Wagner's earth goddess / WED 3-24-10 / 1936 foe of Franklin D / Creator of Roderick Usher / Vocal nasality
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Constructor: Peter A. Collins
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: ST. LOUIS MISSOURI (40A: City with a landmark spelled out by the circled letters, reading left to right) — circled letters spell out, and form the shape of, the GATEWAY ARCH; four other theme answers are clued in relation to ST. LOUIS
Word of the Day: RIMINI (35D: Adriatic Riviera city) —
RIMINI is a city and comune in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy and capital city of the Province of Rimini. It is located on the Adriatic Sea, near the coast between the rivers Marecchia (the ancient Ariminus) and Ausa (Aprusa). Coast navigation and fishing are traditional industries and, together with Riccione, it is probably the most famous seaside resort on the Adriatic Riviera. // It is served by the Federico Fellini Airport, airport of Rimini and San Marino. (wikipedia)
I literally doubled over and groaned at the terrible fill before I ever had a chance to notice the theme, the grid architecture, i.e. the redeeming features of the puzzle. ESSES to ERDA [choke] (20A: Wagner's earth goddess) to ADRATE to [audible groan]. I dive right into the puzzles as soon as they open on my desktop; I don't notice constructor or grid structure or much of anything while I'm solving (unless, of course, the grid is jarringly atypical). I saw there were circles, but didn't spend time thinking why. As I slogged through wave after wave of crosswordese, I began to pick up the theme, and by the time I got to ST. LOUIS MISSOURI, I was able to fill it in without even looking at the clue. Only after I was done did I notice the GATEWAY ARCH, and the fact that the puzzle also has five long theme answers, two of which cross ST. LOUIS MISSOURI. That's an architecturally demanding grid, and explains (in spades) the glut of subpar fill. If you want a good illustration of how badly an ambitious theme can compromise fill, just follow the circles. The fill is worst at the top, where the circles are densest. Then, in the far west and east, the circles are at the heart of NASD (bad) and DCX (badder). The grid definitely makes you say "wow" at the end. But heavy emphasis on "at the end" — only after being pelted with ERDA for several minutes (or however long it took you to solve). Huge irony: EERO is somehow *not* in this puzzle.
Best non-theme word of the day, by far: STYMIE (44A: Thoroughly frustrate).
- 3D: Pro team in 40-Across (CARDINALS)
- 21A: Conveyances at 40-Across (RIVER BOATS)
- 37D: Brand associated with 40-Across (BUDWEISER) — "associated with" is right. Bought by Belgian company InBev in 2008.
- 58A: 1904 event at 40-Across (WORLD'S FAIR)
- 14A: Peter Pan lost his (SHADOW) — ah, a solid word with an interesting clue. A breath of fresh air.
- 5D: Creator of Roderick Usher (POE) — no idea. Then I got it from crosses and remembered "The Fall of the House of USHER." This was the only "Usher" I could think of at first:
- 16A: Either of two A's rivals (SOX) — you're stretching the term "rival" pretty thin here. Apparently it now simply means "team you happen to play several times during the course of the season." The A's aren't even in the Red or White Sox divisions.
- 30A: 1936 foe of Franklin D (ALF) — ALF Landon, crushed by FDR in '36. My favorite ALF is ALF Clausen, Emmy-winning composer for "The Simpsons."
- 31A: Beaufort ___, area above Alaska (SEA) — feels weird to call a SEA an "area." Not sure why. Suggests "land" to me.
- 50A: Org. headquartered on N.Y.C.'s First Avenue (THE U.N.) — there should be a word for answers that feature the odd inclusion of the definite article. I've seen THENHL. THEMOB. I wonder if anyone out there wondered, possibly out loud, "What the hell kind of organization is THEUN?" A: ally of SMERSH (71A: Soviet agcy. in Bond novels).
- 61A: Coin with the words REPVBBLICA ITALIANA (LIRA) — [Former currency of 35-Down]
- 66A: Actor Cage, familiarly (NIC) — Still waiting for "Raising Arizona II" to come out.
- 8D: Does dock work (LADES) — In case you didn't get enough of LADE on Monday...
- 23D: Monteverdi opera partly set in the underworld ("ORFEO") — and the Italianification of the grid continues unabated. I actually own this opera. It may be the only opera I own.
- 29D: Spectrum-forming solid (PRISM) — thought it would be something exotic, but ... it's just a trinket like I used to get on vacations to S.F.'s Pier 39.
- 41D: Two-time N.L. batting champ Lefty (O'DOUL) — had the "OD-" and wanted ODETS. You know why? 'Cause playwright Clifford ODETS wrote a play called "Waiting for Lefty." Weird. "Waiting for Lefty" is just like "Waiting for Godot," except stuff happens.
- 50D: Vocal nasality (TWANG) — Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new contender of my Least Favorite Word: I give you — "NASALITY!" I think it would make a fine baby name. You could call her "Naisie" for short.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]