Jewelry designer Elsa / SUN 11-7-10 / Lex Luthor alter ego / First near-Earth asteroid / Spot overseer / Sitcom role for Brandy Norwood / Has 21 spots
Sunday, November 7, 2010
Constructor: Will Nediger
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
THEME: "Leading Articles" — familiar two-word phrases where second word starts A+[double letter] have double letter turned to single letter and "A" detached (to function as an "article"), thus creating wacky three-word phrases, which are clued "?"-wise
Word of the Day: Elsa PERETTI (14D: Jewelry designer Elsa) —
Elsa Peretti (born May 1, 1940) is an Italian jewelry designer. // She was born in Florence, Italy, the daughter of a well-to-do Roman family. She became interested in making jewelry while in prison [ed.: !?!?!]. Educated at Volbicela School in Rome, with a diploma in interior design. In early jobs she was a French teacher, a ski instructor and a model. She moved to New York in the 1960s, where she began designing jewelry for a handful of top designers, including Halston, Oscar de la Renta, Giorgio di Sant'Angelo and Tiffany & Co. (wikipedia)
This played much tougher than the average Sunday. Far fewer gimmes, and a theme that (at least for me) took a while to figure out. Also, cluing that was thorny. Deliberately vague or misleading, all over the place. I didn't like it so much as I was solving, but on reflection, there is much that I admire. This discrepancy between solving and post-solving attitude is possibly due to the fact that I didn't *fully* understand the theme until just after I finished — that is, I didn't get how "LEADING ARTICLES" was at all relevant. "LEADING" had me looking at the front of the *whole* answer, and finding no "article," I was just annoyed. But once I noticed that the theme answers involved not just double-to-single-letter switches, but the detachment (in every case) of the "A" from the second word, such that it became the indefinite *article* "A" ... well, then I had to revise my opinion of the theme a bit. Revise it upward. Really, I should welcome the added challenge on Sundays—too often, Sundays just feel like bloated Wednesdays, with themes that, once cracked, offer little enjoyment. This one required work, and the grid was at least interesting, and often quite compelling, everywhere I looked.
That NW was just ridiculously hard for me to get into. No idea that Telly SAVALAS had been Oscar-nominated. Despite the Greekness of the clue, he was Nowhere on my radar (1A: Oscar-nominated actor with the given name Aristotelis). VIS-A-VIS, ugh! (3D: With 4-Across, in relation to). No hope (for a while). Started with correct SIR and AGE, but then figured 19A: "Fine, tell me" was "GO AHEAD!" (instead of "I GIVE UP"). That pretty much shut things down up there (for the second day in a row, I finished in the NW). The section just underneath that was no picnic either. DUAD!? (28D: Couple) Oh, my eyes/ears! Tried DYAD but "Y" didn't work. EDEN was forgotten by me (30D: British P.M. between Churchill and Macmillan), and AD EXEC (grumble grumble) was a no-hoper as well (43A: Spot overseer). [Vigorous] wasn't exactly a direct route to DYNAMIC. So the entire NW region was a slog.
NE had issues too—total middling proper noun fest. Jewelry designer I've *barely* heard of (and then only from xwords) (PERETTI). Same with the opera singer (18D: Opera singer Simon => ESTES). No hope for "RAMA" (21D: Arthur C. Clarke's "Rendezvous With ___"). BENIN I guess at, correctly (17D: Neighbor of Nigeria and Togo). POWERPC (93A: It was developed by Apple, IBM and Motorola) / HAVASU (102A: Lake ___ City, Ariz.) region was fraught with rough waters as well. So I earned my Happy Pencil today. Not much to complain about, honestly. Thought ATOM MAN was a bit beyond the pale (I know a little something about comics and did not know this) (130A: Lex Luthor alter ego, once). Fell into the MORLEY-for-LESLEY pit (128A: First name on "60 Minutes"). Not much else to tell.
- 22A: Try staying awake? (RESISTING A REST)
- 36A: Pinned down? (UNDER A TACK)
- 72A: Really enjoy going to carnivals? (LOVE A FAIR)
- 106A: Straddling one's opponent? (UPON A RIVAL) — winner!
- 123A: Frisking Dracula? (CHECKING A COUNT)
- 16D: Mechanic's task? (EVENING A TIRE)
- 64D: What the dissatisfied female giftee might do after Christmas? (RETURN A DRESS)
- 21A: Steve who played the title role of Hercules in a 1959 film (REEVES) — a gimme. Nice multivalent mini-theme, with "Hercules" recalling NEMEA down in the SW (109D: Site of Hercules' first labor), and REEVES recalling *George* REEVES, who played TV's Superman, who is apparently a foe of ... ATOM MAN!
- 54A: Popular word in German product packaging (NEU) — I went with the less probable NIE! ("Never!")
- 104A: Prepresidential title for Bill Clinton or Woodrow Wilson (PROF.) — don't think I knew this; needed a couple crosses to pick it up.
- 113A: First near-Earth asteroid to be discovered (EROS) — because asteroids are erotic? EROS backwards is SORE. How unfortunate.
- 23D: Kingdom overthrown in 2008 (NEPAL) — weird to get your news from crosswords, but that's most certainly how I learned this about NEPAL. Another fun fact about NEPAL that I learned from xwords: its flag has five sides.
- 39D: The "K" of James K. Polk (KNOX) — some day, after being beleaguered by this clue for years, I will remember the answer. Today was not that day.
- 45D: Handyman's exclamation ("GOOD AS NEW!") — I had no idea even where to begin with this one. "I MADE THAT!"
- 61D: It may involve punitive tariffs (TRADE WAR) — went with TRADE LAW; bad mistake, if only because it looked and felt so right.
- 62D: Sitcom role for Brandy Norwood (MOESHA) — '90s! UPN! She was a super-talented teen sensation. MOESHA is a great crossword name ... until the show fades so far into the past that no one remembers it anymore. I think this clue is harder now than it would've been a decade ago.
- 94D: Sitarist Shankar (RAVI) — Dude is virtually crosswordese. One of a smallish batch of flat-out gimmes for me today.
- 108D: Unpopular baby name (ADOLF) — Hitler killed ADOLF. Did Amin kill IDI? I know Stalin didn't kill JOSEF / JOSEPH.
P.S. just want to plug my friend Patrick Blindauer's latest suite of puzzles, "I Know Where I Was Last Summer," a 10-puzzle affair that is also a contest with pretty great prizes (GET IT HERE). Also, he has a new freebie puzzle at his website (GET IT HERE). You may know Patrick's puzzles from such publications as The New York Times ... and virtually everywhere else that publishes puzzles. He's one of the best.
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