Late choreographer Cunningham — SUNDAY, Dec. 27 2009 — Swahili honorific / Name of seven Norwegian kings / Biodegradable pipe material
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Constructor: Elizabeth C. Gorski
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: "Toasting the New Year" — all about CHAMPAGNE, the letters to which sit inside a glass (made out of black squares). The CHAMPAGNE gives off BUBBLES (letters in circled squares floating above the glass) — and then several long theme answers relate to CHAMPAGNE ...
Word of the Day: BAST (11D: Rope fiber) — bast (bast)
1. Bot. any type of phloem
2. fiber obtained from phloem, used in making ropes, mats, etc.
Etymology: ME < OE bæst, inner bark of trees; akin to Ger & ON bast [PHLOEM = In vascular plants, phloem is the living tissue that carries organic nutrients (known as photosynthate), particularly sucrose, a sugar, to all parts of the plant where needed. (wikipedia)]
Whoa, it went from Christmas (Friday) to New Year's (today) pretty damned fast. Was not expecting a new holiday puzzle so soon, but it was a welcome surprise. I really like this puzzle — the only real downside (aside from some strained fill) is that it looks JUST like a puzzle Ms. Gorski did last year — the James Bond puzzle that featured a MARTINI glass in the center of the grid (that glass was filled, not surprisingly, with the word MARTINI). In that grid, the glass was delineated by circled squares you had to connect (in your mind or with pen). Today's makes a more bold, clear visual statement with the glass unmistakably in black. Circles are always a tricky proposition — I can love them or hate them, depending on how they're used. I LOVE today's circles, particularly the floating BUBBLES. The quotation in the puzzle is very cool, and the assorted theme-related answers lively and interesting. So I had to deal with the worst abbr. ever (AGN — 61A: Once more: Abbr.), and the crossing of IT with IT (OF IT w/w ACE IT), and three different partials with indefinite articles (A POET, A CRAB, LEAD A). These are acceptable prices to pay for an ambitious, imaginative puzzle like this.
- 25A: Purported cry from 100-Across upon discovering this puzzle's subject ("I am drinking the stars")
- 100A: See 25-Across (Dom Pierre Perignon)
- 1A: Common toast ("Cheers!")
- 12A: Sounds accompanying toasts (clinks)
- 75A: Alternative to 1-Across ("Bottoms up!")
- 77A: Connoisseur of this puzzle's subject (wine lover)
- 34D: 100-Across, for one (Benedictine monk)
- 39D: Cry before "Happy New Year!" ("It's twelve o'clock!") — I have never heard this cry. People count down from 10 to 1. But it's a plausible cry, if, say, party-goers somehow haven't been paying attention closely enough to do the countdown.
- 29A: Vietnamese leader ___ Dinh Diem (Ngo) — another day, another Vietnamese leader. I got this w/o ever seeing the clue. Figured it would be short for Non-Governmental Organization. But no.
- 62A: Follows the path of 19th-century pioneers (goes west) — love most of the longish non-theme answers in this (remarkably wide open) grid. See also GUNNED FOR, TOOK A CAB, and HORSELIKE.
- 68A: Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Eagles (aerie) — well ... that makes sense.
- 114A: Genetic material with no known function (Junk DNA) — Nice. You don't know what something does, so you label it "JUNK." Science!
- 40D: Discovery of the explorer Louis Juliet (Lake Erie) — lived near ERIE for years. Did not know this.
- 87D: Biodegradable pipe material (corn cob) — was thinking "pipe" as in PVC pipe, water pipe, etc. Instead: POPEYE!
- 105D: Arequipa is its second-largest city (Peru) — wow, that's a huge familiarity drop off from largest to second-largest city.
Tweets of the Week will return next week. Been too busy with holidays to collect them this week.
See you tomorrow.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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