WEDNESDAY, 08/05/09— Booth Tarkington title tween / Longtime CBS boss William / Affleck/Lopez as tabloid twosome / Y.A. known for well thrown pigskins
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Constructor: Donna S. Levin
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
THEME: Exclamation of PERRY WHITE (57A: Character known for exclaiming the first words of 20-, 28- and 46-Across); those first words are "GREAT / CAESAR'S / GHOST!"
Word of the Day: PERRY WHITE — Perry White is a fictional character who appears in the Superman comics. White is the Editor-in-Chief of the Metropolis newspaper the Daily Planet.
I had no idea PERRY WHITE and this exclamation were famous enough in this century to carry a puzzle. As catch phrases go, GREAT CAESAR'S GHOST's general recognizability (especially as a specifically PERRY WHITE expression) faded a long time ago, and as tertiary characters in comics go ... well, among *tertiary* characters, PERRY WHITE has a pretty solid standing. I just don't think I've seen a puzzle built around a tertiary character before, is all. I read comics, and my first answer for PERRY WHITE was MERRY WIDOW. The phrase just didn't register for me. My time on the puzzle overall was still average for a Wednesday. I suspect there will be a generation gap in today's solving experience. We'll see.
The grid is amazing, in that those NE and SW corners are huge, wide-open spaces more characteristic of Friday and Saturday grids than Wednesdays. I can't remember seeing blocks of 8s like that in a Wednesday. If I have, it's been a while. Felt like the main body of the puzzle ran diagonally from NW to SE, and then oh, by the way, here are these bonus mini-puzzles in the NE and SW. Very cool. The long Downs were relatively easy, so they didn't add a lot of difficulty to the puzzle, but I liked them nonetheless.
- 20A: America's so-called Third Coast (GREAT Lakes)
- 28A: One who must be above suspicion, in a saying (CAESAR'S wife) — never heard the saying. I think CAESAR expressions in general were just Way bigger half a century ago.
- 46A: Many an autobiographer's need (GHOST writer) — something about the phrasing threw me. I think of an "autobiographer" as a writer (the "graph" part), so I didn't think the writer would need a writer. But I'm not sure how I would have rephrased it.
Two answers I flat-out didn't know today. First was SHOJI (30D: Japanese sliding screen), which started as SCRIM, and then eventually went to SHOJO, even though I know perfectly well that SHOJO describes a variety of Japanese manga (aimed at girls) and was therefore unlikely also to mean "sliding screen." The wrong final "O" made me try "[something] NOTES" at first for the autobiographer theme answer at 46A. As a transition answer from the top to the bottom half of the grid, SHOJI caused a lot of trouble. Final Across was also a mystery to me. Never heard of William PALEY (68A: Longtime CBS boss William). His heyday appears to be right in this puzzle's temporal sweet spot: smack dab in the middle of the 20th century. Wonder if PALEY was a fan of Y.A. TITTLE (also big in 1950 — 49D: Y.A. known for well-thrown pigskins). TITTLE intersecting PERRY WHITE and PALEY says everything about what year this puzzle is living in — R. KELLY (47D: Singer with the 1994 #1 hit "Bump N' Grind") and BENNIFER (12D: Affleck/Lopez as a tabloid twosome) notwithstanding.
- 6A: _____-Ball (game on an incline) — would not have thought this needed the parenthetical explanation.
- 18A: Mrs. Dithers in the comics (Cora) — from "Blondie"; I'm telling you, this puzzle is some kind of time warp (yes, "Blondie" still runs in papers, but ... come on, that strip still has its feet still firmly planted in the '50s). Like PERRY WHITE, CORA Dithers is a tertiary comics character.
- 54D: Mattel's Princess of Power (She-Ra) — there is a song about SHE-RA on an album by a group called "Two Nice Girls." I listened to their album "Chloe Liked Olivia" a Lot in college.
- 32A: Ex-governor Palin (Sarah) — ouch. That was fast.
- 51A: Original Luddite _____ Ludd (Ned) — I forgot about this NED. Needed all the crosses.
- 2D: Booth Tarkington title tween (Penrod) — learned it from xwords ... and then apparently forgot it. Needed many crosses to get it back. Common reading in English classes ... when Y.A. TITTLE was a boy.
- 13D: Important plant in alternative medicine (aloe vera) — got it easily, but I think of it more as a common plant used in lotions. Had no idea it was so important in so-called "alternative medicine."
- 42D: Out of order, in a way (swapped) — pretty devilish a clue for a Wednesday. Not understanding this one led me to try SWAMPED, which led to my initial MERRY WIDOW-for-PERRY WHITE mistake.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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