Seabird native to the Galapagos — MONDAY, Nov. 30 2009 — French novelist who had affair with Frederic Chopin
Monday, November 30, 2009
Constructor: Oliver Hill
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: TRAP (66A: Word that can follow the ends of 18-, 25-, 43- and 59-Across)
Word of the Day: E BONDS (46D: Old U.S. gov't investments) — Series E U.S. Savings Bonds were marketed by the United States government as war bonds from 1941 to 1980. When Americans refer to war bonds, they are usually referring to Series E bonds. Those issued from 1941 to November 1965 accrued interest for 40 years; those issued from December 1965 to June 1980, for 30 years. They were generally issued at 75 cents per dollar face value, maturing at par in a specified number of years that fluctuated with the rate of interest. Denominations available were $25, $50, $75, $100, $200, $500, $1,000, $5,000 and $10,000. Series E bonds were issued only in registered, physical form and are not transferable. The guaranteed minimum investment yield for the bonds was 4 percent, compounded semiannually
Pretty dull "word that can follow" puzzle redeemed somewhat by the unusual and funny-sounding BLUE-FOOTED BOOBY. And by ROD CAREW — a great full-name answer. I can see his 1978 baseball card (the one with the '77 stats) very clearly in my mind. That's the year I started collecting. There was a profile shot of him (he played for the Minnesota Twins then) and there was a little insignia indicating his 1977 MVP status (... hmm, internet research just now shows that that insignia marked his All-Star status, not his MVP status; MVP is so much more important, I figured that must have been what was being commemorated, but no). Anyway, that dude could hit. He and George Brett were probably the greatest hitters of my childhood. Wade Boggs and Tony Gwynn came a little later.
- 18A: 186,000 miles per second (light SPEED)
- 25A: Not making any sounds (as quiet as a MOUSE)
- 43A: Seabird native to the Galápagos Islands (blue-footed BOOBY)
- 58A: French novelist who had an affair with Fréderic Chopin (George SAND)
My guess is that everyone is familiar with those first two theme answers, but those last two might have provided some trouble. BLUE-FOOTED BOOBY alone kept this puzzle in the "Medium" difficulty range. I had to fight for both the front and back end of it, as I didn't see the "TRAP" answer til near the very end. SW corner in particular was tough for me to zoom through, as I tried and failed to drop 43-45-Down into the grid the first time around. UPMOST was not a word that came quickly to mind (45D: Like Brahmins in the cast system) — grid already had an "UP" at UPDATE (12D: Supply with more recent info). So BLUE-FOOTED BOOBY and its environs made a mildly interesting puzzle out of what would otherwise have been a bore. Good enough.
Technical point of interest: lots of black squares today (42, near the upper limit), with a large chunk of them going toward ensuring that the two 15s, which are separated by just three rows, don't have ANY crosses in common except the central AGENT (28D: 15-percenter). Generally, the fewer of your theme answers that have to share crosses, the easier the grid is going to be to fill (well). The top two and bottom two theme answers already share a lot of crosses with one another, so the black barriers through the middle help create some looseness in the grid, allowing for a nice set of three Acrosses through the middle (GALAS / AL DENTE / CROON). Downside: lots o' 3-letter words, which never did wonders for anyone's grid.
- 10D: Hasty glance (aperçu) — this is one of those words that is extremely uncommon in your / my everyday life, but that has somehow broken free of the (non-E) BONDS of obscurity and come to be reasonably commonplace in early-week puzzles. I have no idea how these things happen.
- 52D: _____ Pepper (Sgt.) — actually gave me trouble. I wanted DR....
- 4D: Amount of food at a cafeteria (trayful) — I love this word, esp. intersecting PLAYMATE (20A: Child's friend). Takes me back to 3rd grade (the year I would have acquired that ROD CAREW baseball card...)
See you tomorrow. Important announcements and more free puzzles on the way this week, so stay tuned. And for those who were away all weekend, check out the links to two special puzzles (in the upper part of my sidebar).
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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