Rookie superstition - WEDNESDAY, May 20 2009 - A Vengsarkar (Half-salute / Tijuana tanner / Ennemi's opposite)
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: COLLEGE STATION (36A: Texas city ... and a hint to the starts of 21-, 27-, 45- and 56-Across) - each of the theme answers starts with a "COLLEGE STATION," i.e. a status level in college, i.e. FRESHMAN, SOPHOMORE, JUNIOR, SENIOR
Word of the Day: LUX (20A: Meter-candle) - n., pl. lux·es or lu·ces (lū'sēz). (Abbr. lx)
The International System unit of illumination, equal to one lumen per square meter.
[Latin lūx, light.]Does your grid look a little wonky today? A little ... post-Thanksgiving dinner? Fat, I guess, is what I'm saying. It's 16x15 today, one square wider than standard, so that it can accommodate the even-numbered (i.e. 14 letters long) COLLEGE STATION at its center. COLLEGE STATION breaks nicely in half, so not sure why you could have had 7 + space + 7 across a 15x15 grid, but that puzzle exists in some alternate reality that probably even Walter Bishop couldn't find (... no "Fringe" fans here? ... really? ... oh well), so we'll deal with what we have. Love the concept - took me a little bit to figure out that "STATION" was part of the theme too. At first I was thinking it could have been COLLEGE anything (e.g. COLLEGE PARK, go TERPs) or HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL or whatever, but of course "STATION" is a key word here. I love the 12-over-14s at the top and bottom. They feel crazily adventurous. I was unfamiliar with the concept of THE IMMORTALS (63A: French Academy's 40 members) - sounds like a new superhero franchise - but the phrase is interesting and new (to me), so good.
But there was a lot I did Not love. This puzzle has a very high theme density and those 12-letter Acrosses open things up quite a bit ... and when you have theme density and open grid together, compromises will almost inevitably have to be made in terms of fill quality. Two sections of the puzzle were, to my ears, particularly grating. First, up top. I never like seeing BREE (9D: "Desperate Housewives" role), as I don't care about that show, but I can tolerate her just fine ... unless she is embarred by insane "words" like EMBAR (7A: Imprison) and - the new champion of made-up RE-words (taking the crown from former title holder RECARVE) - RETAME (11D: Bring back to domestication). Holy crap that is the lamest word I've laid eyes on in a long time. What's next? REBLINK? RESIT? Can you RE- anything? Argh. So ... the North is terrible. Head due south and things don't look much better. I'll see your BREE and raise you one BAI (52A: Actress _____ Ling of "The Crow") - marginal pop cultural "B" names galore. Everything BAI touches (perhaps not surprsingly) is iffy-to-icky. NICOLA I could infer (50D: San _____, Christmas figure in Italy). TASM sounds cool when you say it out loud (rhyming with, say, ORGASM CHASM), but as an abbrev., it's not so lovely (49D: Australian island: Abbr.). And then there's RBI MEN (48D: Ones who drive people home?) ... all I can say is, it's better than the answer I thought was going to go there (and actually entered at first) - RBIERS. That's about its only virtue. Throw in all the crosswordesey *plurals* in the SE - PSSTS? Really? (55D: Attention getters) - and there's just a bit too much forced fill overall for my tastes.
- 21A: Barack Obama, 2005-08, e.g. (FRESHMAN senator)
- 27A: Rookie superstition (SOPHOMORE jinx)
- 45A: Subsidiary member of a firm (JUNIOR partner)
- 56A: Some restaurant and pharmacy lures (SENIOR discount)
- 12A: Mil. rank (PFC) - Private First Class. I had PVT here at first. "MIL" was an answer in yesterday's puzzle.
- 15A: Oregonian (beaver) - a great word in every way. But fans of U. Oregon (go Ducks) probably don't call themselves BEAVERs (that's Oregon SU's mascot).
- 51A: Blockage remover (stent) - any story I have ever heard involving STENTS has been a scary medical disaster story.
- 64A: Classic British two-seaters (MGs) - I'd almost completely forgotten these cars existed. Feel like I haven't heard of them in decades. Maybe that's where the "classic" part comes in.
- 4D: Company with the stock symbol CAR (Avis) - I boldly wrote in AVON and justified it by thinking "The AVON ladies must have special CARs ... maybe they're pink ..."
- 12D: Gold-colored horses (palominos) - There is a band called "Golden PALOMINOS" - I know nothing about them except that Syd Straw and Michael Stipe (of R.E.M.) both sang with them at some point. Here are Syd Straw and Michael Stipe together alone:
- 13D: Multipurpose, somehow (four-in-one) - "somehow" being universal code for "four-ways"
- 22D: Persian for "crown" (Taj) - threw me. In my head, Persian => Iran and TAJ => India
- 27D: Tijuana tanner (sol) - first thought for "tanner" was "one who tans hides"
- 29D: High school dept. (mus.) - on my Least Favorite Abbreviations list (with SCH. and some others)
- 38D: Clothing retailer since 1969 (Gap) - "Since 1969" - just like me.
- 62D: Ennemi's opposite (ami) - that second "n" in "Ennemi" looks freaky.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]
Wednesday LAT puzzle write-up is here.
PS whoa, can't believe I forgot to mention SCOUT SIGN (32D: Half-salute), which I'd never heard of but believe to be a good entry anyway (I'm winking at someone right ... now)