Central Sicilian city / WED 3-31-10 / Upscale shoe brand / Izmir native / Fleming supervillain / Bolshevik's foe / Anticlimactic putt
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Constructor: Chuck Deodene
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challening
THEME: SPREAD THE WEALTH (38A: Redistributionist's catchphrase ... or a hint to the words formed by the circled letters) — circles spell out words for "money."
Word of the Day: ARNE Duncan (12D: Obama education secretary ___ Duncan) —
Arne Duncan (born November 6, 1964) is an American education administrator and currently United States Secretary of Education. Duncan had previously served as CEO of the Chicago Public Schools. [...] From 1987 to 1991, Duncan played professional basketball in Melbourne, Australia with the Eastside Spectres of the National Basketball League, and while there, worked with children who were wards of the state. In the U.S., he also played with the Rhode Island Gulls and tried out for the New Jersey Jammers. While in Tasmania he met his future wife, Karen. A Time magazine article also mentions that he has played pickup games with Michael Jordan [...] In 1992, Duncan became director of the Ariel Education Initiative, a program to enhance educational opportunities for children on Chicago's South Side that was started by John W. Rogers, Jr.. In 1996, along with Rogers, he was part of a network that funded and supported Ariel Community Academy. In 1999, he became Deputy Chief of Staff for former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas. Mayor Richard M. Daley appointed Duncan to serve as CEO of Chicago Public Schools on June 26, 2001. (wikipedia)As you know, this is my least favorite type of theme. Non-consecutive circled squares that spell out things. Here, at least, the fact that the circles are stupidly SPREAD out is actually integral to the theme, so that's something. Knowing the theme didn't help at all. It might have helped with MANOLO BLAHNIK, except the parts of that answer I didn't know how to spell were not the parts in circles — couldn't remember exact composition of the second name: BLAHGA? BLAHNKA? BLAHGO? Blah. It's a cool theme answer. Not much else about the grid is particularly cool. The difficulty rating is a bit deceptive. I actually found it quite Medium, but it's hard for me to determine difficulty on Wednesdays. This is because, remarkably, all of my Wednesday times this year, with the exception of one hard outlier (6:17), are grouped between 3:40 and 4:39. Today was the 4:39. I'm going to stick with the admittedly idiosyncratic data and say this one will skew slightly tougher-than-usual. Why, I don't know...
• • •
Maybe people will stumble over the shoes. I have a feeling that shoe hounds and puzzle solvers would create a not very substantial overlap in a Venn diagram. Then again, it is the *New York* times, so maybe people in the city can spell MANOLO BLAHNIK as easily as they can NIKE. Maybe the trouble came, as it did for me, in the NE, where there was a ton of crosswordese, but it was clued in ways I couldn't understand at first. Didn't know the guy whose *first* name was ARNE. The usual go-to clue there involves a British composer, *last* name ARNE. Haven't seen the "CZ-" CZAR in a while, so I don't know what I was looking for at 10A: Bolshevik's foe, but it wasn't that. Maybe CAPITALIST? JOE MCCARTHY? I wanted something like an I-BEAM or REBAR to be my 13D: Concrete reinforcers today. No. Just RODS. Anyway, that's the only section that actually caused me significant slowage. That and the SE (south of the -NIK in BLAHNIK).
- 17A: How a former product may be brought back (BY POPULAR DEMAND) — B-R-E-A-D
- 23A: Tale of a hellish trip (DANTE'S INFERNO) — D-I-N-E-R-O
- 49A: Upscale shoe brand (MANOLO BLAHNIK) — M-O-O-L-A-H
- 59A: Escapes via luxury liner (PLEASURE CRUISES) — L-U-C-R-E
- 14: Lake of the Ozarks feeder (OSAGE) — Pieced together without looking at clue. A very common crossword river / tribe.
- 65A: Izmir native (TURK) — Guessed off the -RK. No idea where Izmir Iz. I know a Scott Kazmir, a great southpaw who now plays for the Angels. His name always makes me think of this:
- 3D: Anticlimactic putt (TAP-IN) — Odd-looking but accurate clue.
- 24D: Dendrologist's subject (TREE) — also known as XYLOLOGY, a much cooler word. Actually, it seems XYLOLOGY is a branch (ha ha) of dendrology. How many branches does dendrology have? That sounds like the opening to a serious tree nerd joke.
- 25D: Central Sicilian city (ENNA) — some words reek of crosswordese. This word, for instance. I know it because of crosswords. I've never seen it outside of crosswords. It's a word of convenience.
- 31D: Cries from the momentarily stupid (DUHS) — I went with DOHS. Luckily, I know what a SOU is (37A: Trifling amount).
- 34D: Superstar assembly (DREAM TEAM) — Currently reading "When the Game Was Ours," about Magic and Bird (part of the core of the U.S. Olympic basketabll "DREAM TEAM" of 1992).
- 39D: Fleming supervillain (DR. NO) — Fleming's four-letter gift to crossword constructors. What else are you going to do with -RN- in the middle of your four-letter word. Go with ARNE!? That's absurd.
- Cross-dressing "Dame" of humor (EDNA) — "of humor" made me laugh. What would people's answer have been without that phrase? JUDI Dench? Never actually seen Dame EDNA? Have a gander:
- 50D: Teatro La Fenice offering (OPERA) — really, what else could it be? PORNO?
- 54D: Merry Prankster Ken (KESEY) — I don't know about the "Merry Pranksters" (promoters of psychedelic drug use and takers of famously chronicled bus trips). If I'd read Tom Wolfe's "Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test," as I'm pretty sure my mom once suggested, I'd have known. Nothing is more boring to me than other people's drug use. Had to piece Kesey's name together from crosses. I know him only as the author of "Cuckoo's Nest."
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]