Baseballer turned spy Berg / WED 2-23-11 / 1945 flag-raising site / * button Facebook icon / 1974 title role Dustin Hoffman / Gonzalez affair 2000
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Constructor: Barry C. Silk
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: OUTSIDE CHANCE (54A: Remote possibility ... or a hint to 20-, 29- and 44-Across) — word CHANCE can be spelled by combining the first and last sets of letters in each theme answer
Word of the Day: Yawl (58A: Yawl's pair=>MASTS) —
A yawl (from Dutch Jol) is a two-masted sailing craft similar to a sloop or cutter but with an additional mast (mizzenmast or mizzen mast) located well aft of the main mast, often right on the transom, specifically, aft of the rudderpost. (A vessel with the mizzenmast located forward of the rudderpost is called a ketch. See further discussion below.) A mizzen sail (smaller than the mainsail) is hoisted on the mizzen mast. (wikipedia)
This puzzle is just fine, but felt more like a Tuesday (both in terms of concept and difficulty). I like puzzles that take a familiar phrase and then use it as a play on words to develop a puzzle theme. The reimagined phrase often leads to some of the most interesting and inventive puzzles / answers. I've seen this type many times before (the small word on the "outside" of long theme answers), and while CHURCH OF FRANCE (44A: Group overseeing Notre Dame Cathedral) does nothing for me, the other theme answers are interesting. Clue on CHAINLINK FENCE is well phrased (29A: Barrier with a diamond pattern)—accurate without being obvious. Got "CHANTILLY LACE" instantly (20A: Big Bopper hit), despite its being well out of my pop culture sweet spot ... or maybe that's inaccurate. I always think of my pop culture sweet spot as 1976-91, but during a couple of those years (late high school), I listened to nothing but oldies, Motown, and classic rock (refusing to listen (much) to contemporary pop radio was as "rebellious" as I would ever be as a teen). Plus, I remember my dad occasionally doing a ridiculous imitation of the "Hello Baaaaaby" intro to this song.
Not much to slow me down today. Took me a few crosses to remember the late TONY SNOW (8D: Press secretary under George W. Bush). Full name! Very nice. Took me even longer (strangely) to get CANDLE (47D: Thing to snuff), as I discarded WICK as a possibility and moved on to snuff-as-tobacco. "I'M OFF" required some crosses (31D: "Bye for now!"), but virtually everything else fell right into place. Having dogs and a cat may have helped a little with both LEASH LAW (40D: Ordinance aimed at pet owners) and CAT SIT (45D: Watch a kitty) (the former a necessary nuisance, the latter an act performed by many different friends over the years). My favorite clue, by virtue of its being fresh and contemporary, is the one for LIKE (22D: __ button (Facebook icon)).
- 15A: 1945 flag-raising site, briefly (IWO) — easy enough. I've never heard it shortened to just IWO, but then I wasn't alive when people would have been discussing it a lot more often than they do today. See also ETO.
- 34A: Baseballer turned spy Berg (MOE) — yeah, he probably should have been my "Word of the Day"; if I've heard of him, it was in a crossword puzzle, and I promptly forgot him. Here's a tidbit from wikipedia:
A graduate of Princeton University and Columbia Law School, Berg spoke several languages and regularly read 10 newspapers a day. His reputation was fueled by his successful appearances as a contestant on the radio quiz show Information, Please! in which he answered questions about the derivation of words and names from Greek and Latin, historical events in Europe and the Far East, and ongoing international conferences.
- 53D: 1974 title role for Dustin Hoffman (LENNY) — in which he played Comedian LENNY Bruce. Never seen it. For future reference — perhaps — LENNY is also the constant companion of CARL on "The Simpsons"
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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