* Institute California retreat center for alternative education / TUE 1-29-10 / Crimson Tide familiarly / Young starlet's promoter maybe
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Constructor: Zoe Wheeler
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: NAME OF THE GAME (35A: Essential part necessary for fulfilling a goal ... or what 17-, 25-, 48- and 57-Across all have?) — circled squares within theme answers spell out the names of GAME animals: BOAR, DEER, HARE, and QUAIL, respectively.
Word of the Day: ESALEN Institute (46D: ___ Institute, California retreat center for alternative education) —
Esalen Institute is a retreat center in Big Sur, California, United States, for humanistic alternative education and a nonprofit organization devoted to multidisciplinary studies ordinarily neglected or unfavored by traditional academia "in subjects ranging from meditation to massage, Gestalt, yoga, psychology, ecology, spirituality, art, music, and much more." Esalen offers more than 500 public workshops a year in addition to invitational conferences, residential work-study programs, research initiatives, and internships. Part think-tank for the emerging world culture, part college and lab for transformative practices, and part restorative retreat, Esalen is dedicated to exploring work in the humanities and sciences that furthers the full realization of what Aldous Huxley called the "Human Potential". (wikipedia)
I won't go on about how I don't care for this sort of theme (circled words made out of non-consecutive letters). You all know that. The play on words at the heart of it all is cute, and the big corners in the NE and SW are a nice Tuesday treat, but overall I found the puzzle slightly disappointing. Too much cheap short fill (incl. four plural abbreviations, ATA, AST, ESE, etc.), cluing that felt off (esp. on the theme-revealer ... torturous *and* redundant-sounding), and big, bad answers like BAHA MEN (39D: "Who Let the Dogs Out" group) and ESALEN (two answers no one on God's green earth would put in a grid unless she were desperate and stuck). I did the thing I appear to be doing now on Tuesdays, which is falling straight into a hole of my own making. Started by putting WINNER in at 2D: "Everyone's a ___" and followed that up filling the neighboring 3D: Procrastinator's response with "IN A SEC!" (instead of the apparently correct MAÑANA). There are two Spanish words not clued as Spanish words in this puzzle, which is at least one too many (see also 52A: "So long" -> ADIOS). This may be the first time that I was ever rescued from a hole by SCARABS (28A: Beetles sacred to ancient Egyptians), but that's what happened here. After getting out of the NW, the rest went down in relatively normal Tuesday fashion, with the big corners perhaps adding some time (if not outright difficulty) to the solving experience.
- 17A: Bird watcher's accessory (BinOculARs)
- 25A: Tide or Cheer (DEtERgent)
- 48A: Symbol of life (HeARtbEat)
- 57A: Cheesy Mexican snack (QUesAdILla) — if I had to pick a favorite from this exceedingly common bunch, this would be it.
Four animals, but no sign of MAN ... The Most Dangerous Game
- 1A: #1 position (acme) — would never have matched this clue with this answer. I can see how it works, metaphorically, but I think of ACME is a pinnacle, the top of a peak, and not a ranked position relative to other (#2, #3, etc.) positions. I also think of ACME as a mail-order store from which Wile E. Coyote orders merchandise.
- 19A: The Crimson Tide, familiarly ('Bama) — National Champions, as of a couple weeks ago.
- 34A: ___ d'Ivoire (African land) (Côte) — what other answer could this be? Do you really need the "(African land)" part? You know this is a country or you don't know it at all; the parenthetical information does nothing to cue the answer. See also 60A: Knievel on a motorcycle (Evel). Oh, *that* Knievel ... Thanks for the clarification. Without it, it could've been *any* Knievel. Knievel in the kitchen, Knievel in Parliament, Knievel of Côte d'Ivoire, etc.
- 64A: Wuss (sissy) — had the -SSY and very nearly put in an entirely different answer.
- 11D: Young starlet's promoter, maybe (stage mom) — the third time I've seen this answer in the past two weeks. Weird.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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