First senator in space — THURSDAY, Jul. 9 2009 — Joe Friday's employer for short / Cap'n's underling / Two-time Banderas role / Bogota bears
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Constructor: Ashish Vengsarkar
Relative difficulty: Easy-Challenging (New Rating: I just made it up)
THEME: Reverse Cryptic Anagrams — Theme answers are really the clues in this one: familiar phrases that signal (cryptic crossword style, via their second word) an anagram of the initial word in the phrase (that anagrammed word is the all-caps letter you see in the clues). If you're still confused, see "Theme Answers," below.
Word of the Day: CERN (58A: World's largest particle physics lab) — The European Organization for Nuclear Research (French: Organisation Européenne pour la Recherche Nucléaire), known as CERN (see Naming), pronounced /ˈsɜrn/ (French pronunciation: [sɛʀn]), is the world's largest particle physics laboratory, situated in the northwest suburbs of Geneva on the Franco-Swiss border, established in 1954. The organization has twenty European member states, and is currently the workplace of approximately 2,600 full-time employees, as well as some 7,931 scientists and engineers (representing 580 universities and research facilities and 80 nationalities).
A breath of fresh air today — for the most part. Sailed through this, admiring lots of clever clues and interesting answers along the way. The theme was almost instantly obvious to me, and those answers were among the easiest to fill in (especially considering the anagrammed word was always the first word in the phrase). Would have liked a slightly greater overall challenge on my Thursday, but the smoothness and wit of the puzzle took away any disappointment I might have felt. But one problem, and it's kind of a biggie. The PAGET / GARN crossing is the closest thing to a quintessential violation of the NATICK PRINCIPLE that I have seen since I coined that phrase. Again, this does not mean it was impossible. Clearly some people know GARN (8D: First senator in space), some know PAGET (6A: Debra of "The Ten Commandments), and some even know both. But I am telling you right now, if it was a flat-out, blind, shot-in-the-dark guess for me (and it was), then that crossing is going to crush tons of people today. That "G" isn't intuitable in any way except that of all the letters that could go there, "G" makes 6A (PAGET) most name-like. I know a PIAGET, and that is the ONLY reason I guessed "G." GARN looks and sounds wholly made-up. Different people have their blind spots, yadda yadda yadda, but crossing not-exceedingly-well-known people like this at a letter that's not inferrable is just Bad Form. There can be no "aha moment." Just a SHRUG (18A: [I don't care]) and a guess.
- 19A: TROT? (TORT reform) — TORT has been "reformed" to make TROT
- 21A: HATER? (HEART transplant) — letters of HEART have been "transplanted" to make HATER
- 36A: RIFTS? (FIRST amendment) — FIRST has been "amended" to get RIFTS
- 52A: GATES? (STAGE adaptation) — STAGE has been "adapted" to make GATES
- 56A: HOSE? (SHOE repair) — SHOE has been "repaired" to create HOSE ("repair" is kind of a stretch here as an anagram indicator, but you gotta love the foot-oriented pairing of HOSE and SHOE)
Love how fresh, colloquial, and slangy the puzzle is. Felt very contemporary — a living, breathing thing and not a slog through the language graveyard. I got RICAN easily but don't know that I've heard it as a self-standing word before (39A: San Juan native, slangily). Rhymes with REEKIN', so can't see how that's good. I have a friend from PR; I'll have to ask her what's up with that. Like INK at 43A: Tattoo, in slang, and I even kind of like the partial "A PIP" just 'cause of the way it's clued (55D: "You're _____, ya know that?": Archie Bunker), even though having A PIP very near A POP (53D: Each) is a little ridiculous. Words I love most in this puzzle are TORPOR (10D: Lethargy) and PHISH (63A: Attempt some Internet fraud). The former is a familiar summer feeling, and the latter is fantastic contemporary coinage (and a tedious - to my ears - jam band).
- 11A: Joe Friday's employer, for short (LAPD) — it's Joe Friday's week this week ... and not even Friday yet. Place bets now on whether he's mentioned in tomorrow's puzzle.
- 17A: Bogotá bears (osos) — Gabriel Garcia Marquez is from Colombia. I learned that yesterday. Reading 100 Years of Solitude because it's my good friend's favorite book. That is all.
- 44A: Mother, in British dialect (mam) — wow, really. Is that pronounced like any of the following: MA'AM, MOM, MUM?
- 59A: Two-time Banderas role (Zorro) — forgot there were two of these. I read "Zorro" (Dynamite Comics), so this was easy. Bruce Wayne's parents are killed just after the family has emerged from a screening of a "Zorro" movie (actually, as is common in comics, this event plays out somewhat differently in different retellings).
- 28D: Cap'n's underling (Bos'n) — a word I learned from Shakespeare's "The Tempest" and never, ever forgot. 11th grade English. Mr. Berglund could teach the hell out of a Shakespeare play.
- 30D: Racket makers? (tennis pros) — none of the ones I knew growing up actually *made* rackets. They strung them ...
- 34D: Stop on the Trans-Siberian Railway (Omsk) — one of my favorite crossword cities.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]