Almond syrups used in cocktails / SAT 9-5-15 / 1978 covert bailey best seller on exercise diet / treacly spirit of unity / aria from Faure's requiem / remarkably humanlike fingerprints / Hidalgo honorific / Classic novel whose title means wanderer / Old Pittsburgh work areas
Saturday, September 5, 2015
Constructor: Byron Walden
Relative difficulty: Challenging
Word of the Day: ORGEATS (7D: Almond syrups used in cocktails) —
A sweet syrup flavored with almonds and orange blossoms, used in cocktails and food.
[French, from Old French, syrup made from barley, from Old Provençal orjat, from ordj, orge, barley, from Latin hordeum.] (thefreedictionary.com)
• • •
ORGEATS. Never heard of it, and, now that I have, no amount of pleading is going to make me think it's "good." I think it's "acceptable" in a very tough, low word-count puzzle such as this. But to have the dealbreaker be an obscure word like that, one that is likely in the grid only because it's the only word that could make the grid hold together—that's a bit of buzzkill. No one ever though "Oh, it's ORGEATS!" Only "Oh ... it's ORGEATS ... what's ORGEATS?" Unless you knew it, in which case I'm guessing you knew it immediately and didn't have to puzzle over it. My point (in the end) is that had I known that answer, the whole solve would've been very different. Much, much easier, I think. It would've dominoed me down into the SE, and I would've come up and around into the SE and would've eventually pinched the puzzle to a close somewhere around HAHA. As it was. I went from here:
in no time, but then that was pretty much it for many, many minutes. Many. I got AGR- at 11D: Farm-related prefix. Then I got URGENT (16A: Pressing). *Then* I got STEEL (yay) MILLS (boo). That second word became many things before it became YARDS. Here is a screenshot entitled "millionyearslater." As you can see, at this point, it's STEEL SHOPS (!?):
As you can also see, I imagined there was a "best seller on exercise and diet" entitled FIT TO FAT. Somehow never occurred to me that my version of the title had reversed the direction of typical diet book claims. "Tired of being in shape? Wish you were much, much heavier? Well get *on* that couch and change your life with my revolutionary diet book, FIT TO FAT!" Sigh. But before that, even getting the SE was a bear. Couldn't anagram RY COODER (wanted ROY somebody). Couldn't figure out the crocodile place (that is an insane / hard / arbitrary clue for ORINOCO) (39D: Home to 15-foot-long crocodiles). The only thing I could do, eventually, was guess most of ONONDAGA (I am never sure about which vowels go where), because they're an [Upstate New York tribe] and I'm an Upstate New York person. Oh, and I had NOG. NOG was easy. In the beginning, there was NOG, and I had it. And it didn't matter much. Eventually I scratched my way out. I settled on the -NYM suffix, then tested TREMORS and was able to get (finally) SMOG TEST and RY COODER. Then I built to what you see above. Then I sat some more. Why did I think TEA came from the Virgin Islands? I don't know.
[Whoa, flashback to peak-MTV-watching early teens ...]
The rest of the puzzle was solved via alphabet-running, starting with the square before -HOS in 44A: Certain hash ingredients. Luckily, I didn't have far to run, as "A" gave me IDAHOS and that gave me a Huge boost of momentum: SW done in a matter of seconds. Then it was up and smack into the ORGEATS wall. Wanted BAPTISTERY, but wasn't sure that was a thing. Ran alphabet again at -IRE, until I hit "D" for DIRE, which gave me IDEAL MAN, Open MRI, all of it. Turned corner with KUMBAYA (9D: Treacly spirit of unity) and not long after that ended up at the STEEL SHOPS / PUT TO A STOP / FIT TO Fat mess. In retrospect, the whole thing feels like an Easy-Medium Saturday, with this terrible eternal wandering in darkness part shoved in the middle. Again, I blame ORGEATS. "Where the orgy at?" Is that how you pronounce it? I don't care. I hope I never see it again as long as I live.
Oh, and I think the grid is really quite good for 66 words. ORGEATS is really the only thing I hate, and it just *happened* to be the solve-destroying answer. Sucks for me.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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