1970 Santana hit — WEDNESDAY, Dec. 23 2009 — Fail Irish coronation stone / Extinct cousin of kiwi / Frequent Canadian interjections
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Constructor: Jonathan Porat
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
THEME: What's BLACK, WHITE, and RE(a)D ALL OVER? — theme answers begin with BLACK, WHITE, RED, and ALL OVER, respectively, and all of them tie into NEWSPAPER (72A: Answer to an old riddle alluded to by the starts of 17-, 32-, 42- and 64-Across)
Word of the Day: USLTA (2D: Org. that used to bring people to court?) — United States Lawn Tennis Association — since 1975, just "USTA"
This puzzle is noteworthy for a couple things. First tons of theme squares. Very high theme density. This makes the other noteworthy feature even more surprising — those corners in the NW and SE. Stacked 9s over (and under) a 15?! So weird to see that kind of white space in a Wednesday puzzle. Toughish to construct, though I'm guessing the constructor got a nice assist from the cruciverb database (via constructing software) — JUST TRY ME (1A: "I dare you"), AS WE SPEAK (15A: This very moment), and ANAHEIM, CA (70A: Part of a postal address for Disneyland) (!?) are all in the database, and were (I'm guessing) suggested by constructing software (which is usually fueled by an imported word list, such as those available at cruciverb). Nothing wrong with that — everybody uses software. It's just that this puzzle screamed it with the fill in those open corners. ANAHEIM, CA is a sorry enough answer that it made me go check the database (which I normally don't do). But here the non-theme fill clearly doesn't matter. This puzzle's all about the theme, which is cute. Problem with the grid is that you pay for the theme density and huge NW/SE corners with a tidal wave of 3-letter answers (never a good thing — you end up with stuff like ABT next to SAE next to HRH, for example). Overall: B for concept, C for execution.
- 17A: 1970 Santana hit ("BLACK Magic Woman")
- 32A: Evidence in the Watergate scandal (WHITE House tapes)
- 42A: Macho types (RED-blooded males) — now that's original (theme answers usu. are the most original things in the grid)
- 64A: Varying wildly (ALL OVER the place)
I've got holiday preparations to get to, so I'm going to make this quick.
- 10A: The Hawks of the Atlantic 10 conference, informally (St. Joe) — Hmmm. Only ever heard ST JOE'S, since the school is St. Joseph's. In college basketball commentary, it's ST. JOE'S.
- 28A: Kind of pit, briefly (Bar-B-Q) — not sure why I have trouble accepting this spelling. I just do.
- 58A: Extinct cousin of the kiwi (moa) — I heartily approve MOA. Still fighting for more exposure for KEA (the parrot, not the volcano name part).
- 3D: Stretch of grass (sward) — well, that's an ugly word. Unusual too. ULSTA/SWARD is what happens (sometimes) when you stack long answers.
- 13D: Animal with striped legs (okapi) — more odd fauna. Hard not to like OKAPI.
- 51D: 1935 Triple Crown horse (Omaha) — I'm kind of partial to the name of the owner/breeder, BEL AIR STUD.
- 53D: Finnish architect Alvar ___ (Aalto) — his name always feels like a Hail Mary pass to me. When you absolutely, positively need to cram a lot of common letters in weird order into the puzzle, he's your man.
- 61D: Midwinter phenomenon, sometimes (thaw) — I had, predictably, SNOW.
- 68D: ___ Fáil, Irish coronation stone (Lia) — Ne'er heard of it. Appears to be a giant stone phallus. Because nothing says power like a giant stone phallus.
- 66D: Frequent Canadian interjections (ehs) — HA ha. Canada. Most of us down here seem to think that it's one big Bob and Doug McKenzie show up there.
There will be a guest blogger tomorrow, and I'll be back on Christmas Day. See you then.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]
P.S. my wife is quasi-irate about 14D: Start of a counting rhyme. "Counting? There's not counting going on! It's a choosing game! You're CHOOOOSing." She's actually not irate at all, but she did say those exact words just now.