Literally little towns —SATURDAY Dec. 12 2009— Moniker for fictional baseballer Roy Hobbs / Darkness personified / Historic base pirates Caribbean
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Constructor: Karen M. Tracey
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
Word of the Day: EREBUS (22A: Darkness personified) — In Greek mythology, Erebus (pronounced /ˈɛrəbəs/), also Erebos or Erebes (Ancient Greek: Ἔρεβος, "deep darkness or shadow"), was the son of a primordial god, Chaos, and represented the personification of darkness and shadow, which filled in all the corners and crannies of the world. His name is used interchangeably with Tartarus and Hades since Erebus is often thought of as part of the underworld. Erebus married his sister Nyx (goddess of the night) and their children included Aether, Hemera, Nemesis, and Charon. (wikipedia)
Always happy to see a Karen Tracey byline, though today's offering was not as exciting as most of her stuff usually is to me. This is what happens when you set the bar ridiculously high. It's a really good puzzle, but doesn't pop and sizzle and generally wow me like her puzzles often do. VELAZQUEZ (28A: 17th-century painter of "Lady With a Fan") through ZACH BRAFF (29D: "Scrubs" Emmy nominee) into BRIDEZILLA (12D: Hard-to-please wedding participant) is pretty awesome, I admit, but the rest if just solid. Good solid (exc. that SW corner, which really seems sub-Tracey somehow — and the SHTETLS-over-RYAS, which seems like pretty dense (if high-end) crosswordese for a Saturday (41A: Literally, "little towns" + 45A: Scandinavian area rugs). As is typical with Ms. Tracey's puzzles, I cut through this in better-than-avg. time. EREBUS was the only real puzzler, and even that felt familiar (22A: Darkness personified). Didn't know what to make of the clue for COAL BIN but pieced it together easily enough from crosses (30A: A scuttle might scoop from it). Still don't understand clue on ACRO- (which signifies "height" as far as I know) (16A: Tip end: Prefix). Oh ... I see now. As in ACRONYM, i.e. you just take the "tip end" of the words involved and make a new word out of them, e.g. NAFTA. I was thinking ACROphobia (obviously). No memory of "BEL AMI" (31D: Guy de Maupassant novel), but it's basic French with fair crosses, so gettable. Thought the PEQUOT were PEQUOD, the ship in "Moby-Dick," which, it turns out is (ostensibly) name for the PEQUOT tribe, which were annihilated during the (horrible) PEQUOT War of the 17th century. Let's see ... any other problems? ... nope. Smoothish sailing overall.
Got a great break right off the bat when I guessed ATNO at 1D: Bit of elementary knowledge?: Abbr. I could feel the wheels in my brain turning as I tried to understand what she was doing with that damned "?" of a clue. "Elementary, eh? Well, it's not elementary school, too easy. Something to do with ... elements. An abbr. Aha, AT. NO.!" OK, so it was AT. WT. The AT part was enough for me to get ASPIC (1A: Stuff in a meat can) and start tearing through the Downs, 1, 2, 3, 4. Made another great four-letter guess at 25A: General Motors acquisition of 1929 (Opel). Four-letter car make I know of only from crosswords. These good early guesses made the west pretty easy overall. Sticking points were, first, the NE, where I figured VELAZQUEZ would open things right up — while the "Q" helped a lot, the first "Z" was only helpful for Mr. BRAFF's first name, and the second "Z" seemed wrong. Changed it to an "S" at one point. Then nearly went with BRIDESMAID at 12D, which seems not appropriate to the clue. Then I remembered the abandoned "Z" and the horrible TV show "BRIDEZILLAs" and bam, there was the puzzle's most original answer.
Not knowing BRAFF kept the SE interesting for a bit, though those long Acrosses down there were easy to piece together from the very gettable short Downs. Moving into the SW was a little rough, as MYCENAE did not come readily to mind (40D: Agamemnon's domain). Neither did DEMS, actually (50D: House party, briefly). I think I actually just dove into the SW and then came back and picked up DEMS and MYCENAE later, after I got L.A. RAIDER (49A: '84 Super Bowl celebrant). If I remember correctly, the last letter in the grid was (appropriately) the "C" in CLOSE (46D: Wind up).
- 14A: Moniker for fictional baseballer Roy Hobbs (The Natural) — from the famous book (Bernard Malamud) and famous movie (Robert Redford) of the same name.
- 47A: Alternative to culottes (capris) — somehow, names for ladies' pants styles that were big in the 80s are well known to me. I think I should thank my sister for that.
- 59A: Data center workhorses (mainframes) — so ... not actually horses. OK.
- 2D: Old Manhattan restaurateur (Shor) — more high-end crosswordese. I've written about this guy before, mostly because I had Never heard of him before I started doing puzzles. Now he's a big fat gimme. Look out for his first name too: TOOTS.
- 4D: Quaint stationery store stock (inkwells) — unless you are traveling back in time to save the Declaration of Independence, what's the point?
- 5D: Remoulade bit (caper) — couldn't define "remoulade" for you beyond "... some kind of sauce?" but CAPER was easy to infer.
- 10D: Historic base for pirates of the Caribbean (Nassau) — having the -AU in place before I ever saw the clue made this one a cinch.
- 33A: Turn down (dip) — ooh, I almost forgot. Total disaster here. Finished the grid completely but was really unhappy with my original (and, frankly, much more appropriate) answer here: DIM. What the hell is "MASS UP" supposed to mean, I wondered. "UP MASS?" "Maybe it's COPULE and MESS UP??? But how is that any better? Grrrrr ... oh. D'oh. It's DIP. And PASS UP. Yeah. That makes sense."
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld