Topper for Charles de Gaulle — TUESDAY, Jan. 5 2009 — Nobel or Celsius / Hippies' crosses / Foppish dresser / Key Largo Oscar winner Claire ___)
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
Constructor: C.W. Stewart
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: "SEE / RED" (25A: With 46-Across, be angry ... or what you can do inside the answers to the six starred clues) — "RED" embedded in six different two-word phrases
Word of the Day: Claire TREVOR (6D: "Key Largo" Oscar winner Claire ___) —
Claire Trevor (March 8, 1910 – April 8, 2000) was an American actress. She was nicknamed the "Queen of Film Noir" because of her many appearances in "bad girl” roles in film noir and other black-and-white thrillers. She appeared in over 60 films. [...] Another two of Trevor's more memorable roles come starring opposite Dick Powell in Murder, My Sweet and Born to Kill, in the latter playing a divorcee who gets more than she bargained for by falling in love with a bad boy who impulsively murders. Key Largo the following year, gave Trevor the role of Gaye Dawn, the washed up nightclub singer and gangster's moll. She won the Academy Award for Best supporting Actress for the film. [She also appeared on episodes of "The Love Boat" and "Murder, She Wrote" later in her career] (wikipedia)
"RED" is a terribly easy word to embed in a two-word phrase, so I'm not that impressed with the theme per se, but having six interlocking theme answers definitely adds a "wow" factor to the grid and makes the puzzle at least somewhat noteworthy. Crossing two theme answers is one thing, but I'm not sure sure I've seen a theme answer crossing *two* other theme answers, as happens twice today — two through FIRE DRILLS up top, two through DARE DEVILS down low. The SEE / RED answers add a nice flourish, though I'm never thrilled when the theme revealer starts ["With x-Across, ..." unless the "x-Across" is Right Next Door. Just a personal preference.
My time on this one was slower than usual. On Monday and Tuesday all I have to do is fall into one hole, one trap, one dead end, and my time is shot. Today, I fell in instantly, at 1A: Pooh-pooh, with "at" (scoff). Wanted SNEEZE, and wrote in SNEER. "Confirmed" it off of 1D: Window part (sash), which I entered as SILL. Wrong and wrong, right off the bat. Reasonably quickly corrected, but precious seconds were lost. More seconds lost when I hit 6D: "Key Largo" Oscar winner Claire ___ (Trevor), whose name I just didn't know. It's familiar to me now that I look at it, and I own (and love) "Murder, My Sweet," which she stars in. I just didn't have the name handy today. DANDY didn't come instantly either (18D: Foppish dresser). Once I got out of the NW, I tore through the rest of the grid like wildfire, balking only at the stupid Kansas town IOLA, which I knew (it's crosswordese) but blanked on (54D: Seat of Allen County, Kan.). But the damage had been done. Since I routinely finish the M and T puzzles in under 3 and 4 minutes, respectively, it's hard for me to assess their "relative difficulty." A stupid mistake (having nothing to do with a puzzle's intrinsic difficulty) can throw my time off wildly.
- 17A: *Antishoplifting force (sto RED etectives) — figured the "force" would be some kind of screening system or alarm.
- 26A: *Marching band percussion (sna RED rums)
- 4D: *School evacuation exercises (fi RED rills)
- 44A: *Rims (oute RED ges)
- 57A: *Textbooks for instructors (teache RED itions)
- 30D: *Evel and Robbie, for two (da RED evils)
- 16A: Topper for Charles de Gaulle (képi) — did he really wear one, or is he just a representative Frenchman here? Oh, I see they are military headwear, so he definitely wore one. Wikipedia says that KÉPIs were "intended as alternatives to the heavier, cloth-covered leather French Army SHAKO" — a word that I (also) know only from puzzles.
- 30A: Lower chamber of Russia's parliament (Duma) — I know this, but always hesitate at filling it in because it feels like I'm confusing it with something else (most notably Alexandre DUMAS).
- 41A: Shell game spheroid (pea) — "Spheroid" = PEA 8 times out of 10. I made up that stat, but it feels right.
- 62A: Subject of much Mideast praise (Allah) — odd / good clue.
- 26D: Nobel or Celsius (Swede) — tore through this section so fast I never saw the clue. Just saw -WEDE and filled in the "S".
- 33D: Hippies' crosses (ankhs) — this clue for ANKH has worn out its welcome with me. More imagination, please.
- 45D: Said "bos'n" for "boatswain," e.g. (elided) — interesting clue. I learned the word "bos'n" from what Shakespeare play when I was 16? [A: "The Tempest"]
- 51D: Phil who sang "Draft Dodger Rag" (Ochs) — another recycled clue.
Lastly ... Happy Birthday, Merl Reagle. The legendary crossword constructor turns 60 today, and Andrea Carla Michaels and Michael Blake have made a puzzle for the occasion. Get it here. Merl is a fantastic constructor and a generous guy. He's always been supportive and friendly to me. And as far as his generosity toward others — if you haven't read this story yet, about his recent secret tribute puzzle, then you really should. It's amazing.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]