Original host of Breakfast at Wimbledon —SATURDAY, Sep. 5 2009— Housemother to Tootie / Company that provided equipment for reality show The Contender
Saturday, September 5, 2009
Constructor: Mike Nothnagel
Relative difficulty: No Idea
NOTE: "This crossword was the playoff puzzle at Lollapuzzoola, a crossword tournament directed by Brian Cimmet and Ryan Hecht, held in Jackson Heights, Queens, on August 22. The winner, Dan Feyer, of New York City, finished it perfectly in 7 minutes 10 seconds."
Word of the Day: SEA MONKEYs (15D: Pet for which you can buy an Aqua-Leash) — Sea-Monkeys are a variant of brine shrimp or Artemia salina, originating in salt lakes and evaporation flats. They are members of the phylum Arthropoda now called Artemia salina × nyos. In the United Kingdom in the 1970s they were called "Artful Arties". [...] The key ability of unhatched "Sea-Monkeys" to be packaged, shipped, and handled is that, in certain environments, they enter cryptobiosis, a natural state of suspended animation. When released into the prepared aquarium they leave this state and emerge from their cysts. The genetic variant of brine shrimp, the Sea-Monkey, was given the term "instant life" to reflect the instant hatching seen when the cysts are added to the saltwater medium. (wikipedia)
I got to sit on the stage after the Finals and talk to the puzzle's constructor about how it all came together. He may or may not drop by later and give you a little insight. I know that MAJOR AXIS was the seed answer (3D: Line that passes through both of an ellipse's foci) — like several constructors I know, Mike is a mathematician. I think the most enjoyable answer for a lot of people at the tourney was EVIL TWINS (2D: Bad copies?). The only grumbling I heard was for E-SIGN (29A: Endorse on a Web site maybe) — that grumbling was coming from me — NEED ASAP (17A: Note on a time-sensitive document), and, oddly, SEA MONKEY, if only because no one ever owned a *single* SEA MONKEY. They are almost inherently plural (this didn't bother me — I'm just reporting what I heard). If I remember correctly, Mike was unaware that the tennis clue at 14D: Original host of "Breakfast at Wimbledon" (Enberg) might reasonably cause people, especially after a few crosses were in place, to try EDBERG (as in Stefan, as in the former world #1 men's tennis player). These clues did not feature the trap I fell into when I first solved this puzzle. I forget what the "Local" clue for SEL was (here, it's 22A: Poivre's counterpart), but I know that I wanted MER [the clue was 22A: Fleur de _____ (sea salt from France)], and with that in place, whatever the clue for REPEL was [it was 12D: Fend off] led very easily to DETER, so I was stuck for a good while with MER/DETER in that NE corner. Not pleasant. I think that was the hardest corner for me by far.
I was very excited about PAPELBON (56A: Pitcher who struck out the final batter of the 2007 World Series), and Mike said that was just good luck, nothing planned. When he worked his way down into that corner, he saw the possibility for PAPELBON and threw it across, then built the corner around him. Nice, of course, that PAPELBON intersects another, greater pitcher in Warren SPAHN (46D: Braves pitcher who won the 1957 Cy Young). Also great to have the called STRIKE ONE over there in the other southerly corner (31D: Call at home). All in all, a quirky, enjoyable, toughish puzzle.
- 13A: First monarch to be crowned Tsar of All Russia (Ivan IV) — like all tsars and popes and many kings, I filled it in by feel, groping along with the crosses until everything looked solid.
- 16A: 1997 Demi Moore movie with the tagline "Failure is not an option" ("G.I. Jane") — along with PAPELBON, one of a only a few gimmes in the grid.
- 21A: It's classified by the U.S.D.A. as red meat under cooking guidelines and as poultry under inspection standards (emu) — probably the longest clue EMU ever got.
- 58A: 1978 King novel rereleased in a "Complete and uncut" version in 1990 ("The Stand") — not a gimme, but close. I remember the "rerelease" from college.
- 59A: Winner of the 2002 Academy Award for Best Original Song (Eminem) — man, I was really looking for a song title here.
- 6D: Company that provided equipment for the reality show "The Contender" (Everlast) — boxing equipment. There's a rapper called EVERLAST, which I know Mike knows ... but test-solvers (and probably Mike himself) declared the rap clue just too tough. Would have been a gimme for me. Rap-haters, count yourselves lucky.
- 25D: Took a lot of punches? (tied one one) — despite appearances, NOT a boxing clue. Punch here = spiked punch. Rum punch. Etc. On this go 'round, this answer was the very last one I got (at the "D" of "DIE OF shame," 39A).
- 7D: Needed a coating of heated propylene glycol, say (iced up) — "say," HA ha. Yeah, people "say" that all the time.
- 11D: "Gigantic (_____ of Two Johns)," 2002 documentary about They Might Be Giants ("A Tale") — wow, what a weird, wacky clue for "A TALE." Screw you, Dickens! I have warm, hilarious, nostalgic feelings about They Might Be Giants. My sister and I listened to their first two albums incessantly when we drove up the western U.S. to visit our aunt/uncle/cousins in Sun Valley one summer in the late 80s. This was my introduction to the crosswordy town of ELKO, where we failed to secure a hotel room because of the glut of senior gambling junkets overrunning the town. We ended up in a the diviest motel I've ever stayed in in my life to this day. Somewhere in Wells, NV. We called our mom from a corner payphone in the middle of the night and told her we were just fine, the young prostitutes with the boom box on the sidewalk outside our room seemed very nice.
- 33D: Housemother to Tootie, Natalie, Blair and Jo (Edna) — ooh, another gimme. Charlotte RAE (who played EDNA) is in the puzzle not infrequently.
- 43D: Garment that's often reconstructed before each wearing (turban) — good clue.
- 44D: Food used as an antiseptic during World War I (garlic) — it's good stuff. I try to eat some every day.
- 47D: Structure made from poles and hides (tepee) — that's pretty easy.
- 50D: Cry from the accused ("Who, me!?") — for some reason (maybe the clue I had was different) I had WHY ME!? (and I wasn't alone).
- 53D: Mrs. Lovett in "Sweeney Todd," for one (alto) — this one had me wondering when Julia Roberts was ever in "Sweeney Todd" (I know, she's not Mrs. Lovett now, but she was).
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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