Curtis of cosmetics / WED 2-10-10 / Chichi shopping area in Tokyo / Jason's shipbuilder in myth / Tassled topper
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Constructor: Ed Sessa
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: LOVE LETTERS (60A: Billets-doux ... or 18-, 24-, 37- and 50-Across all together?) — theme answers spell out the word LOVE when clues are taken "letterally" (i.e. with reference to a specific letter in one of the words):
"L" = FIRST IN LINE = first letter in LINE
"O" = HEART OF STONE = letter at heart of STONE
"V" = CENTER OF GRAVITY = letter at center of GRAVITY
"E" = END OF MESSAGE = letter at end of MESSAGE
Word of the Day: GINZA (53D: Chichi shopping area in Tokyo) —
Ginza (銀座) is a district of Chūō, Tokyo, located south of Yaesu and Kyōbashi, west of Tsukiji, east of Yūrakuchō and Uchisaiwaichō, and north of Shinbashi. // It is known as an upscale area of Tokyo with numerous department stores, boutiques, restaurants and coffeehouses. It is recognized as one of the most luxurious shopping districts in the world. Many upscale fashion clothing flagship stores are located here. Prominent are Chanel, Louis Vuitton, and Gucci. A recent addition is the 12-story Abercrombie & Fitch flagship. (wikipedia)
A cutish, Valentine's Day-ish puzzle of just below AVERAGE (28A: C, say) difficulty and slightly above AVERAGE quality. Clever idea, executed with precision, using nice, in-the-language phrases (END OF MESSAGE is more familiar to me from checking my voice mail than from anything I might "read," though). Grid is clean, with a nice assortment of Scrabbly letters (oh, I see it's a pangram ... I don't really care, but there it is). The only painful moment for me came when I tripped on the loose floorboard of SCAD (32D: Whole lot). Never seen this word in anything but the plural. I blame the pangram aspiration. Ditch the "W" in "SWOON" and you can do some other things in that section (well, at least one other thing that I can see without thinking too hard). Still, if SCAD is the height of horror in your puzzle, that's not so bad. That section was one of the few places I hesitated today, failing to round that corner from NW to W (a perennial problem spot for me). Had the -ON in SWOON and couldn't see it (32A: Theatrical faint). Downs in that section (incl. SCAD) wouldn't come easily, and so, exasperated, I threw down DRY HEAT (45A: Sauna feature) with no crosses. This somehow worked.
Also hesitated some in the SE, where GINZA was ... well, probably not new to me, but certainly forgotten by me (I'm guessing I've seen it in some xword before). Again, the pangram is likely driving this section (which contains the grid's lone "Q"), but in this case the results are just fine. Real words / names. Just required a bit of work to bring them down.
- 18A: Next up (first in line)
- 24A: What a compassionless person has (heart of stone)
- 37A: Balance point (center of gravity)
- 50A: [Read no further] (end of message)
This grid contains two of my favorite words: ARGOT (21D: Specialized vocabulary) and OCELOT (55A: Spotted cat). Lest you think I'm just a sucker for -OT words, I'll have you know that EEL POT does nothing for me. Ditto DRY ROT. I do like JUMP SHOT and ROBOT, though, so maybe I do have a certain proclivity ... anyway, someone needs to sit up and clap for PODUNK (15A: Nowheresville), which adds real personality to the grid. PODUNK is probably a cruddy place to live, but as a word, it's top drawer. For some reason, the first word I put in here was PADUKA (!?) — clearly PALOOKA was running interference in my brain.
- 1A: Tassled topper (fez) — started out very quickly in the NW, and this answer (a gimme) is why.
- 5D: Murder method in Christie's "A Pocket Full of Rye" (poison) — was looking for something much more specific here. Not even a *kind* of POISON? Just ... POISON? OK.
- 12D: It's "bustin' out all over," in song (June) — she got a better bra and they're not singing about her much any more.
- 46D: Curtis of cosmetics (Helene) — a very familiar name, but I don't know why. Maybe it just sunk into my brain from years and years and years of watching commercial television, where her name was undoubtedly spoken in cosmetics ads (and perhaps still is).
- 52D: Jason's shipbuilder, in myth (Argus) — familiar ARGUS/ARGOS issue. The ARGO (ship) is named for ARGUS, its builder. Hence my vowel confusion.
- 56D: Result of a big hit, maybe (coma) — HA ha, COMAs are funny ... ? (I might have gone with a less gruesome clue, one that did not force me to imagine how the person got into the COMA)
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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