SUNDAY, Dec. 6 2009 — 1930s heavyweight champ Ambling Alp / Headwear also known as jipijapas / Competitors Wahoos Tarheels
Sunday, December 6, 2009
Constructor: Patrick Berry
Relative difficulty: Medium (I have no idea, really, as I did this on paper while "watching" TV ...)
THEME: "Double Break Point" — common two-word phrases where last letter of first word is doubled and then added to the front of the second word, creating wacky phrases (which sound virtually the same as the original phrases when you say them), clued "?"-style
Word of the Day: Primo CARNERA (17A: 1930s heavyweight champ known as the Ambling Alp) — Primo Carnera (October 26, 1906 – June 29, 1967) was an Italian boxer who became the world heavyweight champion. // Born in Sequals, that time Province of Udine, now Province of Pordenone, Italy, Carnera was a remarkable 6 ft 5.5 in (1.97 m tall and weighed 284 pounds (129 kg), at a time when the average height in Italy was approximately 5 ft 5 in (1.65 m). Until December 19, 2005, when the 7 ft 1 in, 147 kg Nikolay Valuev won the WBA title, Jess Willard who stood 6' 6 1/2" was the tallest champion in boxing history for a long while. Carnera was an inch shorter but around 40 lbs heavier and was the heaviest champion in boxing history. He enjoyed a sizable reach advantage over most rivals, and when seen on fight footage, he seems like a towering giant compared to many heavyweights of his era, who were usually at least 60 pounds (27 kg) lighter and 7 inches (18 cm) shorter than he was. One publicity release about him read in part: For breakfast, Primo has a quart of orange juice, two quarts of milk, nineteen pieces of toast, fourteen eggs, a loaf of bread and half a pound of Virginia ham. Because of his size, he earned the nickname The Ambling Alp. His career was one of great suspicion as he was a fighter of limited speed and talent and his trek to the title was notably strewn with Mafia fixes.
Sometimes great concepts are not complicated. Just a single letter added in the case of each theme answer, but with completely transformative results: a double-letter at the phrase's breaking point, which completely (and occasionally hilariously) changes the phrase's meaning without changing its pronunciation in any appreciable way. Theme answers then lend themselves to preposterous cluing of the sort that adds much-needed thorniness to the typical Sunday solve. Cluing in general felt amped up a bit today — ambiguous and clever in ways that made me had to work a little to get the job done. All that and a truly gorgeous, smoothly-filled grid. Two names that were from outer space to me (CARNERA — see above — and RAHAB — 91A: Prostitute who protected Israelite spies in Joshua), but those were (eventually) easily dispatched via crosses.
- 20A: Deciding the best man is better, perhaps? (changinG Grooms)
- 25A: Memento of an old athletic injury? (sportS Scar)
- 32A: Nipicks? (assaulT Trifles)
- 52A: Double or nothing, say? (neW Wager)
- 60A: Begging soldiers? (trooP Pleaders)
- 67A: Young scientists who are impossible to work with? (laB Brats)
- 81A: Things heard after thumbs are hit with hammers? (carpenteR Rants)
- 93A: Holder of pet electrons, protons and neutrons? (atomiC Cage)
- 100A: Reductions in rank that aren't entirely bad? (mixeD Demotions)
Sticking points: I couldn't remember the damned dwarf in "Lord of the Rings" — GIMLI (7A: "The Lord of the Rings" dwarf). Had some combination of "Mowgli" and "Studio Ghibli" in my head. Also had BAAS for MOOS up there (9D: Farmyard chorus). All kinds of issues with the Nevada region of the puzzle (i.e. the area around the front end of TROOP PLEADERS). Wasnt' sure how to spell FREY (FRAY?) (34D: James who wrote "A Million Little Pieces") or GEHRY (GEARY?) (51A: Architect of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao), so I had no initial luck entering that section from the top. Later tried to come at it from the west but got hung up in what now seems like the stupidest place — the "S" in "YES!" (75A: Triumphant cry). Had "YAY!" at first, but that made 55D: Hall-of-Famers end in a "Y"; seemed unlikely. So I changed my answer to ... YEA! (which made me annoyed as YEA is a vote, not a triumphant cry). Strangely, despite the plural [Hall-of-Famers], a terminal "S" really didn't occur to me. Perhaps because it's not inherently a "cry" at all. Once I figured out "THREE AMIGOS" (60D: 1986 film featuring Chevy Chase as Dusty Bottoms), I was able (finally) to get into that section and take care of it rather easily. Only other erasures I see on my paper are GRAMMA changed to GRAMPA (78D: Rocking chair storyteller) and EVEN changed to EXPO (96D: Fair).
- 23A: Where Caleb was sent as a spy (Canaan) — Biblical puzzle today. Unlike with RAHAB, I nailed this one — not because my Bible knowledge is so great (it's really shaky, as you know), but because I had the "C" and final "N" and thought "why not?"
- 47A: Bottom line? (footer) — "?" clues like this abound, even outside the theme answers, which is partly why this puzzle was harder to cut through than most Sundays.
- 78A: Country whose name means "warrior king" (Ghana) — guessed it off the "N." Like CANAAN, it just ... appeared. Love it when the answers just rise to the top of my brain without any effort (or any real knowledge/expertise on my part). Feels magical.
- 106A: Setting of Van Gogh's "Cafe Terrace at Night" (Arles) — first thing in the grid, only because my eye caught this clue first. Very different experience solving on paper. Much easier to get sucked into bouncing around the grid — solving in Across Lite (or Black Ink) really focuses my attention on a single clue at a time, and I'm much more likely to work in a deliberate, counter-clockwise fashion (starting in NW) if I'm solving on screen. I think...
- 8D: Skater Midori (Ito) — she and the judge duke it out for ownership of this bit of crosswordese.
- 45D: Competitors of Wahoos and Tar Heels (Terps) — a common enough crossword answer (U. of Maryland's team name), but one obscured to me for a while because I kept imagining "Wahoos" as a breakfast food or snack cake or something, i.e. I kept ignoring "Tar Heels" (which would have made the ACC context clear).
- 76D: Headwear also known as jipijapas (panamas) — wow, this hurt. I had PANA-AS and still didn't know what I was dealing with (!?!?). I think I'm not used to seeing panama hats called "PANAMAS," and so I figured I was dealing with something more exotic. PANAKAS? PANAJAS? Yeesh.
And now for your Tweets of the Week — puzzle chatter from the Twitterverse
- @wlai fairly certain that nyt crossword are the only people who still use the term "ezine"
- @chrissyteigen everyone say congrats to @johnlegend for yet another grammy nomination!!! then congratulate me on finishing this months people mag crossword
- @sveiki You know what is the real barrier to me moving to China? The systematic suppression of crossword puzzles.
- @MrWesley247 If you have a scene in your movie that features competetive team crossword puzzles, send the script back for a rewrite.
- @FigaroTheParrot My comp at work may actually be slower than ENIAC.
- @EmGrace HA, crossword puzzle clue is "old prizm automaker", three letters, starts with g. My car does not appreciate that comment.
- @sportswritergal Should have know a crossword book would be a difficult thing to snag in a newsroom silent auction. Surrounded by fellow word people.
- @napalmbeth Pretty sure i'm getting paid to drink this bubblegum vodka and sprite and do this crossword puzzle.
- @ryansomers Thanks k'naan for making it possible for me to hear chubb rock rap while i sip my pale ale and do battle with the nytimes crossword...
- @KeithJardine205 My girlfriend is boxing tonight. I'm sitting back stage right now attempting the crossword. Way nervous...but confident.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]