Govt. book balancer / TUE 3-23-10 / Dweller above Arctic Circle / Spoon-bending Geller / 1960s sitcom with talking palomino
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Constructor: Kurt Krauss
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: ARTOO (73A: ___-Detoo ... or, when read in three parts, a hint to 17-, 31- 47- and 63-Across) — "AR" is changed TO "O" in familiar phrases, resulting in wacky phrases, clued "?"-style
Word of the Day: Veronica HAMEL (69A: "Hill Street Blues" actress Veronica) —
Veronica Hamel (born November 20, 1943, in Philadelphia) is an American actress. // Hamel graduated from Temple University, worked as a secretary for a company which manufactured ironing board covers, then began a career as a fashion model after being discovered by Eileen Ford. Her first film role was playing a model in 1971's Klute. Other early roles came in the disaster films Beyond the Poseidon Adventure and When Time Ran Out. She was the model in the last cigarette commercial televised in the U.S. (for Virginia Slims, aired at 11:59 p.m. on New Year's Day 1971 on The Tonight Show). Hamel had been a model in print ads not just for Slims, but also for Pall Mall Gold cigarettes. [...] Hamel is probably best remembered for playing Joyce Davenport, the hard-driving public defender and love interest of police captain Frank Furillo, in the long-running TV series Hill Street Blues. She was a five-time Emmy nominee for that role. [...] In recent years, Hamel had a recurring role in the NBC television series Third Watch and appeared as Margo Shephard, Jack's mother, in the ABC series Lost. (wikipedia)
Woke up and did the puzzle first thing this morning, which is not my usual pattern. Normally, I solve it the night before, but I was just too tired last night. Solving in the early morning is definitely not recommended for speed-solvers. I didn't even try. I was thinking clearly, but could not work up the intent focus and slightly manic energy it takes to blow through a grid. I think this puzzle is of normal Tuesday difficulty, but can't say that with much authority. I can say that it seemed a solid enough puzzle, with some interesting features, most notably the split but sequential answer THE MEDIA, arrived at by way of John Gielgud's character in "Arthur" (23A: "I'll alert ___": Hobson, in "Arthur" (with 25-Across)). My one major issue with the theme is that all the theme answers come out sounding like Boston accents *except* TAKES UP OMS. I figured the theme *was* Boston accents, and despite taking a yoga class regularly, could not make heads or tails of TAKES UP OMS for a longish while (on Tuesday, maybe 10-20 seconds of fiddling). Even if you're not hearing Boston in the other three, the vowel sound is clearly, markedly different in OMS — longer and more rounded.
Thought the "when read in three parts" of the clue was a little awkward, even though it is kind of clever.
- 17A: Try a North Atlantic fish for the first time? (DISCOVER COD)
- 31A: Ekco or Farberware? (POT COMPANY)
- 47A: Registers for a meditation class? (TAKES UP OMS)
- 63A: Store photographer? (SHOP SHOOTER)
Stumbled a few times during the solving process. Most notably, embarrassingly, and epically, I thought 3D: 1960s sitcom with a talking palomino, given how long it was, was a theme answer (?!), and so my first answer was the "wacky" "MR. EDWARD." Travis TRITT set me back on the right track (14A: Travis who sang "T-R-O-U-B-L-E"). I had to get a few crosses before FLORIN sprang to mind (12D: Old European gold coin). Doesn't feel like a Tuesday word. In fact, it's been in the NYT only once before (acc. to the cruciverb database). On a Friday. I know the word, but I should, given that I spent a lot of time in grad school studying "Old European" things. Lastly, I got stopped cold at the puzzle's very last letter — the crossing of HAMEL and OMB (64D: Govt. book balancer). I thought I was going to be annoyed at having an odd abbr. crossing an actress who works only sporadically. Then I realized I had typoed an "A" where the "O" was supposed to be. As soon as I put in the correct "O," the abbrev. no longer seemed odd: just short for Office of Management and Budget.
- 19A: Jamaican term of address (MON) — Once upon a time, this used to be an abbrev. for "Monday." This answer's crossing JEMIMA (11D: Aunt known for her pancakes) has me misremembering her as Jamaican. "Have some poncakes, MON."
- 60A: Houston baseballer (ASTRO) — Opening Day is just a couple weeks away... oh, and "baseballer" always strikes me as an odd word. The way "tenniser" would if it were a word (see also "netman").
- 2D: Spoon-bending Geller (URI) — There's gotta be another URI out there (and not just the University of Rhode Island). I'm sooo tired of this guy.
- 22D: Melonlike tropical fruits (PAPAYAS) — needed many crosses. Could think only of CASABAS, but they're not "tropical." Native to "Asia Minor," it turns out.
- 55D: Leaf opening (STOMA) — yikes. I'm adding this late, as I didn't even see it. I think I glanced at the clue and didn't know it, so moved on. Seems a pretty high-end botanical answer for a Tuesday. Then again, I absolutely cannot be trusted to tell you how common / uncommon any sciencey answer is. Not with any accuracy, anyway.
- 39D: Dweller above the Arctic Circle (LAPP) — has anyone done a LAPP OF LUXURY puzzle before. You could use Andy CAPP and ... well, I guess you can't really use Joseph PAPP, can you? [Unfair assault on theater founder Joseph?] = probably not passing the breakfast test.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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