Basilica feature — THURSDAY, Oct. 8 2009 — Caligula's predecessor as emperor / Russian playwright Andreyev / Dragon ruler of old Wallachia
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Constructor: Scott Atkinson
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: TIME AFTER TIME (33A: Repeatedly ... and a hint to the answers to this puzzle's starred clues) — theme answers are two-word phrases where both words can precede "TIME" in a common phrase, e.g. DOUBLE PLAY (double TIME, half-TIME)
Word of the Day: THORIUM (26D: Metal that's an effective radiation shield) — A radioactive silvery-white metallic element that is recovered commercially from monazite. Its longest-lived isotope, the only one that occurs naturally, is Th 232 with a HALF-LIFE of 1.41 × 1010 years. It is used in magnesium alloys, and isotope 232 is a source of nuclear energy. Atomic number 90; atomic weight 232.038; approximate melting point 1,750°C; approximate boiling point 4,500°C; approximate specific gravity 11.7; valence 4.
Today, a fancier, somewhat more difficult variation of the "word-that-can-follow" theme. Seen it many times, but this one has the nice theme-revealing phrase in the middle that gives the theme heft and life, so ... good. Had trouble getting started, but once I did, it all felt reasonably easy. Medium, trending easy. Definitely had some minor struggles, especially in and around SORBATE (37D: Potassium _____ (preservative)) and especially TUTU, which is brilliantly clued (56A: Something a person may take a spin in?). I had that final "U" and could Not figure out what it could be. I actually started second-guessing the "U." I had BANTER for NATTER (42D: Flap one's gums), which also caused a hiccup. Other missteps included TALMUD for TORAHS (1D: They're read at services ... I just ignored the plural, I guess), SUPER GS for SLALOMS (27A: Winter Olympics races ... talk about taking the Road Less Likely), and RANK for RIPE (17A: Like many old gym socks). You'll note those last three are all in the NW, hence the slow start I spoke of earlier.
- 18A: *Baseball feat (double play)
- 24A: *Physics period (half-life)
- 48A: *Brave front (game face)
- 52A: *Asthmatic's concern (air quality)
When the theme started unfolding, I figured it would have something to do with quantity, e.g. DOUBLE play, HALF life ... but then I hit the Cyndi Lauper song, and all became clear. Given the neat two-word structure of the long Downs in this puzzle — OPEN FLAME (4D: Hazard around an aerosol can) and MINE FIELD (32D: Treacherous expanse) — I really wanted them to be part of the theme too. "FLAME TIME!" I can think of a few possible meanings for that.
- 14A: "Get _____," 1967 hit for the Esquires ("On Up") — started by wanting "A JOB," then considered "ON UP" but thought that was James Brown, which it is, in a way. "Get ON UP" is a refrain from JB's "Sex Machine." Thought I had never heard the Esquires song in question, then listened. Definitely familiar from my mid-80s "I only listen to Motown and Oldies and Classic Rock" phase.
- 39A: Golden Globe-winning English actor McShane (Ian) — Can't picture him. I guess he was in "Deadwood," a show I've never seen.
- 57A: Blinded painfully (maced) — it's kind of a brutal puzzle today, what with the nuclear material and the hazmat suit and the OPEN FLAME and MINE FIELD. Now I'm getting MACED? Dang.
- 3D: Basilica feature (cupola) – one of those architectural words I just know, without knowing why I know it. CUPOLA is a dome, right? Wikipedia says "small, most-often dome-like structure, on top of a building. Often used to provide a lookout or to admit light and air, it usually crowns a larger roof or dome."
- 5D: Work started by London's Philological Soc. (OED) — a handy ref.
- 8D: Japanese port (Kobe) — not thrilled about this one intersecting OSAKA (5A: Where Panasonic is headquartered).
- 33D: Caligula's predecessor as emperor (Tiberius) — only problem here was figuring out how to spell the end of his name. I had it right the first time, but when I couldn't see TUTU to save my life, I started second-guessing the end of TIBERIUS.
- 43D: Vermin hunter (ratter) — like many terriers.
- 45D: Russian playwright Andreyev (Leonid) — no idea.
- 50D: _____ the Dragon, ruler of old Wallachia (Vlad) — aka "Vlad Dracul," father of "VLAD the Impaler"
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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