Ligurian capital / THU 11-25-10 / Mexican silver center / 1955 Platters hit / Hayes portrayer Mod Squad / Bygone science/sci-fi magazine
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Constructor: Bill Thompson
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: Rare Scrabble tiles — 65A: Number of tiles per Scrabble set for the letter at the end of the answer to each starred clue (ONE); five theme answers end in X, Z, J, Q, and K, respectively
Word of the Day: TAXCO (7D: Mexican silver center) —
Taxco de Alarcón (usually referred to as simply “Taxco”) is a small city and municipality located in the Mexican state of Guerrero. The name Taxco is most likely derived from the Nahuatl word tlacheco, which means “place of the ballgame.” However, one interpretation has the name coming from the word tatzco which means “where the father of the water is,” due to the high waterfall near the town center on Atatzin Mountain. “De Alarcón” is in honor of writer Juan Ruiz de Alarcón who was a native of the town. Like many municipalities in central Mexico, the municipality’s coat-of-arms is an Aztec glyph. This glyph is in the shape of a Mesoamerican ballcourt with rings, players and skulls, derived from the most likely source of Taxco’s name. // The city is heavily associated with silver, both with the mining of it and other metals and for the crafting of it into jewelry, silverware and other items. This reputation, along with the city’s picturesque homes and surrounding landscapes have made tourism the main economic activity as the only large-scale mining operation here is coming to a close. (wikipedia)
The only place in the grid that gave me any real trouble was the NE. The phrases GO TO IT (8A: Get started) and TORE AT (18A: Mauled), while solid enough, felt iffy for some reason. THRO' I didn't know at all (10D: "And ___ the field the road runs by": Tennyson), though I ended up inferring it in the end. ETHYNE? With a "Y?" (16A: Simple hydrocarbon) I'm guessing that ETHANE and ETHENE are also real things. Invent some new word formations, chemists. Your language is tedious! I know, I know, there are perfectly sane, rational reasons for these names. But this set is pretty dull and non-descript, you have to admit. Anyhoo, I had to fuss around a bit to make that corner work out. But even that wasn't too taxing. I had a little trouble getting started in the NW, as I had DEFACE for DAMAGE (1D: Split or crack), and ANGELINA looks like it means "little angel," not "messenger of God" (14A: Woman's name that means "messenger of God"), and I've never heard MALCOLM X referred to as a "human rights activist." Not that you couldn't make that claim, or that it isn't valid. I've just never heard it. Saw "Ghostbusters" in the theater when it came out, but did not remember the name of the vehicle ECTO-1 (15D: ___-1 ("Ghostbusters" vehicle). After I got out of there, it was smooth sailing all the way til the wobbly ending in the NE.
- 17A: *Omaha-born human rights activist (MALCOLM X)
- 36A: *Today's kids, demographically speaking (GENERATION Z)
- 59A: *Brand with the challenge to lose one inch from your waist in two weeks (SPECIAL K)
- 24D: *"What Do You Do With a B.A. in English?" musical ("AVENUE Q")
- 27D: *Performer born James Todd Smith (LL COOL J)
There were a few inventive and interesting clues in this puzzle. I balked at 40A: Gate opener for Apollo the first go round. Couldn't figure out what it could mean, and briefly considered the possibility that the Apollo in question was Apollo Creed from the "Rocky" movies. Only after the grid was completed did I notice the answer, EOS, and remember that she was goddess of the dawn, and would open the gate so that Apollo could go on his daily chariot ride across the sky. Another interesting clue: 56A: How some gym instructors stand (AKIMBO). This seems so random and arbitrary, and yet rings true at the same time. I have no idea where this mental image is coming from ...
- 22A: Baum princess (OZMA) — Had the "Z," so not too hard. I picked up this princess's name either from a comic book adaptation of a Baum book or just from solving puzzles.
- 23A: Ligurian capital (GENOA) — Double trouble: no idea what "Ligurian" means and no idea which meaning of "capital" the clue wants. Liguria = region of Italy, but you probably figured that out by now.
- 32A: 1955 Platters hit ("ONLY YOU") — Now this song, and this group, I know. Much more familiar than those damned FOUR ACES from a couple days ago.
- 46A: Approximately 946 of these make a qt. (MLS.) — got it entirely from crosses. No idea why I couldn't solve it straight off. I was probably looking for some much more obscure abbr.
- 47A: Bouquet : pheasants :: covey : ___ (QUAIL) — State bird of California. We had them in our backyard from time to time. Gimme.
- 64A: Hayes portrayer in "The Mod Squad" (EPPS) — Omar. I think he's in "House" now (despite my general admiration for Hugh Laurie, I like "House" about as much as I like Scrabble).
- 3D: Viewing with elevator eyes (OGLING) — Really? That's a phrase? "Elevator eyes?" It's vivid, and just imagining what it might mean helped me get the answers, so ... thumbs up.
- 9D: Chiwere-speaking tribe (OTO) — considered UTE at first. Turns out the UTE language is UTE.
- 35D: Japanese surname follower (-SAN) — Like Cho-Cho-SAN in "Madame Butterfly" or Daniel-SAN in "Karate Kid"
- 52D: Bygone science/sci-fi magazine (OMNI) — as I believe I've said before, it's also a bygone sports arena in Atlanta.
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