Loosely woven fabric
Constructor: Damon Gulczynski
Relative difficulty: Easy
Word of the Day: RATINÉ (28A: Rough, loosely woven fabric) —n.
A loosely woven fabric with a rough nubby texture. (thefreedictionary.com)
• • •Fastest Saturday in a long, time. Under 8, and I stopped to take screen grabs, so ... yeah. Cake. The problem with lower word counts is, you're always gonna pay for it somewhere (well, mortals are, anyway), and today it felt like the price was a bit too high (word count: 64). There are a few great answers—MOM JEANS and MEMORY HOLE (34A: Mechanism for making things disappear in "1984") and TOTAL IDIOT (20A: Big dip)—but you get into some of those nooks and crannies and it gets pretty jarring. I was having a pleasant enough time at first. I saw straight through the "?" clue at 1A: Produces heat? (DRAWS), guessed the answers correctly, tested it on the "D" and guessed DRIFT (1D: Sight after a blizzard), and it all came together quickly. In less than 30 seconds, I was here:Here, WILLA CATHER acts kind of like a fishing line: you're just trying to get Any of the crossing answers to bite. Luckily for me, CETERA, ASHEN and -STER all did. This is precisely when things started to go south. Latin plural ... ugly suffix ... I was hoping that would be the worst of it (not sooo bad), but then *directly* after that came the MASSIFS (?!) / SAR (!?!) crossing, and Enjoyment Levels took a nosedive from which they only partially recovered (29D: Clusters of mountains / 38A: Fraternal patriotic org.). If you keep looking at -STER over SAR you will become sad and your sadness will deepen and deepen until you avert your eyes. I recommend not looking. MASSIFS would just be one of those "Oh, huh, what an odd new word" words if -STER and SAR weren't stabbed right into its heart. As is, that corner is a Blot. After that, we get stuck in the rough terrain of -ERS-ville: a patch of roughly one bajillion plurals, most of them ending -ERS (or -ORS). You know the old expression: COVERS ROTORS, SAVERS DOTERS. You don't? Well, now you do.
Once I hit yet another French-derived nutso word (RATINÉ!?) and the never-welcome author abbrev. EAPOE, I got worried again. Then the TSETSES showed up and I was beginning to think this was SATAN'S own puzzle. Now, to be fair, there's a lot of meat to this puzzle, average words doing average things. But it fizzles out in a particularly, strangely weak SE corner and ... well, that's that. From a speed-solving, tournament warm-up perspective, I guess I'm elated. But the bumps were just a little too bumpy for me today—again, not unexpected when the puzzle plummets to sub-68 depths.Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
P.S. I was looking for the Rickie Lee Jones song where she actually sings "E.A. POE" ("Traces of the Western Slopes, " off of the immaculate "Pirates" album). But then I found this and just watched it on repeat like 30 times.
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