Indian Ocean vessel / WED 1-5-11 / TV show that debuted on 1/5/61 / High-tech surveillance acronym / Fergie's duchy / Dance like Hines brothers
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Constructor: Mr. Ed Sessa
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: 50th anniversary of "Mr. Ed"'s debut — three theme answers related to the show
Word of the Day: AWACS (33A: High-tech surveillance acronym) —
An airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) system is an airborne radar system designed to detect aircraft. Used at a high altitude, the radars allow the operators to distinguish between friendly and hostile aircraft hundreds of miles away. AEW&C aircraft are used for defensive and offensive air operations. The system is used offensively to direct fighters to their target locations, and defensively to counter attacks. It can also be used to carry out surveillance, and C2BM (command and control, battle management) functions. // AEW&C is also known by the older terms "airborne early warning" (AEW) and "airborne warning and control system" (AWACS, pronounced /ˈeɪwæks/ AY-waks). [Mmm, bygone acronyms ... who doesn't love those!?] (wikipedia)
In case you didn't know that "Mr. Ed" debuted 50 years ago today, here is a 15x15 grid to tell you so. The fact that today is the anniversary is a lot more interesting (in a passingly trivial kind of way) than this puzzle, which seems to revolve around a joke that might have been funny 50 years ago — a horse saying "TIME TO HIT THE HAY / OH, I FORGOT, I ATE IT. . . IT'S FUNNY BECAUSE THE FIRST HAY WAS IDIOMATIC AND THE SECOND HAY WAS LITERAL AND OH THE WORDPLAY SHENANIGANS WE'LL GET UP TO ON THIS SET!" Mr. Ed was, in fact (or fiction, I guess), a (or THE) TALKING HORSE, and the first line he said was "HELLO, I AM A HORSE AND YOU ARE HEARING ME TALK." Somewhere in all this is the fact that the constructor's name is Ed. Too. Presumably he is not a horse, and thus no relation. The way to tell the difference between a horse and a human? When we screw up, we say "D'oh!" and when a horse screws up, he says "DHOW!" (50D: Indian Ocean vessel).
- 17A: Opening line from a TV show that debuted on 1/5/61 ("HELLO, I'M MR. ED)
- 25A: With 43-Across, line spoken by the show's star ("TIME TO HIT THE HAY / OH, I FORGOT, I ATE IT")
- 57A: Familiar title for the star of the show ("THE TALKING HORSE")
How is a puzzle like this allowed to come into being without WILBUR, and without a single line from the theme song!?
I started off very strong, with MEDICI as a gimme (1A: Renowned family of Italian history), and flew through the grid until I hit the west, where "I WISH" wouldn't come easily (26D: "Wouldn't that be nice"), I wasn't *certain* of the number of the MACH (it's I, 27D: Chuck Yeager's breakthrough), and AWACS was a complete mystery. Lots of flailing there. Wanted the overlong FORBIDDEN at 41D: Prohibited and thought the puzzle was taunting me as I uncovered F, then FO, then FOR, then FORB (come on!) (it's FORBADE). Did not know EILEEN (62A: Former space shuttle commander Collins), but her crosses were easy, and did not know DHOW, though I've certainly seen it before. Finished with DHIW, and had enough sense to know that couldn't be it. DHOW doesn't look much better, but its last two letters at least make a recognizable combo in the English language, so I went DHOW.
- 41A: Phileas ___, fictional circumnavigator (FOGG) — like the clue, though once you see "Phileas," you either know it or you don't. It could have read [... Sno-Cone enthusiast] or [... leather fetishist] and I'd have had FOGG in there before the implications of the description had time to set in. I might not even have seen the second part of the clue, frankly.
- 47A: It was "lost" in 1981's top-grossing movie (ARK) — then it was found and then it melted the Nazis' faces. I went to a stunt show based on this movie at the Disney Hollywood Studios theme park just this past Sunday. Sadly, the Nazi face-melting was not a stunt they recreated.
- 52A: Of the lower small intestine (ILEAC) — I'll add this to the "non-ideal fill" category. It's just ugly. Also, I was not aware that the small intestine was up for grabs, so to speak, fill-wise. How is that better than RECTUM? It's all connected, right? I guess ILEAC just isn't a word that's going to make you spit your coffee all over your paper. Probably.
- 10D: "Rocky and Bullwinkle" villainess (NATASHA) — I like this one because of the word "villainess" and because it's roughly from the same time period of the show being honored.
- 13D: Jazz duo in London? (ZEDS) — Word "Jazz" has two Zs, or ZEDS; old trick.
- 52A: 37D: Fergie's duchy (YORK) — she married Prince Andrew 25 years ago ... thus 25 years after the debut of "Mr. Ed." Coincidence? Probably.
- 29D: Dance like the Hines Brothers (TAP) — Gregory Hines had a brother? Whoa. Check it out:
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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