Textile city of north-central England / MON 4-26-10 / Widespread language East Africa / Early Fords that put America on wheels / Bygone love interest
Monday, April 26, 2010
Constructor: Lynn Lempel
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: "PLAYING WITH FIRE" (37A: Doing something risky ... or a hint to the last words of 18-, 24-, 49- and 58-Across) — theme answers end with LIGHT, HEAT, FLAME, and SMOKE, respectively
Word of the Day: LEEDS (50D: Textile city of north-central England) —
Leeds is the cultural, financial and commercial heart of the wider West Yorkshire Urban Area, which at the 2001 census had a population of 1.5 million, and the Leeds city region, an economic area with Leeds at its core, had a population of 2.9 million. Leeds is the UK's largest centre for business, legal, and financial services outside London, and according to the most recent Office for National Statistics estimates, Leeds is the fastest growing city in the UK. [...] Leeds has a diverse economy with employment in the service sector now far exceeding that in the traditional manufacturing industries. In 2002, 401,000 employees were registered in the Leeds district. Of these 24.7% were in public administration, education and health, 23.9% were in banking finance and insurance and 21.4% were in distribution, hotels and restaurants. It is in the banking, finance and insurance sectors that Leeds differs most from the financial structure of the region and the nation. The city is the location of one of the largest financial centres in England outside London. Tertiary industries such as retail, call centres, offices and media have contributed to a high rate of economic growth. In 2006 GVA for city was recorded at £16.3 billion, with the entire Leeds City Region generating an economy of £46 billion.
Solved this one very differently than I normally do — opened it in the kitchen and called out the Across clues to my wife as she was cooking. Together, we tried them all in order, without looking at any of the Downs. Shockingly (to me), we got every single answer that way save one — AT STAKE (44A: Being risked, as in a bet). We also misguessed MODEL AS instead of the correct MODEL TS (28A: Early Fords that "put American on wheels"). Wife came up with PACK LIGHT (18A: Common advice to travelers) almost instantly, and I did the same for DEAD HEAT (24A: Race that finishes in a tie), and from that, we inferred PLAYING WITH FIRE, and from *that* we got OLD FLAME (49A: Bygone love interest) as well as (after much thought) the most recalcitrant of the Acrosses, HOLY SMOKE! (58A: "Omigosh!") We had to look at the the Downs only to get crosses for AT STAKE, and only needed the first two to figure it out. I don't know if this would have played any faster than usual if I'd been solving normally, but it really felt astonishingly easy, even for a Monday.
The theme seemed pretty rudimentary. Proceeded along fairly typical lines, i.e. take a familiar idiomatic phrase, and then use it as the basis for a handful of theme answers – here, linked loosely by last word. FIRE gives off LIGHT, and HEAT, and SMOKE ... doesn't really give off FLAME. It is FLAME. But close enough for ... whatever the expression is. I want to say horseshoes, but that's a different expression ("close only counts in horseshoes and hand gernades").
- 3D: Adorable zoo critters from China (PANDA BEARS) — "Adorable" seems pretty subjective / unscientific. Are they really any more "adorable" than the AGOUTI? (OK, yes, they probably are, but I just wanted to say AGOUTI because I can't get that animal out of my head since I began reading "Swiss Family Robinson" with my daughter — the AGOUTI is one of a shockingly large number of exotic animals killed within the first two chapters of that book — a dog devours a monkey, the dogs and boys absolutely destroy a handful of jackals, the youngest boy clubs an unsuspecting penguin in the head, gives it to his mom to cook, and then saves its feet and beak to show his dad and brother, etc. It's all horrifically, hilariously brutal).
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]