Saturday, August 18, 2007
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: "Buried Treasure" - symbol for gold (AU) is inserted in squares around the grid; these "AU" squares, when connected, form the outline of a "heart" - 26A: With 113-Across, 1972 song lyric hinting at this puzzle's theme ("I've been a miner for a / heart of gold")
[In the printed grid, right, "$" = AU]
A very clever, multi-layered theme. I feel very fortunate to have figured out the theme almost immediately. Had the I'VE B part of 26A, then started getting annoyed at what seemed to be some messed-up, variant spelling at 33A: Scene (tableAU) - what did they want, TABLET? TABLEU? Then noticed that the cross - 27D: Lover boy (beAU) - needed an AU too - knew that AU = gold, looked back at I'VE B and filled the rest of it in instantly. Thrilled to see that it all fit. Even with that big head start, I found challenging pockets. it's a weirdly shaped grid - it doesn't have rotational symmetry and you can't get at the center except from underneath (much trouble in the upper-center region - more on that later). After complaining about people's apparent ignorance of Steffi Graf yesterday, I got floored by not one but two female sports star clues today - one of them clued in relation to 1988, just as the GRAF clue was. Karma. Luckily, I guessed both their names correctly.
- 44A: Kristin _____, six-time swimming champion at the 1988 Olympics (Otto)
- 120A: Tennis player Smashnova (Anna) - that's an insanely good name for a tennis player, but ... a pretty long way to go for ANNA.
The GOLD answers:
- 28D: Overseas Mrs. (FrAU)
- 36A: Victorians (AUssies)
- 39A: Outdoor shindigs (luAUs)
- 34D: Letters from Greece (tAUs)
- 41A: "Your mother wears army boots!," e.g. (tAUnt)
- 35D: Mideast's House of _____ (Pancakes ... I mean SAUd)
- 58A: "Homage to Clio" (AUden)
- 58D: Author who wrote "One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other" (AUsten) - I love love love the AUsten/AUden literary meeting of minds here; clever
- 59A: Some shavers (BrAUns)
- 54D: Extol (lAUd)
- 61A: Pianist Claudio (ArrAU) - if he weren't in the crossword fairly frequently, he'd have given me fits
- 77A: Child-care provider (AU pair)
- 77D: Sound (AUdio) - I had ECHO here at first, not realizing it involved a theme square
- 79A: Capital city about an hour by plane from Miami (NassAU)
- 97A: European air hub (De GAUlle)
- 100D: Park Avenue, for one (AUto) - constructors like to throw this make at you because it's got built-in misdirection
I'm tired, so I will discuss just a few thorny parts.
I had a nice little blank 3x3 square in the upper heart of this puzzle for a while. I knew AU went in there somewhere, but at first I tried to put it too high - second square in 53A: First Shia imam (Ali). Turns out it went one square down - in BRAUNS. Did not think -INI (55D: Magician's name suffix) was really a suffix. Is HOUD- a root word? And ARA (53D: Constellation near Scorpius) is always the last constellation I think of, in that I don't think of it ever.
Waiting for my wife to finish puzzle so she can explain 36A: Victorians, e.g. (AUssies) to me. Oh, I think I just got it. There must be a place name in Australia named Victoria ...? I hope so. Had no idea what MELANITES were (17D: Deep black garnets) - some kind of stone, it seems. MELANITES intersected with OTTO (above) at the "T," so I was guessing there.
Oh, I should note that the Neil Young aspect of this puzzle is continued in two more long, symmetrical answers in the SE and SW of the grid:
- 68D: Atomic number of the special parts of this puzzle which, when connected, form a 113-Across (seventy-nine)
- 64D: Like 113-Across (by Neil Young) - that one threw me at first because I had BYNEI and thought "what the hell sort of word is that?"
- 11D: Missy _____ with the 2002 hit "Work It" (Elliott) - gimme for me, though I didn't know she had the double-L and double-T version of this last name.
- 10D: Bill who created the comic strip "Smokey Stover" (Holman) - I will confess that I've never heard of this guy.
- 74A: "The Baptism of Christ" painter _____ della Francesca (Piero) - I'm semi-proud of guessing this off just the "P," figuring that PIERO was the most likely Italian name to go there.
- 40D: German-born Hollywood actor _____ Keir (Udo) - wow, now that's a name. I'm sure I've seen the name before, but he's not registering.
- 66D: 1954 Jean Simmons movie ("Desiree") - GENE Simmons has a reality show on VH1 now.
- 43D: Author Janowitz (Tama) - she used to appear with far greater frequency than she does now. Her name is crossword AU, but quickly became crosswordese, I think, and is now avoided if possible (like her writing - just kidding! never read it).
The other reason ANNA Smashnova was so hard for me was because I figured she must have a far crazier name than ANNA (see Orange's frequent assertion that if the person seems uncommon, the name is probably uncommon as well - not so in this case). So I had AN-A and the Down cross was NOT helping - 104D: French department in Picardy (Aisne) - is "department" a geographical place? Yes, a department is sort of like a county, apparently. Seven years of French and I can't make sense of a simple clue like this. Ugh.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld