County ENE of San Francisco / MON 7-26-10 / Monica player on Friends / Brutes in Gulliver's Travels / Native of eastern South Africa
Monday, July 26, 2010
Constructor: Janet Bender
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (EASY for me, but I beat some speedsters, so I think my time was idiosyncratic)
THEME: COCO — theme answers are two-word phrases where first and second words start with "CO-"
Word of the Day: CONTRA COSTA (17A: County ENE of San Francisco) —
Contra Costa County (Spanish for "opposite coast") is a primarily suburban county in the San Francisco Bay Area of the U.S. state of California. As of the 2006, the US Census Bureau estimated it had a population of 1,024,319. The county seat is Martinez. (wikipedia)
A lovely Monday puzzle—theme is a bit simple, but the grid is very splashy overall. A nice array of high-value Scrabble letters and some very lively fill made the puzzle a pleasure to solve. Next to no junk, too, which is usually all I ask of my Mondays. Two big surprises (for me) today. First, that CONTRA COSTA is puzzle-worthy at all, not to mention theme-worthy! Do people outside CA know this place? A county whose biggest city is Concord (the 47th largest city in CA)?! Weird. Second surprise: that COURTENEY COX's first name has that first "E"—is that normal? I wrote in her name and had a space left over. Decided to throw in another "E" in the only place that seemed plausible, and voila! Other than that, nothing surprising, but lots to love, including (to name just a few):
- ON RECORD (5D: Publicly known)
- DECAMP (6D: Leave suddenly)
- ST. CROIX (23D: Largest of the Virgin Islands)
- GAWK (53D: Get an eyeful)
- BIG MAC (51A: Alternative to a Quarter Pounder)
- RED COAT (41D: British soldier in the American Revolution)
- YAHOOS (45D: Brutes in "Gulliver's Travels")
- SHORTCUT (39D: Clever travel suggestion)
And not just a JEW, but a JEW TABOO (successive entries!) (60A: Observer of Yom Kippur + 61A: Eating pork, to an observant 60-Across). Nice work. By the way, in case you missed it yesterday, you might want to check out W. Shortz's defense of "JEWFRO" and other recent and somewhat controversial answers, published here this past weekend.
- 17A: County ENE of San Francisco (CONTRA COSTA)
- 27A: What a programmer writes (COMPUTER CODE)
- 43A: Monica player on "Friends" (COURTENEY COX)
- 57A: Winter afflictions (COMMON COLDS)
- 48A: China's Three Gorges project (DAM) — see, now that's an interesting clue for DAM. Not a typical Monday clue (i.e. not transparent), but an interesting clue.
- 11D: Native of eastern South Africa (ZULU) — was hesitant to write this answer in, as part of me thought that ZULU were somehow bygone, or only existed in movies. I blame "Shaka ZULU"
- 27D: Vitamin brand promoted as "Complete from A to Zinc" (CENTRUM) — Product Placement! Actually, I don't care about such issues. I only wish the product name were less dull. I take only Vitamin D and Fish Oil.
- 30D: Missile that might be tipped with curare (DART) — why would you tip your missile with ... oh, "missile" in the general, not-necessarily-rocket-propelled sense. Gotcha.
- 45D: Brutes in "Gulliver's Travels" (YAHOOS) — A memorable reading experience, for many reasons (not the least of which is that I spelled JONATHAN wrong, repeatedly, in my paper for British Literature II. The fact that JONATHAN was also the professor's child's name (and that the professor bothered to tell me so) made the error particularly ... memorable). Best name in "Gulliver's Travels": Houyhnhnms!
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