving time: 47:12. My Chinese grandmother used to express her dissatisfaction with me by saying “AYA!” followed by some biting rebuke. So let me know express my dissatisfaction with myself by saying “AYAAAAAAAA!” 47:12 is almost 16 minutes above my average for Wednesday puzzles, even though I cheated egregiously on a few parts of this grid. Though I was partially brain-dead when I was solving this crossword (as I’ll explain later), this puzzle was definitely tough as a TNUT (59A: Letter-shaped fastener) for me. I agree with Mr. Rex Parker that it probably should have been a Thursday.
Puzzle quality – in honor of the SAINTDOM (49A: Pope’s bestowal) clue, a meme of discontent St. Peter (accompanied by a totally irreverent and anachronistic caption):
For Pete’s sake! Actually, that doesn’t fully express my disapproval of this puzzle. Here’s Kevin Malone from The Office:
Did you know… 2+2=4!
If you put two state abbreviations (2) side-by-side (+2), you’ll get an arrangement of four letters (=4), which can either be gibberish or … a word that actually means something! Yep, all the four-letter solutions in this puzzle consist of two state abbreviations, hence the revealer TWO-STATE SOLUTION (39A: Topic of international negotations … and a hint to every four-letter answer in this puzzle).
Here’s what I mean:
- MISC. (6A: This and that: Abbr.) MI (Minnesota) + SC (South Carolina) = MISC.
- ORCA (16A: Ocean predator) OR (Oregon) + CA (California) = ORCA
- VAIN (19A: Futile) VA (Virginia) + IN (Indiana) = VAIN
- OH, OK (24A: “Um, sure”) OH (Ohio) + OK (Oklahoma) = OH, OK
- HIND (31A: Rearmost) HI (Hawaii) + ND (North Dakota) = HIND
- GAIA (47A: Earth goddess) GA (Georgia) + IA (Iowa) = GAIA
- DEWY (52A: Like morning grass)
+ = DEWY
- TNUT (59A: Letter-shaped fastener) TN (Tennessee) + UT (Utah) = TNUT
- WINE (65A: Blush, e.g.) WI (Wisconsin) + NE (Nebraska) = WINE
- ILKS (68A: Types) IL (Illinois) + KS (Kansas) = ILKS
And that’s just the acrosses! The downs:
- MANY (5D: Lots of) MA (Massachusetts) + NY (New York) = MANY
- ARID (12D: Like an environment that’s difficult for farming)
+ = ARID
- RIME (13D: Icy coating) RI (Rhode Island) + ME (Maine) = RIME
- MOMS (14D: Annual May honorees) MO (Missouri) + MS (Mississippi) = MOMS
- WACO (53D: Branch Dividians’ home) WA (Washington) + CO (Colorado) = WACO
- ALLA (54D: __ breve) AL (Alabama) + LA (Louisiana) = ALLA
- FLAK (55D: Bomber pilot’s worry) FL (Florida) + AK (Alaska) = FLAK
- PACT (57D: A handshake may seal one) PA (Pennsylvania) + CT (Connecticut) = PACT
Thought of the day: A HOST of MOO-COWS STIR[red] awake in A FARM when NOREEN dropped a CIGAR on the ARID land, setting it afire; as the smoke WAFTED IN to the barn, Aunt MAE wished upON [a] STAR that not all the DEWY grass would be gone by TWI.
This is how I felt for most of today’s puzzle:
I was solving the puzzle at around midnight while I was very sleepy, so I couldn’t recall lots of stock crosswordese like AGORA (36A: Greek marketplace of old) and even ALAMO (61A: Avis competitor). My slow solving time today might be attributed to my forgetfulness, BUT…
Some level of obscure vocabulary and proper nouns is in a crossword. But the sheer amount in today’s puzzle was almost inexcusable and certainly made for a tedious solving experience.
Firstly, TRIAMORY (26A: Relationship with two other lovers, both of whom consent) is NOT A WORD!! Mr. Merriam Webster does not have it in its vast dictionary. Mr. Oxford English Dictionary, who lives in an app on my laptop, doesn’t recognize the word either. Even WordPress underlined it in red.
I have to scroll to page 5 of Mr. Google search before I can find any results that link LETTS (44A: Baltic natives) to Latvia or the Baltic Sea, for that matter. When you can find a website about an online Italian store that sells school supplies before the crossword’s definition of the word, then you know that the clue is way too arcane.
Who is NOREEN Corcoran (29A: Corcoran of “Bachelor’s Father”), and while we’re at it, has anyone ever heard of the show “Bachelor’s Father” either? Who is MAE Whitman (62D: Actress Whitman of “The Duff”)?? Who is Jean-Pierre RAMPAL (56A: Flutist Jean-Pierre __)??? Anyone???? Going once, going twice… Such esoteric clues – certainly not for LAYMEN (21A: By no means experts) – belong in Saturday puzzles. Upon further examination, Rampal does seem to be quite famous and influential; Mr. Wikipedia notes that he has been “credited with returning to the flute the popularity as a solo classical instrument it had not held since the 18th century,” so perhaps my cultural and musical jejuneness is to blame for my inability to solve the clue.
While I had to resort to Mr. Google and cheat so that I could get some of today’s fill, I feel like the constructor, David Woolf, is the one who’s really cheating. SHILLELAGH (32D: Cudgel made from a knotty stick)!? R u srs!? I feel like the thought process behind that clue went as follows:
“Most excellent! I have SHILL as an answer in the grid.”
“Egad! There are five more letters left to fill! I wonder if I could just add some random letters and pass it off as a real word.”
*online searching ensues*
“OH OK (24A: “Um, sure”). Turns out shillelagh is actually a word in the English language. Even I didn’t know that, and I knew that Latvians could be called LETTS! GONNA (15A: About to, informally) put that on the grid then.”
“Oh and since I’m just arbitrarily adding letters why don’t I just stick the word COW to the end of MOO and put MOOCOW on the grid? Let’s really make the solver suffer.”
You have to be an expert in cudgels to get that clue, an expert in baseball to answer 59D: __-night doubleheader (TWI, especially since the term “day-night doubleheader” is more common), and an expert in antiaircraft fire, I guess, to know that FLAK is a “Bomber pilot’s worry” (55D) and not the kind of “Aya!” scolding that I would hear from my grandmother.
The one bright spot in this puzzle was SNEAKERS, the answer to 4D: Court tie-ups? Get it. Sneakers get tied. Haha. The rest was grimmer than GRIMM (20A: Either of Cinderella’s storytellers).
Kenneth, lowly serf of Crossworld