Wednesday, August 8, 2007
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: Famous people whose last names end with the sound "GALL" ... at least, I think that's the theme
This puzzle is super-wacky and unusual in many ways. First, no rotational symmetry. Just symmetry. The empty grid looks like one of the aliens from the original Space Invaders video game. Second, the puzzle was really, really easy. I started at 1A: Moon and Starr, for short (QBs) and after fumbling for a few seconds to pick up BARTOK (2D: Hungarian composer who wrote "The Miraculous Mandarin"), I was off and running and never hesitated until I hit the SE corner. Then I just moved to the NE and worked my way down and was done. Don't know how fast because I was doing it untimed on paper, but I'd say somewhere between 6 and 8 minutes. The last odd thing about the puzzle is that it was more fun (for me) than any puzzle has been in a long time - very clever, with some real low-rent pop culture clues that made me very happy.
- 20A: With 22-Across, actor with a black belt in aikido (Steven / Seagal) - this is one of the "low-rent" clues I was talking about. This guy was always cheesy / campy, and I don't think he's been heard of since his mysterious bout of fame in the early-mid nineties.
- 36A: President with a bridge in Montreal named after him (Charles de Gaulle) - filled this in without ever looking at the clue, that's how easy this puzzle was.
- 53A: He said "Great art picks up where nature ends" (Marc Chagall) - I went through a serious Chagall phase in college.
Favorite clues / answers
- 3D: Star near Venus? (Serena) - I stopped, thought about it for about three seconds solid, and it popped into my head. The Williams sisters! Love them. Great, great clue. One of my cats is named SERENA, though that didn't help at all here.
- 33A: Item sought in the spring (Easter egg) - got it off of initial "E" and final "G"
- 39D: Protection against smearing (libel law) - nice misdirection in the clue. I like the double "L" in this one (as I like the double "C" in MARC CHAGALL)
- 19A: The Engineers of coll. athletics (RPI) - I suppose if I constructed a puzzle, I would try to find a way to work my alma mater into it too
- 65A: "Who Let the Dogs Out" group (Baha Men) - if there is a lower-rent pop culture answer than STEVEN SEAGAL, surely this is it. Awesome.
- 16A: TV title character voiced by Paul Fusco (Alf) - As long as crosswords exist, this sitcom will Never Die
- 47D: Beer, often (chaser) - this was one of the few clues that I had to take several passes at before it fell - very good colloquial term that I haven't seen much, if ever, in the grid
ATLANTA is common fill (as 7-letter fill goes) and gets clued a million insane ways (e.g. [Bailiwick of TV's Matlock]); today we learn that ATLANTA is "Where Home Depot was founded" (4A). I have no idea what Sharjah is, but 14A: Sharjah's locale (UAE, i.e. United Arab Emirates) was easy enough to piece together (easy, in this case, because I never saw the clue - got it all from crosses). Got ALLA Breve easily because of its recent appearance (54D: _____ breve (musical direction)). 10D: Tenochtitlán dweller looks intimidating, but come on - you know you're dealing with one of three things with a name like that: INCA, MAYA, or (in this case) AZTEC. Maybe OLMEC (a name I know only from its being referenced on "The Simpsons"). I pieced together 50D: Italian apologies (scuse) just from imagining what some Italian guy would say if he bumped into me. And I have no idea who LEON Russell is (40D: Rock singer Russell). I'm going to look him up now, and I hope he's important, or at least funny-looking ... woo hoo! We have "funny-looking!"
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld