Soviet foreign affairs minister during Cuban missile crisis / SUN 3-13-11 / Ziggurat features / Onetime Freud collaborator / Kaaba visitor's faith
Sunday, March 13, 2011
Constructor: Patrick Berry
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
THEME: Reverend Spooner, U.S.P.S. — theme clues combine to form a monologue by Reverend Spooner, who describes his new career with the USPS in (at least vaguely) USPS-related spoonerisms (the theme answers)
Word of the Day: Andrei GROMYKO (41D: Soviet foreign affairs minister during the Cuban missile crisis) —
Andrei Andreyevich Gromyko (Russian: Андре́й Андре́евич Громы́ко; Belarusian Андрэ́й Андрэ́евіч Грамы́ка; 18 July [O.S. 5 July] 1909 – 2 July 1989) was a Soviet statesman during the Cold War. He served as Minister of Foreign Affairs (1957–1985) and as Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet (1985–1987). Gromyko was responsible for many top decisions on Soviet foreign policy until he retired in 1987. In the West he was given the nickname Mr. Nyet ("Mr. No"). (wikipedia)
As an example of the story-theme type, this puzzle is quite good. It's not my favorite type of theme, as it results in some pretty contrived dialogue (and answers). Also, whenever I see that theme answers are going to be spoonerisms (yes, it's happened before, under tournament conditions no less), my heart sinks a little. My brain just doesn't process them well; also, I never get the chuckle that pun-loving people do. It's mainly just work for me. But most of today's theme answers were at least cute, and the consistently postal nature of the puns made the set cohere in a way that allowed me to overcome my normally poor ability to handle spoonerisms. So ... up from 'poor' to 'mediocre.' Base phrases of a couple of theme answers don't hold together very well ("pack your crate?" "hound growling?") and the last one ("filled with cheer") has nothing whatsoever to do with the postal service, but the rest are tight.
Difficulty-wise, there was the general struggle to get the wordplay, and then there was GROMYKO, and then there was ABACO (91A: The Bahamas Great ___ Island). There was also the issue of how to spell AMIDALA (15D: Queen in the "Star Wars" saga), and my failure to make sense of either of the crossing non-S plurals BOWMEN (73A: Drawers of war?) / RAIMENT (56D: Wardrobe items). Other than that, this was pretty typical of a Sunday, difficulty-wise. Always love seeing LEE Marvin (39A: Marvin of "Cat Ballou"), who is possibly my favorite hard-boiled actor of all time (that's right—sorry, Bogie), and MR. MOM (1D: 1983 Michael Keaton comedy), which features one of my earliest celebrity crushes: Martin Mull ... I mean Teri Garr! Also love HOMERS (59A: Round-trippers, in sports lingo) because it reminds me that the baseball season is right around the corner. Loved the clue on IOUS (which is saying something—I wonder how many hundreds of times Patrick Berry has had to clue that damned word) (44A: Poor writer's scribblings?). Kind of cool that the puzzle has two horror film directors (ELI Roth and WES Craven). Kind of not cool that the clue for SATYR, [Forest flutist], did not include the additional (some would argue necessary) word "fictional."
- 23A: "I suppose it might seem odd that a reverend like myself would suddenly begin ___..." (MARRYING THE KALE)
- 31A: "... but I've always thought ___ had a more fun job than I do" (MOST PASTORS)
- 35A: "For an avid philatelist like me, sorting envelopes is thrilling—I might spot a ___!" (STAIR RAMP)
- 48A: "When a man is nervous about shipping breakables, I tell him, '___ carefully, sir' ..." (CRACK YOUR PATE)
- 60A: "... and I write '___' on the box, which seems to reassure him" (CANDLE WITH HAIR)
- 68A: "The best part of the job, of course, is when I'm out on the street ___" (RAKING MY MOUNDS)
- 80A: "I'm a bit leery of dogs—it's unsettling to enter a yard and hear some ___ at me ..." (GROUND HOWLING)
- 96A: "... but dogs can't spoil how much I enjoy driving around in the ___" (TRAIL MUCK)
- 99A: "Homeowners get excited when they see me opening their ___ ..." (BETTER LOCKS)
- 109A: "... and when I hand-deliver a package, the recipients are positively ___—it's very satisfying!" (CHILLED WITH FEAR)
- 27A: "Dirt cake" ingredients (OREOS) — total guess, but a good one. Where I come from, dirt cakes are made of dirt, and maybe some water.
- 76A: Mesabi Range export (IRON ORE) — located in northern Minnesota, the Mesabi Range is the chief deposit of iron ore in the U.S. (wikipedia)
- 2D: Single-named "Hollywood Squares" regular (CHARO!) — she was married to that Cugat guy, right? Er, what's his name? ... Xavier Cugat! I knew her as "that coochie coochie lady who guest-starred on 'Love Boat' sometimes."
- 9D: Ziggurat featues (TIERS) — getting ziggurats confused with Zagnut bars, I think.
- 14D: Onetime Freud collaborator (ADLER) — Alfred ADLER. I know nothing about him except his not uncommon (in crosswords) name.
- 51D: Bygone Tide rival (RINSO) — when will I start seeing the new Johnny Depp movie "RANGO" in my puzzles?
- 93D: Bird that may nest on volcanic ash (NENE) — also, the starting center for the Denver Nuggets.
- 102D: 1980s-'90s Chrysler offerings (KCARS) — my favorite letter is "K," so I kind of want to drive one of these, even though I have a feeling they are/were cruddy.
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