Dead As A Doornail

Friday, September 28, 2007

Puzzle by Harvey Estes, edited by Will Shortz

DEADASADOORNAIL (62A Completely gone) lies near the bottom of this lifeless Friday crossword as a perfect description of its surroundings, which together with LEAVESABADTASTE (1A Doesn't sit well), the leading entry atop this gravestone of words, one that certainly many will do BYTRIALANDERROR (17A One way to solve problems), desperately moaning for an ESCAPEMECHANISM (57A Daydreaming, e.g.) oh, say perhaps ARTAPPRECIATION (16A Class in which various schools are discussed), or in desperation, poring through ASSESSMENTROLLS (63A Records of interest to real estate agents), instead of staring blankly at six 15-square lines with nary an easy across or down entry much less a straight-forward clue to exhume this fossil of a puzzle.

I know puzzles are supposed to puzzle, but gravestone rubbings have never appealed to me as a recreational activity. The clues today are akin to eroded granite refusing to dislodge the identity of the deceased.

Digging deeply unearths 1D Distillation location is a LAB; 5D Large accounts?, EPICS; 6D Place for jets, SPA; 8D Bit of moonshine, BEAM; 9D Adolescent outburst, ACNE; 12D Go downhill, ATROPHY; 22D Occasional clashers, EGOS; 28D Rather informal?, KINDA; 29D Help set up chairs for?, ENDOW; 34D Take many courses, FEAST; 48D It may be wrapped in a bun, TRESS; 59D Now in, HOT.

Shoveling across, including the vagueness concocted for the six 15-letter entries, are such definitions as 31A Retiree’s coverage?, SHEET; 36A Didn’t paw, FONDLED; 40A Balloon attachment, GONDOLA; 24A City on the Natchez Trace, TUPELO; 41A Object in a Monet painting, IRIS; 47A Least spotted, RAREST; and 52A Something needed for your sake?, RICE.

ATTAGIRL (3D Encouraging remark); VARMINT (4D Predatory critter); SIRREE (13D No follower); KINDA; and AGIN (26A Not backing, in the backwoods) attempt cheerful chumminess. For clumsiness, there is ERY (2D Suffix with cream); 10D Louis Armstrong’s “Oh DIDN’T He Ramble”; TAE (11D Initials of a noted “Wizard”); USED to be (25D); AMC (18A Pacer maker: Abbr.);ORTO dispraise my lord…”: Juliet (20A); ALA grecque (37A); and MAR (56A Gouge, say).

Just plain ornery are ARMORIAL (37D Relating to heraldry); GRENADE (40D It may contain tear gas); IMEANNO (41D Emphatic turndown); TOEOUT (49A Front wheel divergence); and TOOTLE (14D Drive along leisurely).

People in the puzzle: ARLO (7D 1968 Folk album); TINAFEY (33A “30 Rock” creator); FRIEDA (42D Curly-haired “Peanuts” character); RAMSES (43D 20th-dynasty ruler); ERICAS (44D Lois Lane player Durance and others); and the recently discovered and quickly over-used OMARR (50D Astrologer with the autobiography “Answer in the Sky”).

IMAM (53D) and IMIN (51A Hacker’s cry of success) lead the pack of happenstance fill which includes such dead wood as MLS, SIL, PAS, ESL, MMES, AWES, ECON, CEDE, FOES, TOT, and the ever-present OMEN, with a smattering of foreignese, FRERE (42A Member of la famille immediate) and SALLE (30D French study, e.g.) which ENROOT (15D Firmly establish) this dinosaur into solid rock for future archaeologists with nothing better to do!


For today's cartoon, go to

The Crossword Puzzle Illustrated.