Hello again, it’s Clare — yes, again! — for this Tuesday puzzle. Long time, no talk! I already gave my update yesterday, and there hasn’t been much in the way of sports in the past 24-ish hours, so let’s just dive right in, shall we?
Relative difficulty: Challenging (for a Tuesday)
- GOLIATH (17A: One known for living large and getting stoned?)
- VALLEY OF ELAH (20D: Biblical site for the battle depicted in this puzzle)
- BOOK OF SAMUEL (22D: Hebrew Bible text with the story depicted in this puzzle)
- DAVID (56A: Classic underdog)
Word of the Day: JORGE(25D: Argentine writer ___ Luis Borges) —
Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo (24 August 1899 – 14 June 1986) was an Argentine short-story writer, essayist, poet and translator, and a key figure in Spanish-language and international literature. His best-known books, Ficciones (Fictions) and El Aleph (The Aleph), published in the 1940s, are compilations of short stories connected by common themes, including dreams, labyrinths, philosophers, libraries, mirrors, fictional writers, and mythology. Borges's works have contributed to philosophical literature and the fantasy genre, and influenced the magic realist movement in 20th century Latin American literature. His late poems converse with such cultural figures as Spinoza, Camões, and Virgil. (Wiki)
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This puzzle was architecturally very impressive but felt like a slog for me, as I didn’t know some of the crucial acrosses/downs and apparently need to brush up on my biblical knowledge. I definitely could have seen this puzzle appearing later in the week. Or maybe this one was just firmly off my wavelength.
I thought the theme itself was alright, though two puzzles in a row that are heavy on religious themes feels overdone; the grid created some nice symmetry and feels inventive. When I first saw the grid, I expected some sort of football theme, with what looks very much to me like a goal post there in the middle of the puzzle. (In fact, there are two football-related clues, at 44A: Issue for a punter or field goal kicker and 58A: Big Ten addition announced in 2022). But, alas, the puzzle grid is depicting a slingshot with a very cute little stone after 19A and before 21A.
I was a bit confused while I was solving about what the theme actually was. I got down to 56A as DAVID and thought, “This is really a lot of biblical stuff. But that’s pretty clever to have both DAVID and GOLIATH in the puzzle.” I certainly know the story of DAVID and GOLIATH, but I did not remember where it took place (even though I’ve actually been there and thrown a stone myself) or in what book of the bible the story was told. Also, I found it a little weird that neither 2D: Twin in Genesis (ESAU) nor 43D: Makeup of Joan Didion's "Slouching Towards Bethlehem (ESSAYS) related to the theme of David and Goliath, even though both also are tied to the Bible.
I found the NE corner, in particular, to be challenging. I didn’t know the tennis player Tony TRABERT (21A: Tony ___, tennis champ of the 1950s), unfortunately, which was kind of the way into this section. I also didn’t remember CRATCHIT (7D: Scrooge's clerk), and I had to rack my brain for SHANTY TOWNS (14D: Hoovervilles during the Great Depression, e.g.) from a section back in APUSH in high school. Add in that I put “Elle” instead of DIOR for 10D: Big name in French fashion and that two clues play off each other (9A: Premium subscriptions often remove them and 9D: Tool that's a homophone of 9-Across), and it was a recipe for disaster for me in that section.
On another note… what in the world is 13D: Flatters in order to boost self-esteem?! EGO MASSAGES just looks gross, first of all, and I also don’t think it’s a verb used in that way?? Like, sure, I’ve heard of massaging someone’s ego. But EGO MASSAGES? No, thank you. Seriously, imagine going around like, “Oh, I’m just going to go EGO MASSAGE someone today.” (?!) The puzzle clearly needed the “s” at the end of “ego massage” to make the puzzle work, but EGO MASSAGES can’t possibly be a verb. Wow, that was a long rant; apparently it really bothered me.
Another thing that really bothered me is Y’KNOW (35A: "Catch my drift?"), which is unbearably ugly. I seriously stared at that answer and that “y” next to the “k” and was convinced I had something wrong. That was the last answer I put in, and I expected to see an error message and instead got the little signal saying I’d completed the puzzle. I’ve seen — and used — both “you know” and “ya know.” But Y'KNOW? Uh uh.
There was a weird amount of slang in this puzzle with GOT YA (39A: April Fools' exclamation), Y’KNOW (35A), ISH (28A: Sorta), LOTSA (31D: Many, informally), and LETS (64A: "Sure … why not!"), and some of it felt too forced. “Gotcha” feels much more natural to me than GOT YA. It’s called a gotcha. And, LOTSA could easily have been “loads” or “lotta.”
Now for the good: 44D: Wrong thing to say when you're actually lying? as LAYING is quite a clever clue/answer. The clue for GOLIATH (17A: One known for living large and getting stoned?) is an instant favorite clue. I also liked 41A: EN VOGUE (Fashionable, in France) a lot. And 18A: Monkey business? as ZOO amused me.
Also, this is apparently Bruce Haight’s 60th puzzle, which is quite an accomplishment!
And that’s all I’ve got! (Sorry for all the ranting. I might still be a tad tired from my epic “Lord of the Rings” marathon.)
- With 44A as LAYING, I couldn’t help but think my dad would really appreciate this one. In a song (“All I Wanna Do” by Sugarland) that I used to sing out loud all the time, there’s a line, “Let’s just lay here and be lazy,” and every single time he would loudly say “lie” over the singing. It happened so frequently that I now can’t sing along with the song without saying “lie” myself.
- When I saw 12A: __ Today, I seriously couldn’t think of anything except for the BTS song “Not Today.” And now I have this amazing song stuck in my head, so I’ll link it here so you all can have that as an earworm, too.
- When I saw 23A: Espresso diluted with hot water as AMERICANO, I remembered the time while working my first job as a server and someone ordered an AMERICANO. I was bewildered (not being a coffee drinker at all) but nodded like I knew what the person was referring to and immediately asked someone else on staff. Never forgot what it was after that.
- I put JORGE Luis Borges (25D) as the word of the day, and he seems like he was a fascinating guy. My dad actually met him in college, when Borges dropped in to speak about “Don Quixote,” his favorite book, at a seminar my dad was taking.
- With 30D: Ramp taken by a skier, I couldn’t help but think the most apt answer would be a magic carpet (which took you from the bottom of the little hill to the top of it when you’re skiing at three years old). Apparently, though, this clue related to ski jumping and the technical term INRUN. (I was a ski racer, not a ski jumper, so this was a new term for me.)
- I’d say yay for ONELS (13A: 1st-yr. law students), though this plural form is a tad strange to see. Still, I got this one nice and quickly!
Hope everyone has a great August!