Title heroine Strauss opera / TUE 3-2-10 / Brasi enforcer Godfather / Greek gathering spot / Looped handle archaeology / Goat men in Rubens painting
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Constructor: Elizabeth C. Gorski
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
THEME: THE MONTH OF MARCH — 40A: Period described by the clues and answers to 1- and 72-Across (which are the start and end of a word ladder formed by the answers to the 10 asterisked clues) — word ladder starts with LION (1A: *"In like a ___ ...") and ends with LAMB (72A: *"... out like a ___")
Word of the Day: ARABELLA (10D: Title heroine of a Strauss opera) —
Arabella is a lyric comedy or opera in 3 acts by Richard Strauss to a German libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal, their sixth and last operatic collaboration. It was first performed on 1 July 1933, at the Dresden Sächsisches Staatstheater. The opera made its United States debut at the Metropolitan Opera on February 10, 1955 with Eleanor Steber in the title role. // The beautiful but proud Arabella is the daughter of the Waldner family, who face financial ruin unless Arabella marries a rich husband. Arabella hopes to marry for love, not money; but when a loving suitor unexpectedly appears, her happiness is threatened by a web of misunderstanding and deception. (wikipedia)
Got the theme very early on, but that didn't make the puzzle go much faster. The general nook-and-cranniness, and the prevalence of somewhat wonky short fill, made the grid a minor challenge to get through (for a Tuesday). Once I got LION, and saw that there was a word ladder, I knew we were going to end up at LAMB, so it was all over but the shouting, with "the shouting" being "all the fill I have to get through to get to LAMB." The demanding theme forced a lot of iffy, or at least less-than-great, fill, so I didn't have as much fun as I often have solving Liz Gorski puzzles; but I have to give the puzzle credit for trotting out some unusual and fresh fill in the middle of the four-letter avalanche. I'd never heard of ARABELLA. Loved the colloquial flair of NO PROB (4D: "Easy!") and (especially) GO-TO GUY (46A: Handy man?). That's nice. I think I initially wanted OCTOPUS for that clue. Got very annoyed at the second spelling of CAHN (33D: Songwriter Sammy), but then laughed out loud when I hit the third. Is this the first time all three (crosswordy) CAHNs (CAENs) (CAANs) have shared the same grid? Not a club meeting I'd care to attend again, but this time was fun. Also — both gifts in "Gift of the Magi"?! — FOB (9D: Della's gift in "The Gift of the Magi") / COMB (48A: *Jim's gift in "The Gift of the Magi")) See, that's a constructor (or editor) who's paying attention and adding extra 'zazz to the grid. Always good to have surprises along the way, esp. (as is the case here) when the theme is grasped early and thus holds no real surprises.
The Word Ladder:
- 20A: Choreographer Twyla (THARP) — she's written some pretty interesting books on creativity. She also went to my alma mater for a while. Also, her last name is just one letter off from my (real) last name. Somehow this stirs affection in me. Maybe that's why I married a woman with the last name of HARPer... curious.
- 9A: Goat-men in a Rubens painting (FAUNS) — don't know the painting. Would have pieced it together from [Goat-men], I think. Might have gone with [Mr. Tumnus et al] for my clue, but that might have been a little ... too.
- 57A: ___ Brasi, enforcer in "The Godfather" (LUCA) — Garroted (spoiler alert!).
- 3D: Ingredient in some potato chips (OLEAN) — Aargh. I went with the (much more appetizing) answer of ONION.
- 41D: Sweet, gooey sandwiches (MOON PIES) — Mmm, no OLEAN here.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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