Root used in some energy drinks / TUE 4-13-10 / One-named Nigerian songstress / Unforgettable duettist Cole / Climber's chopper
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Constructor: Alex Boisvert
Relative difficulty: EASY
THEME: KIND OF BLUE (58A: Classic Miles Davis album ... or a hint to the start of 17-, 22-, 37- or 45-Across)— theme answers all start with a KIND OF BLUE (POWDER, SKY, BABY, and NAVY, respectively)
Word of the Day: DAMON and Pythias (CLUE) —
In Greek mythology, the legend of Damon and Pythias (or Phintias) symbolizes trust and loyalty in a true friendship. The use of Damon as a first name derives from this Damon. // As told by Aristoxenus, and after him Cicero and others, around the 4th century BC, Pythias and his friend Damon, both followers of the philosopher Pythagoras, traveled to Syracuse. Pythias was accused of plotting against the tyrant of Syracuse, Dionysius I. As punishment for this crime, Pythias was sentenced to death. // Accepting his sentence, Pythias asked to be allowed to return home one last time, to settle his affairs and bid his family farewell. Not wanting to be taken for a fool, Dionysius refused, believing that once released, Pythias would flee and never return. // Pythias called for Damon and asked him to take his spot while he went. Dionysius agreed, on the condition that, should Pythias not return when promised, Damon would be put to death in his place. Damon agreed, and Pythias was released. // Dionysius was convinced that Pythias would never return, and as the day Pythias promised to return came and went, Dionysius prepared to execute Damon. But just as the executioner was about to kill Damon, Pythias returned. // Apologizing to his friend for his delay, Pythias told of how pirates had captured his ship on the passage back to Syracuse and thrown him overboard. Dionysius listened to Pythias as he described how he swam to shore and made his way back to Syracuse as quickly as possible, arriving just in the nick of time to save his friend. // Dionysius was so taken with the friends' trust and loyalty, that he freed both Damon and Pythias, and kept them on as counsel to his court.
A very ordinary concept redeemed by a very nice theme-revealer. The Miles Davis title, "KIND OF BLUE," really is a theme-revealer waiting to happen, and now it has. Happened. Though I own the album, I confess that my very first thought was "BITCHES' BREW," and I scanned the opening words of the theme answers to see if they might be plausible ingredients in something a witch might cook up. POWDER, maybe, BABY, sure, SKY ... nah, that doesn't work. That moment of reflection on the theme was about my only hesitation in this whole puzzle, which basically seemed to fill itself in. I was doing it on paper in bed, but I'm sure if I'd been doing it on computer I would have come in with a solid Monday time. With the SK- in place, I briefly considered some kind of SKI activity where SKY-DIVING was supposed to go, but otherwise, just constant writing, no write-overs or erasures.
- 17A: Place to freshen up (POWDER ROOM)
- 22A: Sport involving a chute (SKY-DIVING)
- 37A: Britney Spears's debut hit ("BABY ONE MORE TIME")
- 45A: Elite military group (NAVY SEALS)
- 14A: Climber's chopper (ICE AXE) — perhaps the longest X-containing piece of crosswordese there is.
- 25A: "Unforgettable" duettist Cole (NATALIE) — man, "duettist" is a stupid-looking word.
- 4D: One-named Nigerian songstress (SADE) — she sells huge numbers of records and yet manages to remain a very private person. Read an interesting "New Yorker" article on her recently (still no idea who gave me a "New Yorker" subscription for Xmas ... anyone?)
- 27D: Forbidden-sounding perfume (TABU) — instinctively wanted this in another part of the grid when I saw I had a four-letter "U"-ending answer (which ended up being SITU)
- 33D: Subj. of a U.N. inspection, maybe (WMD) — in my head, when I hear this abbrev., it's always plural, i.e. WMDs. I guess that's because inspectors (and everyone else) are usually concerned about more than just one.
- 48D: Like Abe Lincoln, physiologically (LANKY) — I think I'd have liked [Unlike Taft, physiologically] better.
- 52D: Early Jesse Jackson hairdo (AFRO) — weird choice of example, but true enough.
[now *that's* an AFRO (via "My Mom, The Style Icon")]
- 58D: Spectra automaker (KIA) — KIA is a crossword stalwart, taking its place alongside SAAB, EDSEL, ALERO, REO, XKE, OPEL ... as an oft-recurring car brand/type.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]