May 12, 2016 — Thursday Crossword — NYTimes No. 0407
So do I love it or hate it when the crossword puzzle includes words I do not know? Certainly, as one who regularly solves the crossword, I am often exposed to new words. And I do love to learn. But also, when there are three or more words in a single puzzle whose meanings I need to look up afterward to be sure I didn’t make a mistake, that bothers me. Completed today’s grid in 45 minutes (not great). Fun puzzle, interesting theme.
I started in the NW with 15A: OVEREASY (Diner breakfast specification). Thanks to the “Y” and “V” I next solved: 8D: NYSE (Big Board init.); and 2D: AVER (Not equivocate about). But I soon had to leave the NW because I was stuck.
I went all the way to the SE and promptly misanswered 68A as “Virginia” (Coal-mining center). I recently read John Grisham’s “Gray Mountain,” and I knew West Virginia has coal, but it didn’t fit. Besides, at 58D “Viva” felt so tempting (“___ le roi! (French Revolution cry)), though I should have known better, since the people certainly were not singing the French king’s praises in 1789. [The correct answers are: 68A: AP[PAL]ACHIA and 58D: ABAS.]
I next jumped to the center, answering a couple sports related clues: 38D: PATS (Brady bunch, in headlines); and 30D: ONEAL (2000 NBA MVP with the Lakers). I also seemed to know 50D: ERIEPA (Quaker State city subject to lake-effect snow, for short), but I only filled in the first four letters, and refrained from making any changes (yet) to Virginia, though the wrongness of that answer was dawning on me.
Those three vertical clues were enough to give me the crosser 48A: LITTLEFRIEND (See 27-Across), though I couldn’t quite recall the entire movie quote, I knew it from Scarface. [27A: SAYEHELLOTOMY came to me far later (With 48-Across, memorable Al Pacino movie line … or a hint to this puzzle’s theme).]
So, a word about the inner puzzle — sometimes on Thursdays NYTimes will include a three letter word, initials, symbol (star, for example, or world) as a recurring box filler, always in a logical pattern of occurrence. Often not symmetrical (oh no, that would be too easy to spot), but usually occurring once per section or quadrant of the puzzle. Today the recurring filler was PAL (my little friend) and it occurs six times, once each in the NW, NE, SW, SE, and then again in the East and West. Pretty cool usage, actually.
Once I had Little Friend at 48A, I used the “F” to answer 51D: FACE[PAL]M (Gesture indicating “How stupid of me!”). I was emboldened because of neighboring Erie, PA, and (remembering the Grisham book) started changing answers in the SE to fill in AP[PAL]ACHIA (how do you spell that again?!).
I then found in the East: 41A: NE[PAL] (Ambitious climbers’ mecca); and 42D: [PAL]ED (Evidenced fear, in a way), which I had previously misanswered “hid.” I was then (finally) well on my way to solving the puzzle.
Ok, I started by saying there were a number of answers containing words I did not previously know. Today these include: 13D: ANENT (Concerning); 4D: ARA (The Altar constellation); 27D: SE[PAL] (Calyx part). I am assuming these three are “crosswordese” and I should know them. But I am a child of the Will Shortz generation (although I am fifty years old, I’ve only been solving difficult crosswords for about ten years), and sometimes the older ones still get by me.
My favorite word of the day was 17A: REGATTAS (Tests of crews’ controls). I don’t know why, but that clue strikes me as particularly clever. It eluded me for quite awhile. But once I finally ventured back into the NW and figured out 1A: SARAH[PAL]IN (Onetime debater of Joe Biden) and 6D: [PAL]ATIAL (Spacious and splendid), I finished the grid at Regattas. And it felt good.