German border river / WED 2-17-10 / She pined for Narcissus / Slangy business suffix / Onetime Say it with flowers sloganeer
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Constructor: Elizabeth A. Long
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: "GLOBAL WARMING" — Phrase spelled out by circled letters. Note on the puzzle: "The circled letters, starting in square #27 and reading clockwise, will spell a familiar phrase suggested by 20-, 35- and 52-Across" — the latter are two-word food phrases where one word signifies an act of "warming" and another a geographical (or "global") location.
- 20A: Beef entree (LONDON BROIL)
- 35A: Ice cream dish (BAKED ALASKA)
- 52A: Holiday serving (ROAST TURKEY)
Alice B. Toklas (April 30, 1877 – March 7, 1967) was the life partner of writer Gertrude Stein. // She was born Alice Babette Toklas in San Francisco, California into a middle-class Jewish family and attended schools in both San Francisco and Seattle. For a short time she also studied music at the University of Washington. She met Stein in Paris on September 8, 1907 on the first day that she arrived. Together they hosted a salon that attracted expatriate American writers, such as Ernest Hemingway, Paul Bowles, Thornton Wilder and Sherwood Anderson, and avant-garde painters, including Picasso, Matisse and Braque. (wikipedia)
Remember that stomach bug I had yesterday. Well ... wife is down with it today. All last night, in fact. But as I informed friends via Facebook last night, "Wife is *astonishingly* good-humored in the middle of all this. Never seen anyone (literally) laid out by stomach bug take it all so well. I was a mewling, puling, groaning man/animal hybrid by comparison." Good news is, if she follows my pattern (so far, eerily similar) then she will make a full recovery well inside 48 hours. Til then, I'm just going to keep bringing her tiny glasses of water and little pieces of toast and refilling her hot water bottle every several hours.
I will say that today's puzzle foods were all much easier to contemplate (in an environment of general nausea) than yesterday's. I didn't care for the puzzle at all when I first completed it. The theme answers had the place names in inconsistent parts of the answer (one at beginning, two at end), the places were inconsistent (city, state, country), and unlike the other two, TURKEY relied on a change in sense (BAKED ALASKA and LONDON BROIL both being named for the places in their names, although with LONDON BROIL (per wikipedia) "The origin of the name is obscure; the food is unknown in London, England."). There is a London, Ontario. At any rate, unlike TURKEY, LONDON is not a food trying to pretend it's a place. So I thought the theme answers were ungainly. But this is because (I swear this is true) I didn't notice that there were circles, or that there was a note on the puzzle. This is possibly because I did the puzzle in under 4 minutes (blistering for me) and didn't have time to notice much of anything. Anyway, once I noticed the circles, and the fact that they form a globular shape, and give coherence to the theme, I ... warmed to the puzzle (pun noted but disowned). Still don't like it much as a puzzle, but as a concept, it's OK.
Fill-wise, things were fine, if (as I say) terribly easy. Only two sticking points, one minor, one oddly major. You don't see obscure French partials very often, but you saw one today in 29D: Camus's "Lettres à ___ Allemand" ("Un Ami"). I wanted something like "UN JEUNE," then realized I was somehow channeling Dinesh D'Souza!? (who wrote "Letters to a Young Conservative"). In my defense, I kind of thought I was channeling Barry Goldwater, but his big book was "The Conscience of a Conservative." My other, much bigger sticking point came in the NE. I could not see DEVISAL to save my life, and even now that looks like the stupidest word ever. Like it wants to be several different words, but got stuck in a kind of word no-man's-land. DEMISE? REPRISAL? DEVISING? No, DEVISAL. It's like a German guy talking about a wise guy named Al (or maybe a wise owl?). At any rate, I had NE- for 19A: State whose quarter depicts mustangs and sagebrush: Abbr. and could think of no state that started with those letters except the various "NEW" states and ... NEBraska! That, and ISLE for ISLA (30A: Mallorca, e.g.), left me with DEBISEL for 13D: Creation, as of plans. Luckily, that answer looked *so* wrong that I was forced to run state names through my head again — and there was NEVada, hiding there in California's lap. Silly, giant, mostly-empty state.
- 11A: Onetime "Say it with flowers" sloganeer — slogans always provide interesting cluing options. I remember commercials with ... that big football guy ... beard ... "Little House on the Prairie" ... Merlin Olsen?
- 40A: She pined for Narcissus (Echo) — can't believe I hesitated for even a second here, but a wave of jilted classical ladies came pounding on the shores of my mind [#rejectedLeonardCohenlyrics] and for a moment I couldn't decide which one was right.
- 5D: Where King Saul consulted a witch (Endor) — "The Witches of ENDOR" feels like a familiar phrase, but I may just be splicing "The Witches of Eastwick" and EWOK homeland "the forest moon of ENDOR."
- 46D: Slangy business suffix (o-rama) — I don't think of this as a "business suffix" at all, and yet ... I got it off just the "O". So ... my brain must recognize it as a business suffix, or remember that a puzzle once tried to pass it off as one.
- 49D: With 38-Down, recurring phenomenon lasting a few hours (lunar / eclipse) —Usually cross-references don't inspire happy feelings in me, but I like this one somehow. A rather elegant split that (I'm guessing) occurred just by accident in the construction process. Serendipitous. I hit ECLIPSE first, and *refused* to look at the cross-referenced clue (I'm weird that way). Fought through crosses until I saw it must be ECLIPSE. Got LUNAR later.
- 6D: Enmity (bad blood) — easily my favorite answer in the grid. I might have gone a different route with the cluing, though ...
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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