WEDNESDAY, Mar. 25, 2009 - J E Rosman (Raw material for Wrigley, once / Umiak passenger / Heartbreaker who's back in town in a 1980 Carly Simon hit)
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: -ATCHES -ITCHES - four theme answers are all two-word phrases wherein the first word ends in -ATCHES and the second word ends in -ITCHES
Word of the Day: CHICLE - A gummy exudate used in the manufacture of chewing gum. It is contained in the bark of a tall evergreen tree, Achras zapota (Sapotaceae), a native of Mexico and Central America. The latex is collected and carefully boiled to remove excess moisture. When the water content is reduced to 33%, the chicle is poured off and molded into blocks. The product is an amorphous, pale-pink powder, insoluble in water, and forming a sticky paste when heated. In the manufacture of chewing gum, the chicle is cleaned, filtered, and sterilized, and various flavoring materials and sugar are added. (Sci Tech Encyclopedia)
I didn't time myself on this one, but I wish I had, as I think it was the easiest Wednesdays I've done in ages. I filled in with no real problems and only a handful of hesitations. Everything just fell in the way I dream about when I dream about being super awesome. Perhaps this is because fully 12 letters of every 15-letter theme answer were known entities once you understood the theme (which, for most people, I'm guessing was right after solving the second theme answer). Further, there's nothing terribly loopy about any of the fill, except (for me) the clue on STEM (12D: Skier's turn). I have apparently performed a variant of the STEM (the snowplough) without even knowing that that was what I was doing. Interesting (more about the STEM turn here). That NE corner is the only place I can providing anyone any real resistance. I know that that's where my wife is currently stuck. She has one letter to go - the "M" in SAN ANSELMO / STEM. I knew SAN ANSELMO almost instantly, both because my aunt lives there, and because of the great Van Morrison song "Snow in SAN ANSELMO" - can't find any youtube or clips of it, sadly, so here's a little iPod widget with another song from the same album, plus a song that represents the other potentially rough part of that NE corner: "JESSE" (9A: Heartbreaker who's "back in town" in a 1980 Carly Simon hit). Oh, and to top things off, a little 31A:
- 17A: Debugs computer programs, e.g. (catches glitches)
- 24A: Responds to rashes (scratches itches)
- 41A: Does some mending (patches britches) - [Does some mending in the 19th century], maybe. "Britches," HA ha.
- 54A: Lines up the sewing (matches stitches) - the answer that sounds most made-up to me; then again, I don't sew, so I have no basis for judgment
My Ideal Theme Answer for this puzzle:
[Dognaps] => SNATCHES BITCHES - come on, you know that's good.
I didn't really like the inclusion of both HIGH (in AIM HIGH - 40D: Set a lofty goal) and HIGHLY (43D: To a great degree) in the puzzle, but then I noticed that Ethiopia's Haile SELASSIE was there too, and that made the whole HIGH thing so perverse that I ended up kind of liking it. ARISTA crossing ARTISTA is a little much. The ATCHES/ITCHES thing means that we're already getting massive amounts of letter string repeats. Rein it in!
- 32A: Collect splinters, so to speak (sit) - as in "... on the bench." "Ride the pine." ETC. ETC. (10D: Blah, blah, blah, for short)
- 34A: Nutmeg State sch. (U Conn) - wrote in U TENN at first :(
- 57A: Coral creation (atoll) - wrote in SHOAL at first. A SHOAL is made up of sand, silt, or small pebbles.
- 59A: Only beardless dwarf (Dopey) - is that because he's pre-pubescent. He always creeped me out the most of the dwarves.
- 18D: Umiak passenger (Inuit) - UMIAK, of course, means "woman's boat."
- 25D: Tiramisu topper (cocoa) - mmmm, good stuff
- 35D: What oysters "R" during "R" months (in season) - first, I can't recall ever seeing this wacky punning use of "R" as a verb in a clue that lacked a "?" at the end. Second, I had no idea about oysters and R-less months until I got crushed by a puzzle where one of the answers was RLESS. I stared and stared at it. Didn't help.
- 42D: Raw material for Wrigley's, once (chicle) - Weird coincidence: I ate a whole package of CHICLEts yesterday, which almost never happens. I think it had been sitting on my candy rack for years (yes, I own a vintage metal grocery checkout lane candy rack with various Life Savers flavors represented on one of the main crossbars)
- 48D: Brussels-based alliance (NATO) - Brussels? Hmm. Not sure I knew that.
Signed, Rex Parker, Kind of CrossWorld
LAT solvers: Amy Reynaldo's got today's Jack McInturff puzzle all written up over at "L.A. Crossword Confidential"