NFL commentator Phil / SUN 1-16-11 / Train track beam / Christine Phantom of the Opera heroine / Literary title character from planet Antiterra
Sunday, January 16, 2011
Constructor: Joon Pahk
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: "A River Puns Through It" — phrases that pun on the names of well-known world rivers
Word of the Day: Phil SIMMS (1D: N.F.L. commentator Phil) —
Phillip Martin "Phil" Simms (born November 3, 1954) is a former American football quarterback, and currently a television sportscaster for the CBS network. After a standout career at Morehead State University, Simms was drafted in the first round by the New York Giants of the National Football League (NFL) with the number seven selection overall in the 1979 NFL Draft. Simms played his entire professional career with the Giants and was named Most Valuable Player (MVP) of Super Bowl XXI, after he led the Giants to a 39–20 victory over the Denver Broncos and set the record for highest completion percentage in a super bowl, going 22 for 25. He also was named to the Pro Bowl for his performances in the 1985 and 1993 seasons. // He finished his career with 33,462 passing yards and has since gone on to a career broadcaster of NFL games—first as an analyst for ESPN, then as a in-game color commentator with NBC, and currently with CBS. He is the father of quarterback Chris Simms and former University of Louisville and current University of Tennessee quarterback Matt Simms. (wikipedia)
I tried to make I-RAIL (125A: Train track beam) my Word of the Day, but no matter how I googled it, I couldn't find a single definition, so ... Phil SIMMS, which is timely, as he's on TV this weekend covering the N.F.L. playoffs (go Lions!). Crafty clue, as SIMMS is famous primarily for his quarterbacking, not his commentating. As for the meat of the puzzle—actually enjoyed most of the puns, and really love how the topmost and bottommost theme answers break across two answers like that. Title gave a little too much away, I think, though the title itself is a pun, so ... I mean, how could you resist? Wanted YALU in the YANGTZE answer (forgetting, apparently, that YALU is Korean), and then wanted URAL in the NEVA answer—so much so that even after I got the NEVA answer, my brain still registered it as the URAL answer, and so when it came time to put URAL in the grid in a non-theme answer (115D: Risk territory east of Ukraine), I balked. Fill was mostly solid on this one, though there was some ... let's say, creative, short stuff. Still baffled by I-RAIL. SO TOO gets a weird partial clue, when I think it could simply be clued [Likewise]. MACHI looks silly unless/until you parse it correctly, MACH I (76A: Speed of sound). HOGWARTS is a lovely longer answer (86D: School whose motto is Latin for "Never tickle a sleeping dragon"), and KEYDETS (really!?) is probably my favorite revelation of the day (130A: V.M.I. athletes).
If there is one answer I would like to ban from all puzzles everywhere from now to the end of time, it's DAAE (40D: Christine ___, "The Phantom of the Opera" heroine). It is the epitome of terrible. There's only one clue for it, it's a proper noun, it looks insane/completely made up. I don't even know what language / planet it's from. What the hell kind of name is that??? How's it pronounced? Da-EYE? DAY-ee? Oh, apparently there's an accent aigu on the "É," so "Dah-AY," I guess. I've seen it once before, which is the only reason I didn't go crazy in that little section trying desperately to figure out what I had wrong. Initially had TREE over BEA in that section, which created all kinds of mess.
Please note the return of former Words of the Day GOLGI (84D: ___ apparatus (cell organelle)) and LILI (she came back fast!—61A: "I Shot Andy Warhol" actress).
- 23A: With 24-Across, why a Midwest river has so many tributaries? (MISSOURI / LOVES COMPANY)
- 35A: Fop who makes idle sketches of a Chinese river? (YANGTZE DOODLE DANDY)
- 48A: "If you don't meet my demands within 24 hours, I"ll blow up a Russian river" ("TOMORROW NEVA DIES") — that clue does not work. There's simply nothing conditional about the answer.
- 66A: Life vest worn on a Korean border river? (YALU JACKET)
- 71A: Piranhas in a German border river? (ODER EATERS) — I kind of love how I get to put all these horrid little four-letter crossword rivers to somewhat more interesting use.
- 92A: Request to an Alaskan river to return to its headwaters? (YUKON GO HOME AGAIN)
- 100A: Aggressive posturin' on an English river? (THAMES FIGHTIN' WORDS) — my favorite pun of the lot
- 120A: With 123-Across, what minor rivers of Pakistan say at their junctions? ("WE'RE ALL INDUS / TOGETHER")
- 8A: Cookie with a geographical name (MILANO) — tasty Pepperidge Farm product.
- 46A: Literary title character from the planet Antiterra (ADA) — I had no idea this (Nabokov) novel was about an alternative earth. Also had no idea that incest figured so prominently. "From the planet" is a weird phrase, since it sort of implies that she's come "from" there "to" somewhere else. I don't think that's the case. Clearly I haven't read it, but it seems like the whole book takes place on Antiterra.
- 85A: Stand-up guy? (NO-SHOW) — great clue.
- 126A: Channel crosser Gertrude (EDERLE) — one of the more important 6-letter crossword names. Not terribly common, but common enough that I a. learned her from crosswords, and b. have found that knowledge useful.
- 4D: Priests' changing room (VESTRY) — strangely, I don't think I knew that's what a VESTRY was.
- 5D: U2 collaborator on "Passengers: Original Soundtracks 1" (ENO) — I am not familiar with that particular U2 work. According to wikipedia: "Original Soundtracks 1 (also known as Original Soundtracks) is a 1995 album recorded by U2 and Brian Eno, as a side project, under the pseudonym Passengers. It is a collection of songs written for mostly imaginary movies (the exclusions being songs for Heat, Ghost in the Shell, Miss Sarajevo, and Beyond the Clouds)."
- 8D: Illinois home of Black Hawk College (MOLINE) — needed virtually every cross here. This town rings a bell only Very faintly.
- 25D: Shield border, in heraldry (ORLE) — don't think this needs "in heraldry." You know ORLE or you don't know ORLE. Other words in the supercrosswordese round-up include NERO (36D: Last Julio-Claudian emperor) and STOL (101D: Acronym for a small-runway aircraft). NERO was also a character in the 2009 "Star Trek," which also featured Capt. James T. KIRK (70D: 2009 sci-fi role for Chris Pine).
- 54D: Father, as a mudder (SIRE) — Nice Alan Shermanesque clue.
- 88D: Rock, in modern lingo (WEAR) — great, contemporary clue.
Thanks to everyone who made financial contributions to this website during the past week. The snail mail has been especially fascinating. You people live in all kinds of crazy places and have a wide variety of stationery. Many of the notes were really quite thoughtful and touching. I can only hope the folks reading in syndication are as interesting (not to mention generous).
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]
PS the Fifth Annual Silicon Valley Puzzle Fest will be taking place about two weeks from now (Jan. 29-30, 2011) at the Morgan Hill Library in Morgan Hill, CA. It includes a full day of puzzle workshops on Saturday (one of which, "Diagramless & Acrostic Puzzles," is being run by Tyler Hinman), and both Sudoku (ugh) and Crossword (yay) tournaments on Sunday. Kids are especially welcome, and there are workshops especially for them. Get more information here.