TUESDAY, Jul. 14 2009 — Oyster eater in Lewis Carroll verse / 109 famously / La Brea goo / Gomer Pyle and platoonmantes by rank
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Constructor: Donna S. Levin
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: Happy Bastille Day — theme answers are all related in some way to the French Revolution
Word of the Day: The TROP (49D: Classic Vegas hotel, with "the") — The Tropicana Resort & Casino Las Vegas is located on the Las Vegas Strip, in the township of Paradise, Nevada. It is owned by Tropicana Las Vegas Hotel and Resort Inc. and operated by Armenco Holdings. It offers 1,871 rooms and is attached to a 61,000 sq ft (5,700 m2) casino. The Tropicana also has 110,000 sq ft (10,000 m2) of convention and exhibit space. (wikipedia)
I guess there was just too much Frenchness in this puzzle already to give TROP its more predictable French clue (TROP in Fr. = excessively, too).
Hey, I got my Bastille Day puzzle after all. Huzzah. A nice, oversized Bastille Day puzzle (16x15) to accommodate two 16-letter theme answers. I like that the theme answers are so disparate, yet all tie in to the final theme answer (which acts as a kind of exclamation point): FRENCH REVOLUTION. Here's something I didn't know about Bastille Day:
Besides holding a large cache of ammunition and gunpowder, the Bastille had been known for holding political prisoners whose writings had displeased the royal government, and was thus a symbol of the absolutism of the monarchy. As it happened, at the time of the siege in July 1789 there were only seven inmates, none of great political significance. (wik)
On a technical level, the puzzle is cleanly filled, with a number of interesting or unusual answers. My favorite is CHIRAC (10D: Sarkozy's presidential predecessor), both because it's a great string of letters that I rarely see in the puzzle, and also because of its tangential relationship to the theme. I'm also enjoying LAGOON (45D: Middle of an atoll) for reasons I can't quite put my finger on. Maybe because it's an ALGAL LAGOON. The Creature From the ALGAL LAGOON would be very scary. Or very silly. At any rate, the proximity of LAGOON makes ALGAL (42D: Like some pond life) almost tolerable, and that's a good thing.
Lively grid for a Tuesday, with a Q and a Z and a couple K's. I blew through this puzzle almost without stopping, handily beating my time from yesterday (despite the oversized grid). I don't really think it's "Easy-Medium," but since times were probably somewhat longer than usual on this one, I gave the difficulty rating a slight nudge up. I think the SW was probably the place most likely to give people a tiny bit of trouble. Three abbreviations are crammed down there — PT BOAT (48A: 109, famously), PFCS (48D: Gomer Pyle and platoonmates, by rank: Abbr.), and the TROP (which I'd never seen clued as a casino before). The SSE might have proved vexing. ALGAL isn't exactly common, and "STAR DUST" was totally unknown to me (39D: Hoagy Carmichael classic), so there's a decent possibility of floundering around down there. [sidenote: STARDUST is a famous Vegas resort and casino — could've made a nice tie-in with the TROP] Or maybe some people hiccuped in the west, where lots of proper nouns are giving a group hug to the WALRUS (33A: Oyster eater in a Lewis Carroll verse). WALRUS runs right through STREAM (24D: Dam site), and now I have "WALRUS in the STREAM" (sung to the tune of "Islands in the Stream") stuck in my head. Great. Nothing's going to get *that* out.
- 18A: Dickens novel with the 56-Across as its backdrop ("A Tale of Two Cities")
- 27A: Declaration attributed to Marie Antoinette just before the 56-Across ("Let them eat cake")
- 43A: Song of the 56-Across ("La Marseillaise")
- 56A: Even that began in 1789 (French Revolution)
- 15A: Dwelling section whose name comes from the Arabic for "forbidden place" (harem) — trivia! I did not know this, but "place" and "forbidden" and "dwelling section" and "Arabic" ... basically, the clue ... gave it to me. Funny how that works.
- 23A: Features of the Sierras (aretes) — ah, Sierras has its "S" back. I'm happy.
- 35A: Stale Italian bread? (lire) — cuteness.
- 38A: Catch sight of (espy) — I was ruminating on this word just yesterday, for reasons I can't remember. I was thinking about how one might clue it as a sports award and wondering if you couldn't work Samuel L. Jackson into the clue (he's hosting the ESPY Awards this year and has hosted twice before).
- 39A: Miserly Marner (Silas) — it's a good day for 19c. novels. Speaking of, I just checked Trollope's "The Way We Live Now" out of the library yesterday. We'll see how that goes.
- 61A: "Milk's favorite cookie," in commercials (Oreo) — wow, I missed whatever era this slogan is from. Recent? Ancient?
- 58D: "Able was I _____ I saw Elba" ("ere") — unwelcome Frenchness. One of my least favorite clues for "ERE" (or "IERE," or "EREI"). Tiredness.
- 59D: La Brea goo (tar) — sounds like a SoCal punk band.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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