Earlier this week there was a request put in for us to share a glimpse of the endless joy that is solving the Saturday NYT crossword puzzle at stately IPB Manor. So it was with great anticipation that we settled in for a blogably delicious puzzle tonight. As is the tradition, we sat down in front of the TV, each with our own xeroxed copy of the puzzle, armed with dinner (spaghetti with a pink sauce made with our first basil harvest of our garden’s summer) and a huge-assed glass of wine. While we normally solve either with hockey on in the background, or with IPB’s Official Favorite Move, “Master & Commander”, tonight we opted to go with “Intermission”. But as it turned out, no manner of scrumptious dinner or entertaining background noise could make up for one thing — today’s puzzle sucked.
First off, the majority of it went down without a fight. We had all finished nearly half the damn thing before there was any need for clue-sharing. The SE corner of it gave as much fight as a particularly stiff Tuesday, and the NE corner wasn’t much harder. 18-across flummoxed Pookie and Boomer (“Barn door features”), but when Schnookie spotted them with the further clue “It’s, uh, like… farm hardware” (Answer: Hasps), it was lights out. Without any further sharing, we all rolled relatively unimpeded into the NE corner. (Boomer needed a hand with 15-across, “It’s pictured in Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night Over The Rhone’”, and Schnookie spotted her the clue “Big Bear”. [The answer: Ursa Major.] Pookie and Boomer also needed some prodding to get 17-across, “Vaudeville bigwig”, and Schnookie’s relatively inarticulate cues of “It’s, uhhh… a phrase… Like, uh… a, uh…” somehow managed to help them both get “Top Banana”.) Again, they call this a Saturday? The only stumbling block there was 8-down, but we all were content to get all the across clues and take whatever the word they spelled was without complaint. And the word they spelled? “Rondure”. Um, that is so not a word. But whatever.
The SW corner, though, was a bit more of a bear. Boomer had an unfair advantage with age — she knew 43-down, “He played Winchester on M*A*S*H” (Answer: Stiers). Pookie and Schnookie did not. Which will stand as today’s excuse why Boomer did the unthinkable — she finished first. NOOOO! Boomer never finishes first and this is now two weeks in a row! Our good names are taking a major hit here. Anyway, Schnookie managed to work all the acrosses in that corner first, and then with no small displeasure confronted what that left her with for 31-down. While pondering the total bogusness of the word that had been formed, Pookie caught up. And so it was that Pookie and Schnookie capped their pens almost simultaneously, under severe protest, because dudes, who’s ever heard of the term “Imputed to”? We’re sorry, but making a puzzle Wednesday-tough but then tossing in made-up words like “imputed” and “rondure” does not a Saturday make.
In a post-puzzle debrief, we discussed why things played out tonight the way they did. Boomer admitted it was highly out of character for her to finish first, and Schnookie, a bit fuzzy-brained, remembered that Boomer had even gotten up to putter in the kitchen for a few minutes while her daughters still worked their grids. Pookie: “Well, that’s a sure sign it was generationally biased. This puzzle blew.”
In an inaugural attempt at blogging our Saturday puzzle we really hoped to have hijinks and hilarity to report. Things like Pookie last night struggling to come to terms with the answer to one of the long across clues, which was “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride”. Schnookie and Boomer weren’t sure how much clue to give, because they weren’t entirely sure Pookie was very familiar with all that Disneyland has to offer. They prodded a bit, testing what Pookie had sussed out already in her puzzle, and Pookie declared a bit crankily, “I have ‘Mr something’s wild something’.” Looooong pause. Boomer: “I think we can just give you the answer, because you clearly don’t know it.” But alas, tonight’s puzzle was uninspired and uninspiring. In short, it sucked. Maybe we’ll try this exercise again someday when Will Shortz gives us something worth writing about.