Monday, June 18, 2007
Relative difficulty: Medium-Hard
THEME: Campus Compass Points - four theme answers are homes of colleges, with NORTH, WEST, SOUTH, and EAST in their names, respectively; further, every answer is a city followed by a two-letter state code
Didn't see the compass point aspect of this puzzle until about two minutes ago. I found the whole puzzle a bit befuddling - doable, but full of all sorts of weirdness. I'm including the theme in the "weirdness," as there are three different features that link them all, though technically only one of those features is the theme, I guess. We have the compass points, plus the college/university angle, plus the state code angle. Kind of a mess, conceptually, though I like the way the city+state code looks in the grid.
- 20A: Home of Smith College (Northampton, MA)
- 29A: Home of the U.S. Military Academy (West Point, NY)
- 44A: Home of Notre Dame (South Bend, IN)
- 52A: Home of Michigan State (East Lansing, MI)
Having spent 8 years of my life at a major university in the midwest, I got the last two of these answers immediately. For some reason WEST POINT, NY took a while to come together, and NORTHAMPTON, MA was not familiar to me (though inferrable with a few crosses).
But on top of the theme weirdness, there are plenty of INSANE (47D: Ready for the rubber room) non-theme answers. Let's start with:
26A: 100 square meters (are)
I was dead certain this was wrong. ARE??? Talk about dressing a toad up in a tux and teaching it to dance ... WTF? ARE is a linking verb. The fact that it also has this esoteric meaning in some farming quarters does not mean I should be subjected to said meaning. When I finished the puzzle, I actually Googled ALONSO (26D: "The Tempest" king) to make sure I'd remembered my high school Shakespeare accurately, and thus that the "A" cross on ARE was correct. It was. ARE! Man oh man.
41A: Unicorn in a 1998 movie (Nico)
Again, huh? It's Tuesday and you're giving me unicorn movies Nobody Has Heard Of!? I for one would like to see NICO killed and burned to ashes, so that we can return him to the URN from which he apparently escaped. NICO's one virtue is that it rhymes with BIKO (9D: Steven _____, real-life subject of the 1987 film "Cry Freedom")
25D: Colorist's vessel (dye pot)
This sounds medieval. Do modern colorists really call their "vessels" DYE POTs? It's a super-ugly phrase.
11D: Former lovers, e.g. (ex-partners)
Not fond of this one, mainly because the answer is not a very in-the-language phrase. [Conan O'Brien and Andy Richter, e.g.] might have made this answer work. For me.
6D: Mingo player on "Daniel Boone" (Ed Ames)
Where do I begin. After I stopped laughing at the very word "Mingo," I realized I would never get this without crosses. I've seen ED AMES in the puzzle before, which is the only reason I was able to fill his name in. "Daniel Boone!?!" Oh sure, I used to watch that when I was negative 10 years old.
34D: Nova _____ (Scotian)
SCOTIAN? I can't recall seeing a partial used this way, where the missing part is modified to a less-used, less common part of speech. Kind of icky. Gettable, but :(
46D: Naysayer (denier)
The clue - you'd use that word. The answer - no, not so much.
Took me forever to get EARED (23A: Flop or lop follower) and I balked at the cluing on REGALE (5D: Wine and dine). I always think of REGALE in the context of story-telling, as in "so and so REGALEd us with stories of his time on the high seas" or whatever.
On the brighter side, there is a handful of hot fill in this grid. I especially like the bad movies, including AEON FLUX (61A: With 64-Across, 2005 Charlize Theron title role) - never saw it, but I own the comic book tie-in that came out around the same time ... for some reason - and "Blame it ON RIO" (49A: "Blame it _____" (Michael Caine film)), which I watched many times on HBO in the early-mid 80s. It had breasts in it. I was 14. Now you know.
Lastly, I commend the near juxtaposition of PLANETARIA (59A: Sites for stargazers) and SPHERE (66A: Ball).
Good night / morning.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld