Swedish actress Persson / THU 8-12-10 / Joni Mitchell song lyric she was swallowed by sky / Top ten singer born Nigeria / Christiansen founder Lego
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Constructor: Barry Boone
Relative difficulty: Challenging
THEME: The sinking of the Titanic — the S.O.S. (73A: See 38-Across) call to the R.M.S. CARPATHIA (65A: Responder to 38-Across on 4/15/1912) is spelled out in MORSE CODE (17A: See 38-Across) in the center of the grid, in rebus form: DIT DIT DIT DAH DAH DAH DIT DIT DIT (38A: 73-Across, in 17-Across)
Word of the Day: ESSY Persson (62A: Swedish actress Persson) —
Essy Persson is a Swedish actress born 15 June 1941 in Gothenburg (Sweden). In 1971 she appeared in the movie Want So Much To Believe. (that is the Entirety of her wikipedia write-up!)
This puzzle was comically hard for a Thursday—more like a toughish Friday for me. Surprised by my slow time, I checked the initial returns at the NYT site and laughed out loud at how slow they were—the puzzle had been up 25 minutes and only 11 people had finished and my cruddy time would have put me third. Actually, the puzzle wasn't *that* tough until I got to the SW corner, where things got ridiculous. I had nothing below AYE (49A: Reply to Captain Kirk). Just ... nothing. Kept trying to think of a *place* at 41D: "The Great Gatsby" setting=>JAZZAGE) and failing. Started doubting the JET part of JETSKI (41A: Vacation vehicle). Just a disaster. Wanted TOUGH for LONER (56D: Typical Clint Eastwood role). Had no hope of getting EMERY (71A: What might do a foul tip?), AXONS (64A: Transmission conduits, of a sort), ESSY (!?!?), or LONER from the clues alone. Deeply ironically, the answer to save me down there was TEA ROSE (43D: Flower named for its smell). I don't even know what one is. But I've seen it in puzzles before (it's loaded with low-value Scrabble letters, so not uncommon as 7-letter answers go), and for some reason the clue was specific enough to make my brain go blip. And then everything fell.
Before that ... well, I didn't really understand what was going on. That is, I had NO IDEA what CARPATHIA was. Never heard of it. So the puzzle's theme made little sense to me, though from the date I could infer the Titanic was involved somehow. As for the rebus, I picked it up without Too much trouble. Hit the middle of the puzzle and *nothing* was working (good sign that some trick is afoot). Still, that all fell without too much struggle. Had much, much more trouble piecing together HI MOM (15A: Stadium sign). Don't know the title "AMELIA" (8D: Joni Mitchell song with the lyric "she was swallowed by the sky") even if I've probably heard the song at some time ... er, nope, never heard it. So I had to back that one into the corner, praying that it was in fact "AMELIA" (and CREMA—4A: Caffè go-with) and not EMELIA (a name I've seen only in Shakespeare—oh, damn, that's EMILIA. Nevermind).
So there's the general toughness of a rebus puzzle, coupled with tougher-than-average cluing. I mean, didn't you put in CABANAS for 1D: Beach shelters (RAMADAS)? How mean was that? Plus, RED was clued weirdly (1A: Stop on it) and AXE's clue felt off (14A: Headbanger's instrument)—I always think of the headbanger as the fan, not the guitar player, and doesn't AXE come from blues, not metal? (comes from neither, it turns out— see interesting etymological discussions here and here). So it was rough all over. My love of rebuses is offset here by my general dislike of (very) heavily cross-referenced cluing. CARPATHIA's clue is the only one with Any info in it. No symmetrical answer for SOS, either. That middle string of DITs and DAHs, though ... that's pretty magical. Overall, a memorable, challenging, and predominantly enjoyable puzzle.
There is one answer in this puzzle that made me laugh out loud—you will find out why on Tuesday...
- 44A: ___ Christiansen, founder of the Lego company (OLE) — whoa. Big day for the Scandinavians, I guess. OLE, ESSY; ESSY, OLE.
- 68A: Rightmost column in the periodic table (GASES) — ugh. I haven't looked at a periodic table since junior year of high school. Wanted, I don't know, INERT or something. Actually wanted NEONS, but knew that NEON was just one element, not a column. At least GASES was a recognizable entity I could get with a few crosses.
- 24D: Part of the "De Camptown Races" refrain (DOO [DAH]) — this answer right here is where I started to figure out the theme. Wanted DOOS, but then the clue would have to read [Parts ...], not [Part...]. First thing I put in was DO-DA, thinking, "man, that is a stupid way to spell that."
- 35D: Snake's place (I[DAH]O) — brutally vague, until you get the theme.
- 53D: Neighbor of Francia (ESPAÑA) — fittingly, right next to the Spanish word PAZ (67D: Goal of las Naciones unidas), and crossing the Francia-ish, i.e. French, words PAS DE (63A: ___ deux).
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