Highest worship in Catholicism — SUNDAY, Jul. 26 2009 — Onetime MTV animated title character / 1971 peace nobelist from Germany / Bilbao bloom
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Constructor: Kevin G. Der
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: "Story Circle" — An Arthurian Legend puzzle. Circled squares in the middle of the grid form a kind of ring. Each circled square contains the word "SIR," and collectively those squares signify the KNIGHTS OF / THE ROUND TABLE (14D: With 76-Down, 1953 Ava Gardner film as depicted elsewhere in this puzzle?) [NOTE: apparently the rebus ("SIR") squares were NOT circled in the dead-tree version of the puzzle. Failure to standardize the puzzle appearance across the different formats = tiresome incompetence.]
Word of the Day: LATRIA (122D: Highest form of worship in Catholicism) — Latrīa is a Latin term (from the Greek λατρεια) used in Orthodox and Catholic theology to mean adoration, which is the highest form of worship or reverence and is directed only to the Holy Trinity. (wikipedia)
An ambitious puzzle, with two different theme levels (long answers and rebus) an oversized grid (23x23) and L/R (as opposed to the normal rotational) symmetry. With a big, multi-layered production like this, it feels as if Mr. DER is auditioning to become the next Liz Gorski — and doing a pretty fine job of it. I have taught college courses on Arthurian Literature, so this one was about as solidly in my wheelhouse as any puzzle ever will be, but I think that all of the titles involved should be familiar enough to virtually anyone that the theme itself should have posed much of a problem. Further, of all the rebus puzzles I've seen before, this one was probably the easiest to detect and solve. I got the entirety of A CONNECTICUT YANKEE / IN KING ARTHUR'S COURT the first time I looked at the clue, with only a handful of the first two or three letters in place, and I knew instantly that those circled squares in the middle must have something to do with the Round Table. Thankfully, there were enough zigs and zags in the puzzle, enough thorny cluing and odd little words, to keep the solving experience interesting. The grid is a kind of architectural marvel. He stacked 15-letter theme answers right on top of each other. I don't think I've ever seen that done. As with any architectural marvel, there were some compromises in the fill — a few that made me wince a little — but overall, the puzzle gets a very solid thumbs-up.
- 137A: 1963 animated film with the song "Higitus Figitus," with "The" ("SWORD IN THE STONE")
- 143A: 1998 animated film featuring the voice of Pierce Brosnan ("QUEST FOR CAMELOT")
- 2D: 1984 film in which Helen Mirren plays a sorceress ("EXCALIBUR") — side note: I am watching movies from 1969 right now (arbitrary, yes, but it's leading to some amazing discoveries), and I just finished Michael Powell's "Age of Consent," which was Mirren's first film. She was very young in that film (playing 17, but really in her early 20s, I think). Also brilliant and beautiful. Also quite naked. It's worth watching, is what I'm saying.
- 4D: With 12-Down, 1889 Twain novel ("A CONNECTICUT YANKEE / IN KING ARTHUR'S COURT")
- 14D: With 76-Down, 1953 Ava Gardner film as depicted elsewhere in this puzzle? ("KNIGHTS OF / THE ROUND TABLE")
- 71D: 2001 Anjelica Huston miniseries, with "The" ("MISTS OF AVALON") — here we come to my one quibble with this theme. The puzzle is already heavy on screen versions of stories. I don't know how popular this miniseries was, but I do know that the novel "Mists of Avalon" by Marion Zimmer Bradley was phenomenally popular, and remains in print. I think the book, not the miniseries, should have been the basis of the clue (you could, if you'd really felt the need, added "which was adapted into a 2001 miniseries" or something like that). The very word "miniseries" feels laughable to me in the 21st century. It's not as if "Mists of Avalon" (2001) was "Roots" or "The Thorn Birds."
Kevin Der's love of animated films (ask him about his job at Pixar) is evident in this puzzle. A little too evident for me, as I haven't seen "Wall-E," and thus was perfectly willing to believe that 91A: Wall-E's love in "Wall-E" was something called EVO. The "O" came from AMON RA (78D: Supreme Egyptian deity), which is one of three (3) acceptable ways of spelling this particular god's name (AMON, AMUN, AMEN). It was only after grimacing at that answer (EVO) that I realized it might be something else. Obviously EVE is the only reasonable *human* name that fits the in the "Wall-E" answer, but if your clue is asking for a robot name, then there's no reason EVO might not be perfectly reasonable, esp. when the cross (in this case "O") is rock solid.
- 16A: Sky Chief company (Texaco) — no idea what Sky Chief is. I see now that it is some olde-timey brand of gasoline. I'm assuming that it couldn't make your car fly.
- 28A: 2001 headline maker (Enron) — I had ELIAN. Off by a year or so.
