Howard the Duck prop — THURSDAY, Dec. 3 2009 — Big brand in basketballs / UN observer since '74 / Hare follower / Polish capital 1038-1596
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Constructors: Matt Ginsberg and Pete Muller
Relative difficulty: Challenging
THEME: "All ROADS lead to Rome" (7D: There are four hidden in this puzzle, which together suggest a familiar five-word saying (3, 5, 4, 2, 4)) — roads (LOGGING, PRIVATE, WINDING, UNPAVED) can be found by reading diagonally from the corners inward, where they all meet at a single rebus square that contains the word ROME [represented by that "R" in the center of the grid]
Word of the Day: EOHIPPUS (40D: Ancestor of the modern horse) — Hyracotherium ("Hyrax-like beast") (also known as Eohippus) was a genus of very small (averaging about 60 cm in length) perissodactyl ungulates that lived in the Northern Hemisphere, with species ranging throughout Asia, Europe, and North America during the Early to Mid Eocene, about 60 to 45 million years ago. It was once considered to be the earliest known member of the Equidae before the type species was reclassified as a palaeothere, of a perissodactyl family related to both horses and brontotheres.
An admirably ambitious puzzle with a complicated theme: four hidden ROADS, a central ROME square, and a theme-revealer that I had to read many, many times before I had any understanding of what it might be asking me to look for. My main problem was with the word "together" in the ROADS clue. "Together" sounds like they all need to be said together (no) or that they share some inherent characteristic. The latter is true, but it relates to physical placement in the grid alone, not any other thing the words might do "together." Yargh. Once I hit the ROME square and knew there was a rebus involved, I started questioning the top half of the grid — I didn't see any rebus squares. Did I miss some? That "T" in VOIT (22A: Big brand in basketballs) was suspicious (never heard of VOIT), so I started trying to imagine words, cities, roads, etc. that might go in that last square. No AVAIL(S) (55A: Uses). Got a little further on in the puzzle and then espied my first "road" (PRIVATE), and realized there would be no more rebus squares. So, just finish up ... right? No problem. Except the SE. Total Problem.
Extremely inaptly clued URBAN POP (64A: Michael Jackson genre) kept me paralyzed for an astonishing amount of time. Michael Jackson made POP music. He was the King of Pop (self-described). Just because he was (born) black does not mean his pop was "urban." I keep searching and searching for how this answer is valid, and not finding anything. If you google (in quotation marks) "Michael Jackson" and "urban pop," you get a paltry 15K returns, most of them (on first page) from websites that happened to have "urban pop" in their names. I had -AN POP and just sat there. EAR what? BOB (49D: Bit of jewelry)? Never heard of that. Asked a crossword-proficient lady friend, she hadn't heard of it. I know it's a real word, but yikes. Had ST- and A- where STUNG (54D: Scammed) and ARCO (60D: Not pizzicato) were supposed to go. Which is all to say there was a blank 3x3 section at the bottom of my grid that wouldn't budge for what felt like a long time. Finally figured out STUNG and the rest fell into place. I should add that by this point I had already figured out EOHIPPUS (40D: Ancestor of the modern horse), but just assumed it was wrong. I mean ... look at it. It looks wrong. But it wasn't.
- 37A: Dish with ham (DENVE [ROME] LETTE)
- 36D: Cry from Juliet ("O [ROME] O!") — spent many seconds wondering if Juliet ever said "OHO" or "O, NO!" and if so, how that would be recognizable as a particularly Julietesque quote.
All the infelicities in this grid are (likely) a byproduct of the restrictive grid, with its multiple diagonal theme answers. Abutting parallel answers of ACHT, HETH, EOHIPPUS are pretty scary-looking but despite a glut of crosswordese (LPN, ILER, AGIO), the NW looks pretty good (though I've never heard of a NO GO AREA — 17A: Restricted zone — it was easy enough to infer); the NE looks a little better, and the SW looks very nice indeed. ETTE crossing ETTE wasn't pretty, and ES SU ... is pardoned because of that corner "U." All in all, a bumpy but impressive ride.
- 8A: "_____ for you!" ("Seinfeld" refusal) ("NO SOUP") — never liked "Seinfeld," but know most of the catchphrases because most everyone I know insists it's genius.
- 15A: U.N. observer since '74 (PLO) — It's like "U.N." is a holiday. "Observer" = formal status. You may speak. You may not vote.
- 23A: English monarch who shared the throne (Mary II) — better known as the "MARY" in "William and MARY"
- 41A: Trident wielder, typically (sea god) — pick a SEA GOD, any SEA GOD ...
- 45A: Hare follower (Krishna) — great clue. I was like "... Alice?"
- 4D: Howard the Duck prop (stogy) — I remember my mom's getting me a "Howard the Duck" comic when I was very young. I remember thinking "the talking duck says it's for kids, but ... this duck's kind of scaring me."
- 13D: Attentive dog owner (petter) — true enough, though not a word I'd ever use.
- 45D: Polish capital, 1038-1596 (Krakow) — Gives SW a nice saucy flavor with those delicious "K"s. "K" in KONICA (61A: Classic camera) somehow looked wrong to me, but wasn't.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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