Campus VIP / Stylized drama —FRI, Nov 6 2009— Far Eastern pilgrimage destination / Tall Roman column named after him / Future Lies Ahead comedian 1958
Friday, November 6, 2009
Constructor: Doug Peterson
Relative difficulty: Easy
Word of the Day: TRAJAN (5D: A tall Roman column is named after him) — Marcus Ulpius Nerva Traianus, commonly known as Trajan (18 September 53 – 8 August 117), was a Roman Emperor who reigned from AD 98 until his death in AD 117. [...] As a civilian administrator, Trajan is best known for his extensive public building program, which reshaped the city of Rome and left multiple enduring landmarks such as Trajan's Forum, Trajan's Market and Trajan's Column. It was as a military commander however that Trajan celebrated his greatest triumphs. [...] After a period of relative peace within the Empire, he launched his final campaign in 113 against Parthia, advancing as far as the city of Susa in 116, and expanding the Roman Empire to its greatest extent. (wikipedia)
Well that was easy. I have found that the easiest themeless puzzles for me tend to be those with a central 15-letter Down answer that is a flat-out gimme. Today, JULIETTE BINOCHE (8D: "The English Patient" Oscar winner). Would have gotten that with no crosses, but had the "-ULI-" in place before I ever saw it. Actually, I had the "-ULS-" in place, thinking JOSIE (19A: "The Ballad of _____," 1967 comedy western) was JESSE, but JULIETTE helped me fix that. After JULIETTE B. went down, the rest of the puzzle went up in flames, with only three points of heavy hesitation. First, there was the PIZ / ZESTY crossing. PIZ was entirely unknown to me (28A: _____ Bernina (highest peak in the Eastern Alps)). Actually, looking at it now, I feel as if I've seen it in some crossword before, but I definitely had to run a lot of other letters at the front end of -ESTY at 29D: Vivacious before I was certain the answer was ZESTY. Next slowing down point was at another far corner of the puzzle — the FDA / FILE crossing. Had to run the alphabet there too bec. 48A: Occasional medicine dropper?: Abbr. was not making any sense to me. I was thinking "drop" in terms of dropping a name, or an album's dropping, but here I guess it means that the FDA can yank (drop) a medicine from the market if it's deemed unsafe. As soon as I ran the alphabet and hit "F" and got FILE for 48D: Cabinet member? I probably exclaimed "D'oh!" Of course. You don't see intersecting "?" clues that often, do you?
Last bit of struggle ran the entire length of ACETIC ACID (24D: Wood distillation product). Once I got ACET... I thought "OK, this could be a billion ACET-y things and I'm just going to have to get all the crossees until I see the answer." That didn't happen until the very last square — the "D," which stayed blank for many seconds while I stared at it. At that point I was reading ACETICACI- as one word, and I was still not hip to the fact that the "Best" in 56A: Best in shows (Edna) was a person. Only after getting EDNA did I then look up at ACETIC ACID and parse it correctly. And yet, for all that, this puzzle was done in well under average Friday time.
- 1A: Far Eastern pilgrimage destination (Mount Fuji) — sacred in both Shinto and Buddhist religions.
- 10A: Page with convictions (Op-Ed) — couldn't see that "Best" was a person at 56A, but was sure "Page" was a person here at 10A. Bah!
- 36A: Subject of the 2005 biography "iCon" (Steve Jobs) — total gimme, even never having heard of the book. "iAnything" = Apple = JOBS.
- 39A: City in San Joaquin County (Lodi) — This is the LODI I know. I grew up in the San Joaquin Valley.
- 44A: William McKinley's Ohio birthplace (Niles) — probably learned this in a puzzle some time back. Did not help me today. Needed all the crosses.
- 54A: They had C-shaped sound holes (viols) — big in Baroque music. VIOL always looks like it's desperately searching for a suffix to make it whole.
- 4D: Stylized drama (Noh) — Gimme; why, I'm not sure. Nice Japanese pairing up there with the NOH / MOUNT FUJI intersection.
- 9D: Comment when following someone ("I see") — great misdirection with "following" there. At first I was imagining trying to (physically) follow someone while saying "I SEE" "Wouldn't that person hear you?"
- 22D: "The Future Lies Ahead" comedian, 1958 (Sahl) — I'm pretty sure you could learn everything you'd want to know about the entirety of Mort SAHL's career just from reading crossword clues about him. He's very common, and late-week constructors are constantly mining his bio for more data to make new clues about him. Despite never having heard of the title in question, I wrote SAHL in right away (four-letter comedian = good bet).
- 31D: Baseball nickname that's a portmanteau (A-Rod) — seems wrong. "A" stands for "Alex" and "ROD" stands for Rodriguez. There's no blending. And I've never heard of "portmanteau" applied to names before, just objects, e.g. "spork" or "Brangelina" (OK, that's a name, but a name that represents a *fusion* of different people). I can't say the clue is out-and-out wrong. Just feels tenuous to me.
- 32D: Fibula neighbor (talus) — I got "tibia" and "tarsus" into my head and needed crossings to help me sort my anatomical confusion out.
- 43D: Kipling's "great gray Lone Wolf" (Akela) — known to me Only from crosswords. There is also a recent movie out there called "AKELA and the Bee."
- 45D: More terrific, to a hip-hopper (iller) — if you Absolutely Must have this word in your grid, hip-hop cluing is the only way to go.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]
P.S. if anyone else has switched to the Snow Leopard Mac OS recently and found that YouTube is wonky, let me know (esp. if you have a fix). The interface/player keeps fritzing — really inconsistent, both with embedded videos and (occasionally) at the YouTube site itself. If you're having trouble loading embedded videos on my site, just be patient please. Thx. [this problem is with Firefox 3.5.4 specifically]