Perform a wedeln e.g. / WED 1-20-10 / Contralto James / Gong Show regular Johnson / 1856 Stowe novel / Actresses Farrell Jackson
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Constructor: Trip Payne
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: "ONWARD AND UPWARD" (38A: Aspirant's motto ... or, phonetically, what 18-, 23-, 47- and 57-Across each consist of) — theme answers are two-word phrases where first word contains (at least one) "ON" and second word contains "UP" — thus an "on word" and an "up word"
Word of the Day: EPOPEE (46D: Heroic poem) —
- Epic poetry, especially as a literary genre.
- An epic poem.
[French épopée, from Greek epopoiiā : epos, song, word + poiein, to make.]Why this word exists when EPOS and (the much more common) EPIC already exist is beyond me.
My fastest Wednesday ever. Ever. 3:43?? That's insane. I never saw the theme, or rather, I saw the theme-revealing answer but never grasped what it meant until I was finished. Solved the entire theme revealer from just the -PWARD at the end and didn't take the time to look back (or think forward) since knowing the theme didn't seem necessary to getting the theme answers. I got *floored* by EPOPEE (just stared at EPO- wondering how I was going to make EPOS strettttch...) and was befuddled by SWARM INTO (35D: Overrun) (a phrase that doesn't quite feel natural), but the rest is kind of a blur. Now that I look back on it, I have to say that the theme is goofy in a way that I find totally charming. A very clever play on the words in a common phrase, and one that yields solid and unexpected results. The double "ON" in WONTON didn't bother me at all. If anything, it was like an exclamation point on the puzzle — a finish with a flourish.
- 18A: It creates a small vacuum (suctiON cUP)
- 23A: Parts of double-blind trials (cONtrol groUPs)
- 47A: What national banks oversee (mONey sUPplies)
- 57A: Chinese menu option (wONtON soUP)
I somehow rode CONTROL GROUPS across the grid from NW to NE and thus missed the N entirely on first pass. Last two answers to fall were SKI and "OF US." Never heard of a "wedeln" (9D: Perform a wedeln, e.g.) and had ISAAC at first for ISAAK (15A: Chris with the 1991 hit "Wicked Game"), putting a "C" where the "K" should have been in SKI. "OF US" is a rather ugly partial, and, with EPOPEE, the ugliest thing in the grid (19D: "The Sum ___" (Russell Crowe movie)). Since "L.A. Confidential" ... no, since "Gladiator," I have pretty much avoided all Crowe fare. See him (with Hugo Weaving) in "Proof" (1991), easily the best thing he's ever done (that I've seen).
- 17A: Roofless home (nest) — some NESTs have roofs. I don't know this for a fact, but I feel it must be so.
- 37A: 1856 Stowe novel ("Dred") — not, as you probably suspected, "Dr. Ed"
- 45A: Contralto James (Etta) — I thought "contralto" was a word applied to the voice of a different type of singer, namely opera. ETTA sings the blues.
- 62A: "The Gong Show" regular Johnson (Arte) — this guy's name used to be as common as ERNE or EPEE. It's nice to think of his name fading in crossword popularity. Gives me hope that, where popular culture is concerned, the puzzle can be adaptive and not (just) stuck in the past. ARTE is a fine answer, and I'm not sure we're any better off that he's been replaced (in terms of common four-letter pop culture names) by ENYA (34D: Popular singer born in County Donegal), but at least ENYA's still working. And has a huge body of work. And has won Emmys, and got an Academy Award nomination, and ... O man, she's never going anywhere, is she? On my deathbed (I'm hoping many decades from now) I'll be solving a puzzle with her in it. Well, that's an awfully weird first glimpse of 2060. . . wait, what was this comment about again? Oh, right. Commedia dell'ARTE.
- 7D: OS X runner (emu)
- 25D: Actresses Farrell and Jackson (Glendas) — first actress = !?!?!, second actress = gimme.
- 31D: Vengeful goddess (Hera) — she sure is. A totally unreasonable fantastic pain in the ass. But this is why I love her: total commitment. She's the real star of "The Aeneid."
- 58D: Grp. that meets in the Situation Room (NSC) — Wolf Blitzer has other people in there with him? (should I flag the comments wherein I'm kidding? I feel like today's write-up's gonna get me some mail...)
- 59D: Upscale hotel offering (spa) — well it's not terribly "upscale," but Brooklyn Bridge Marriott is where I'll be staying Feb. 18-20 for the weekend of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. Hope to see many of you there. I'll be there. And today's constructor, Trip Payne, will almost certainly be there. In fact, if this year is like many other recent years, he'll be on stage, at the end, in the finals. He's fast. Former champions usually are.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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