SATURDAY, Mar. 7, 2009 - J Krozel (Undercover Playboy bunny 1963 / Money-changer's profit / W.W. I battle locale near Belgian border / Bygone boomers)
Saturday, March 7, 2009
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: Not sure I'd call it a "theme," but unchecked letters act as compass points, with N in the north, E in the east, S in the south, and W in the west
Word of the Day:
AGIO (plural agios)
- The premium or percentage on a better sort of money when it is given in exchange for an inferior sort. The premium or discount on foreign bills of exchange is sometimes called agio. (wiktionary)
- 1A: Drug combination? (mortar and pestle) - OK, I get that old-timey pharmacists ground drug combinations using a MORTAR AND PESTLE, but are these a "drug combination" in that they are a "combination" (there are two things) used to make "drugs?" The trickiness feels stretched thin.
- 14D: One set for a future wedding? (engagement stone) - Had the ENGAGEMENT part, but had to wait on the rest. I was not aware this was a phrase that one used.
- 62A: Doesn't get wrapped up well? (ends on a sour note) - came to me ridiculously quickly. I think I had most of ENDS and this was the first phrase I threw across.
- 1D: Not taken to the cleaners? (machine washable) - hey, these are all "?"- interesting.
What I liked about today's puzzle, among other things, is that the stuff I didn't know at all (particularly names) had unimpeachable crosses. Didn't know LON (45A: _____ Morris College, in Jacksonville, Tex.), which sounds both tiny and impossibly regional, but the Downs allowed me to piece it together. Didn't know IAN (36A: "Lost" Emmy nominee Henry _____ Cusick), but again, Downs save the day. What do you call words that you kind of know, or have a vague sense of, but don't feel great about until you've gotten every cross? Whatever you call them, ARGONNE was one for me today (7D: W.W. I battle locale near the Belgian border). Same thing with LEA (22A: River that meets the Thames at London). Both are foreign place names I know I've seen before, but ... they seemed slightly shaky until I had them held firmly in place by crosses.
I love today's cast of characters. Seems a varied and fascinating group, one that would make for a genuinely interesting dinner party. I would love to hear Samuel BECKETT (56A: "Krapp's Last Tape" playwright) and Gloria STEINEM (33A: Undercover Playboy bunny of 1963) RIP INTO (58A: Chew out), or hear EL DUQUE tell ARSENIO (42D: First name in late-night talk, once), "You're my IDOL" (23A: Very hot star), while RIC Flair (21D: Pro wrestler Flair) and Calvin TRILLIN (12D: Longtime columnist for The Nation) try to convince LOU REED to pick up his STRAT (47A: Electric guitar model, familiarly) and play "Satisfaction" with DEVO (which would be awesome, by the way) (53D: Band that famously remade "Satisfaction" on its first album). Bebe DANIELS (53A: Bebe who co-starred in "The Maltese Falcon," 1931) is not there because I have no idea who she is. Maybe there is a poster of her on the wall somewhere.
Two more things: a. DEVO gets name-checked in "Watchmen" (the comic). I will find out tomorrow if that (and other things) make it into the movie (no spoilers!). And b. I never thought about the similarities of STRAT and STRAD until today, when the latter showed up in one puzzle I did, and then the former showed up here. Abbreviations for famous kinds of stringed instruments, with only one letter's difference between them. I like that.
- 27A: Players that replaced Minis (Nanos) - one of a handful of gimmes today. I have a NANO. It's red.
- 51A: Bygone boomers (SSTs) - another gimme, though I confess my first thought involved people born in the post-war era who are now dead.
- 61A: Dweller along Lake Volta (Ghanian) - ah "Dweller," one of the great cluing words, up there with "locale" and "bygone". I had BAHRAINIAN in another puzzle last night, so I was prepared for the long national adjective.
- 5D: Money-changer's profit (agio) - I've seen it before, but completely forgot it and needed every cross to be sure. I guess that puts it in the same category with ARGONNE and LEA. Only moreso. Not sure what I mean by that, but there it is.
- 9D: It may be received after sweeping (prize) - uh ... don't like this, in that the World Series Championship (and other titles one might win after sweeping a series) is not a "PRIZE." Or, rather, it is, but the word feels too trifling. It suggests something you'd get in a Cracker Jacks box, not a gigantic spiky trophy.
- 10D: Sedative target, with "the" (edge) - Loooooove this. Brilliant.
- 26D: Upright relatives (spinets) - ever feel like you're being haunted by a word? Like you're seeing it way more than you used to, and more than any ordinary person rightly should? That is how I feel about SPINETS.
- 38D: Legalese adverb (therein) - Had THERETO, which seems more legalesey to me.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld