Henry Higgins's creator —WEDNESDAY, Oct. 7 2009 — Laura's 1960s sitcom hubby / Botanical angle / Dendrite's counterpart / Richard Petty's racing son
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Constructor: Tim Wescott
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: BASEBALL DIAMOND (57A: Setting for a 20-Across ... as represented by this puzzle's circled letters) — circles form approximation of a BASEBALL DIAMOND, and at each corner, they spell out the base in question, i.e. FIRST, SECOND, THIRD, and HOME. 20A=WORLD SERIES GAME and 42A: Center of 57-Across = MOUND
Word of the Day: ALMA Kruger (54D: Actress Kruger and others) — Alma Kruger [...] was an American actress.
She had a long career on the stage before appearing in her first film while in her sixties, These Three (1936). She then proceeded to act in over forty films in the space of little more than a decade. Among her notable roles was Nurse Molly Byrd in the popular Dr. Kildare film series, appearing in all but the first two of the sixteen movies. She also portrayed Empress Maria Theresa of Austria in Marie Antoinette and the would-be mother-in-law of Rosalind Russell's character in His Girl Friday. Her last film appearance was in the 1947 Twentieth-Century Fox production of Forever Amber.
In 1960, Alma Kruger died in Seattle, Washington at the age of 91 from natural causes. (wikipedia)-----
Didn't notice this puzzle's best feature til I was done — the circles actually DO something today. Hurray. As I was solving, I was thinking a. this is a really choppy grid and b. @#$#ing circles. I thought the circles were simply providing a diamond shape. If that had been their sole purpose, I would have booed this puzzle off the MOUND. But the spelling of the bases = WIN, and even if WORLD SERIES GAME feels kind of arbitrary (yes, it's October, but no, the World Series isn't on yet — why not hold the puzzle a couple of weeks!?), and even if the puzzle does have an ungodly 42 black squares, and even if some of the fill is a tad unpleasant, I really do have to give this thing a thumbs-up.
The high black square count (which I experienced as "a choppy grid") can be excused for two reasons. First, it's always hard to build a workable grid when your theme is dense, and in this one, theme squares are Everywhere. Second, in order to build the MOUND in a visually convincing manner, you really do need to isolate it pretty strongly, i.e. border it with black. As for the less-than-pretty fill, the main issue for me was the absured plurals: ALMAS and EMMAS (5A: Austen and Flaubert heroines) and IANS (40A: Writers Fleming and McEwan), for starters. And the there's LOAMS (68A: Farm soils). But when your only real problems are ugly plurals, you're doing pretty well. I had one minor hold-up in this puzzle, in and around AALTO (54A: Finnish architect Alvar _____). I had the -TO and knew / remembered that his name started with "A," but once I had AA-TO, I had to wait out that final letter (as the Shakespeare quotation would not come quickly — 56D: "Thou _____, most ignorant monster": Shak. (liest)). Stumbled over the finish (not Finnish) line with SHOE where SIZE was supposed to be (59D: 9 1/2 narrow, e.g.). I have a feeling this grid might skew Easy for most solvers, but it was pretty close to a normal Wednesday for me.
- 1A: Sailor (swab) — once again, trouble out of the gate. The first answer I got up here was WACO (?) (2D: Home of the Dr Pepper Museum).
- 16A: Ask (pray) — trouble here as well...
- 24A: One likely to lend a needed hand (pal) — and here ...
- 35D: Chipped part of a statue, maybe (toe) — and here. Just not firing on all AXONs somehow (58D: Dendrite's counterpart).
- 39A: Dominican-born player in the 600 club (Sosa) — out of place here on first base, as he never played a WORLD SERIES GAME.
- 45A: When repeated, statement after an explosion (temper) — I can't imagine this "statement" being said in any way that would not make the addressee want to punch the speaker.
- 64A: Botanical angle (axil) — or a profitable marijuana-growing business; that could also be a "botanical angle"
- 13D: Richard Petty's racing son (Kyle) — couldn't rekall him. Needed that "K."
- 31D: _____ Maples Trump (Marla) — tried to make IVANA fit :( It's a name-heavy day today, it seems. I like how "MARLA Maples" goes with Shelley's "ODE to Naples" (38D).
- 41D: Referral for further information (see below) — my favorite answer in the grid. A common phrase that I've never seen in the grid. Plus, it really is BELOW (i.e. it runs to the bottom of the grid).
- 49D: Laura's 1960s sitcom hubby (Rob) — Oh, Rob! Great, pioneering sitcom.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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