French newspaper since 1944 — WED., Oct. 21 2009 — Barrio quaffs / Dharma's sitcom spouse / Ruby's live-TV victim / Flying A competitor
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Constructor: Peter A. Collins
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: POP stars (65A: Genre for 1- & 22-Across, 22- & 26-Across, 26- & 46-Across and 46- & 49-Across) — (1980s) POP star name chain: BOY GEORGE / GEORGE MICHAEL / MICHAEL JACKSON / JACKSON BROWNE
Word of the Day: OVOLO (31D: Convex molding) — n., pl., -li (-lī').
A rounded convex molding, often a quarter section of a circle or ellipse.
[Obsolete Italian, diminutive of uovo, ovo, egg, from Latin ōvum.]-----
Fortuitous POP star name lengths result in neat symmetrical pattern. Not much else to say about that. Makes for an unusual Wednesday, though I'm on the fence about whether it's good or bad "unusual." The theme is fine, but I find long Across answers with no thematic purpose kind of distracting. Did the puzzle so fast I never saw the clue on POP, and so spent a minute or so trying to figure out the theme. Didn't. Then went and looked for a theme-revealing clue. Aha. OHO. Yes. I see. Here I was, like a sucker, trying to think of a TREASURER (23A: Club official) who DUMBS DOWN (17A: Oversimplifies, as educational standards) a SALES SLIP (47A: Proof of purchase) after a CRASH TEST (58A: Job for a dummy?), whatever that means.
Only resistance in the puzzle came near the end, as I circled back up into the east from the south. Mexican state JALISCO (42D: Guadalajara's state) gave me a bit of a fight, in that I might have heard of it before but TABASCO was the only state coming to mind. Once I worked that out (via JINGLE, 42A: Ad music), I went into the east for my last stand. First, despite years of Latin, I always @#$! up the phrase "Ab OVO." OVUM is a neuter noun, which means it's pluralized as OVA, which is always what I want to write (instead of the proper ablative OVO). Grr. But the real issue over here is OVOLO (31D: Convex molding), not so much because it's an odd word I can't recall seeing before (that happens all the time), but because — as I shouted at fellow xword blogger Amy Reynaldo at about 10:05 last night — there is no way on god's green earth that OVO should be crossing OVOLO in a crossword puzzle. In fact, ideally, they shouldn't even be in the same grid at all. Those three letters "OVO" mean both words come from the same root word (Latin for "egg" — actually "OVO" *is* that word). You wouldn't cross OVO with OVULATE or OVOID or OVULE, and OVOLO should be no different. I know constructors who work really hard to avoid this kind of stuff — just worked with one who insisted on pulling a word out of the grid entirely because another word *clear across the grid* had the same root word (and unlike OVO and OVOLO, those words actually had really different meanings). Thumbs down for lack of attention to detail.
- 1A: "Whew!" ("Boy!")
- 22A: Dragon-slaying saint (George)
- 26A: Archangel in Daniel (Michael)
- 46A: Mississippi's capital (Jackson)
- 49A: "Hägar the Horrible" creator Dik (Browne)
- 21A: A.E.F's conflict (W.W. I) — glad I never saw this clue, as I didn't know what "A.E.F." stood for: American Expeditionary Force.
- 40A: Noted 1945 photo site, briefly (Iwo) — what a weird clue. Another clue I never really saw.
- 43A: French newspaper since 1944 (Le Monde) — the only one I know, I think. One letter off from LEMONADE, btw.
- 8D: PC-linking system (LAN) — Local Area Network, a true acronym.
- 22D: Dharma's sitcom spouse (Greg) — ugh, the 90s.
- 38A: Barrio quaffs (vinos) — "barrio" + "quaffs" = two words that have never been adjacent to one another in the history of humanity.
- 32D: Baseball's Al a k a the Hebrew Hammer (Rosen) — sounds like a kind of hotdog. I find the way "a k a" is written, with spaces like that, and no periods, really disconcerting.
- 34D: Sportage automaker (Kia) — this make of car has clearly been a boon to constructors everywhere. I'm still campaigning to get the KEA into heavy rotation as crosswordese. It's a New Zealand parrot, common as a pigeon in some parts of the South Island. "KEA! ... because KIA is already played out! Vote KEA!"
- 38D: End of a Caesarean boast ("Vici") — "Caesarean boast" sounds like something an OB/GYN would exclaim. "You should have seen my incision, man! Flawless!"
- 44D: Ruby's live-TV victim (Oswald) — like the clue on IWO, this one's weird. Also "live-TV," while adding an interesting trivia tidbit to the mix, does nothing to affect clue difficulty. [Ruby's victim] is plain enough. Maybe you were supposed to imagine that Ruby shot OSWALD on tape, and some other guy live.
- 45D: City on the Loire with a quarter million people (Nantes) — off the "N"! That's what doing a lot of xwords ... or living in France, I guess ... will do for you.
- 55D: Where traitorous Vidkun Quisling lived (Oslo) — O man, I love this guy, as much as you can love anyone who betrayed Norway to the Nazis. Vidkun Quisling is an iconic Trivial Pursuit answer to me, one which, in the 80s, defined "WTF obscurity" for me and my sister. The very question "Who betrayed Norway to the Nazis?" became a joke, an exclamation, an aborted "Who's on First?" comedy routine that ended with the (to our ears) hilarious reply: Vidkun Quisling! It's a really funny name, is all.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]
P.S. check out Tyler Green's interview with Liz Gorski about her recent Guggenheim anniversary tribute puzzle at "Modern Art Notes"