Asian gambling mecca / SUN 4-24-11 / Homey's rep / Rocky of song / Nickname for Baryshnikov / Seedcase that inspired Velcro / Intaglio seals
Sunday, April 24, 2011
Constructor: Caleb Madison and J.A.S.A. Crossword Class
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: "Use It Or Lose It" — "IT" is added to common phrases in top half of grid, and subtracted from common phrases in the bottom half of the grid, resulting in wacky phrases, which are clued "?"-style
Word of the Day: OBITER dictum (66D: ___ dictum (incidental remark)) —
n., pl., obiter dicta.
- Law. An opinion voiced by a judge that has only incidental bearing on the case in question and is therefore not binding. Also called dictum.
- An incidental remark or observation; a passing comment.
[Latin, something said in passing : obiter, in passing + dictum, something said, from neuter past participle of dīcere, to say.] (answers.com)
Caleb showed me this grid at the ACPT back in March, and I instantly loved it. Wonderful variation on the add-a-letter-type theme—a puzzle where the title is perfect, even essential, instead of forced or awkward. Most impressed with POLITE DANCER (because of the base phrase) and PULPIT FICTION (a beautiful phrase which should already be the title of something by now) and CENTER OF GRAVY (for the sheer existential impossibility of it all). Also loving much of the longer Down fill, especially RED LABEL, "SLEEP TIGHT," STREET CRED (123A: Homey's rep) and the awesomely umlauted MÖTLEY CRÜE (30D: Group with the 6x platinum album Dr. Feelgood). Not so fond of LEARNER'S PERM, if only for the lack of punctuation in the grid, which means I can see only LEARNER SPERM when I look at it. There's some less than ideal stuff around the edges of the grid, but the only answer I'd never seen before was OBITER dictum, and that seems like something I should know, so I don't hate it so much.
- 23A: Electrical paths in New York City? (BIG APPLE CIRCUITS) — not being a New Yorker, I'm not sure how I've heard of "Big Apple Circus," but I have.
- 33A: Spill a Cuban drink? (LOSE ONE'S MOJITO)
- 41A: One who says "Beg your pardon" after stepping on your toes? (POLITE DANCER)
- 63A: Preachers' lies? (PULPIT FICTION)
- 73A: What a mashed potato serving may have? (CENTER OF GRAVY)
- 94A: Hairdresser's first do? (LEARNER'S PERM)
- 102A: Author Amy's family squabble? (CLASH OF THE TANS)
- 117A: The Miracles? (SMOKEY AND THE BAND) — this one I didn't like so much, since I know the Miracles as an adjunct entity, separate and back-up; but before 1965 the band was simply known as "The Miracles," so the clue works if you exclude the years '65-'72.
JASA = Jewish Association for Services for the Aged, not, as you might have suspected, the Jane Austen Society of Australia or Jim Abernathy's Scuba Adventures. Caleb has taught a crossword construction course for them for what seems like a few years now (hard to imagine given that Caleb's just 17, but I'm sure this is at least his third go 'round ... it might not be strictly annual). Caleb's off to Yale in the fall, so (I'm told) young (but not So young) Ian Livengood will be taking over as JASA crossword guru in the coming years. Ian will have big, if goofy, shoes to fill—of the three JASA puzzles Caleb has shepherded through thus far, I definitely like this one the best.
Several non-theme answers either impressed me or made me smile. Somehow, the full name of ALI MACGRAW seems magisterial (19A: Steve McQueen's ex-wife and co-star in "The Getaway"). Starts out very crossword-friendly before getting very crinkly in the middle and finally resolving with an "-AW." The clue on GAZEBO is close to perfect (36A: Shelter that's often octagonal)—I couldn't imagine what it was looking for, until I got it, and then thought, "of course." Clue on BIGOT is clever if a bit ... restricted (3D: One who sees everything in black and white?). 8D: Rocky of song made me incredibly happy, in that I thought "who the hell could that be ... [jokingly] RACCOON? ... OMG it *is* RACCOON! Sweet."
- 10A: Nickname for Baryshnikov (MISHA) — one of many names, almost all of them well known to me. All crossworders should know Mordant Mort by now (SAHL). I own work by both Baker and Loos (ANITA), and while the clue at 82A: Comics character who said "Big sisters are the crab grass in the lawn of life" (LINUS) was not immediately transparent to me, with crosses the answer came easily. One name I didn't know: EDUARDO (38D: Facebook co-founder Saverin). SAVERIN seems like a name that might show up some day...
- 51A: Seedcase that inspired Velcro (BUR) — BUR always, always looks wrong to me. Like it's missing a letter. Maybe I'm thrown off because I simply see BRR and BURR in the puzzle so much more often.
- 90A: Cookie first baked in Manhattan's Chelsea district (OREO) — wow. Your move, next person who has to clue OREO.
- 10D: Asian gambling mecca (MACAO) — I knew this was a Portuguese colony, but had No idea it was known for gambling.
- 15D: Volcano near Aokigahara forest (MT. FUJI) — good example of a clue that looks much more daunting than it is. In other news, I seem to have this FUJI v. FIJI issue down now.
- 37D: Whistle-blower, in slang (ZEBRA) — niiiice misdirection here. Take a slang term, then use it literally, in order to clue slang!? Brilliant. In case you are sports-illiterate, the clue refers to a football referee.
- 77D: Cow, in Cádiz (VACA) — also in Colombia and Caracas.
- 96D: Intaglio seals (SIGNETS) — [quietly looking up "Intaglio" ... aha, a carved gem. Has different meanings in other contexts, most notably print-making]
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