- 33A: Michael of "Juno" and "Superbad" (Cera) — if you are buying stock in crossword answers, I recommend investing in CERA. CERA and MALIA are my Hott Pickz of the Week! (CERA gained fame in the TV show "Arrested Development" and is now something close to a legitimate movie star — very funny).
- 53A: Tulsa sch. (ORU) — Oral Roberts U.
- 55A: Subject of a tipster's tip (nag) — my brain died on this one. I had NAG and still couldn't figure out what it meant. I was thinking of someone giving a "tip" in a criminal investigation. NAG is, of course, a horse.
- 56A: Joe Montana or Jerry Rice, informally (Niner) — as in San Francisco 49er. I was born in SF, so I should have been a fan, but never was. Could've backed a winner. But no. I backed the Seahawks. Still do. So sad.
- 58A: Additions to a musical staff (bar lines) — these are the vertical lines that separate measures. Other BAR LINES: "Come here often?" and "What's your sign?"
- 60A: _____ but when (not if) — for some reason, I Love this clue.
- 69A: Dried seaweed in Japanese cuisine (kombu) — that's a pretty foodie answer. It's familiar, but only vaguely.
- 100A: Tandoor flatbreads (nans) — I've never seen this pluralized with an "S"; looks about as good as "breads"; "Can we get some more breads, please?" "No, you cannot."
- 105A: Bones may be found in it (stock) — another great clue. So many possible answers, and this one was dead on.
- 127A: Island where Sundanese and Madurese are spoken (Java) — Mmm, sundae-nese. I would like to speak that right now (and it's only 7:36 a.m.)
- 136A: Operatic heroine wooed by Beckmesser (Eva) — no idea. All from crosses. EVE and EVA were clearly out to get me today.
- 151A: Org. in Clancy's "Red Storm Rising" (NSA) — Never read a Tom Clancy book. I imagine that the Red Storm is something bad and possibly Communist... yes. Tom Clancy is also a big name in video games, and this novel provided the name for Clancy's game development company, Red Storm Entertainment.
- 3D: Onetime MTV animated title character and others (Darias) — really? There's more than one DARIA? Can you name one?
- 5D: Weathercast figure (low) — cool, unusual cluing.
- 17D: Relative of a grapefruit (ugli) — a hybridized grapefruit and tangerine, in case anyone asks.
- 20D: Bilbao bloom (flor) — took me a few passes. Thought the answer would be a particular kind of FLOR.
- 37D: River that flows past more than 40 castles (Rhine) — interesting stat. That's a Lot of castles.
- 63A: "Winnie _____ Pu" ("Ille") — one of my most hated bits of fill. An absolute, hail mary, nothing else will work here answer. Someone should make a robot movie called "Ill-E" so that this answer becomes more legit.
- 66D: Pot-_____ (French stew) (au feu) — Parlez-VOUS français? (112D). Today, it would help if you did.
- 69D: Conductor Lockhart and others (Keiths) — no clue. Oh, he's conductor of the Boston Pops. Huh. Interesting. With Fiedler gone, I don't think the Boston Pops are nearly as well known any more (outside Boston) as this clue thinks they are.
- 108D: 1971 Peace Nobelist from Germany (Brandt) — man, there was a Lot I didn't know today. Why was this puzzle so easy, then?
- 117D: Heroine in Verdi's "Il Trovatore" (Leonora) — not sure I knew this either, but she's got a very Poe-esque name, so I pieced it together pretty easily.
- 123D: Antisub weapon (ashcan) — isn't this slang?
- 133D: What an inflectional ending is added to (stem) — very nice STEM clue.
- 134D: Certain netizen (AOLer) — up there with ILLE on the answera non grata list.
And now, time for the "Puzzle Tweets of the Week" (Twitter chatter about Crosswords):
- Natron602 I want a gorgeous brunette foreign girl to hang out in bed in her panties while I do crossword puzzles. is this a lame fantasy?
- Faina_I Doing a crossword in a Starbucks, and a kid is staring at me through the window. Now I feel pressured.
- thisisdannyg proof of my intelect #489: didn't know crossword clue "'As I Lay Dying' father" but immediately knew "Andy Griffith Show" tyke
- J_Waite I'm anti-all this french in crossword puzzles.
- annthewriter holy freaking shit. you'd be amazed how painful it is to drop the NYT supersized book of Sunday crossword puzzles on your bare foot. ow.
- ikforman I have no idea why I'm trying to hard to hide I'm cheating on the crossword from my train seatmate
- michelehumes "Ste." is a French abbreviation for a (female) saint, not an English one. No fair. #impeachwillshortz
- akuban 7 Down ... "Who Let the Dogs Out"? Seriously, Will Shortz? Thanks for putting that shit song in my head.
- evenerual je "parle" mauvaus francais mais aujuord'hui dans le crossword il y as un phrase francais et i was all over that
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]