Henry II player Becket / SUN 4-3-11 / Polo locale / Sleigh Ride composer Anderson / 1966 best seller set Hong Kong / Biracial Latin American
Sunday, April 3, 2011
Constructors: Oliver Hill and Eliza Bagg
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: "Triple Bonds" — Three words strung together, (1)(2)(3), where (1)(2) form a familiar phrase, (2)(3) form a familiar phrase, and (1)(3) form a familiar phrase.
Word of the Day: LANGLAUF (5D: Cross-country skiing) —
- The sport of cross-country skiing.
- A cross-country ski run or race.
[German : lang, long (from Middle High German , from Old High German) + Lauf, race (from Middle High German louf , from Old High German hlouf).]
A not-very-interesting theme with some (occasionally) very interesting fill. Theme answers were remarkably easy to pick up—the "triple bond" quality mean that you could extrapolate the whole string from just a few letters in one word sometimes. Three words together don't form funny phrases; they form nonsense phrases, which is not that entertaining, really. I liked that the puzzle took what seemed like a lot of risks with non-theme fill. Sometimes that risk resulted in something freakish and alien like LAUNGLAUF (I actually stopped the timer when I finished filling in that word so I could look it up, so preposterous did it look); other times that risk had spicy results, like JAZZY (71D: Stimulating) crossing SZECHWAN (90A: Style of chicken) or MESTIZO AVIATOR (122A: Biracial Latin American + 118A: ___ sunglasses) or ENDEMIC BON JOVI (25A: Indigenous + 21A: "Livin' on a Prayer" band). There must have been some sense among test-solvers that the puzzle was quite easy, because there are more "huh?" clues than usual today. Was clueless about UTICA (though that was ultimately inferrable, 32A: Ancient city NW of Carthage), CATHAY ("ohhhhh, *Marco* Polo...") (25D: Polo locale), whoever this RYAN is (53D: Cornelius who wrote "A Bridge Too Far"), and COPYREAD, a word that does not feel familiar to me at all (91D: Check, as text). Other familiar answers, like CONDOR (54D: Creature worshiped by the Incas) and O'TOOLE (1A: Henry II player in "Becket"), got pretty tough clues. Toughening act worked—puzzle ended up falling in a fairly normal Sunday time.
- 23A: Chinese restaurant offering / Wonderland affair / Group on the left? (GREEN TEA PARTY)
- 27A: Baltimore specialty / Effortless task / Move on all fours with the belly up (CRAB CAKE WALK)
- 43A: Plunging / Play hooky / Vulgar (LOW CUT CLASS)
- 52A: Northern flier / Mixer maker / Put on the line (AIR CANADA DRY)
- 67A: Yellowish brown / Bit of "dumb" humor / Many a forwarded e-mail (DIRTY BLONDE JOKE)
- 87A: Cause of congestion / Detective's challenge / Loony (HEAD COLD CASE)
- 94A: Winnie-the-Pooh possession / Baked entree / Sweetie (HONEY POT PIE)
- 106A: Fancy Feast product / Cafeteria outburst / "Mean Girls" event (CAT FOOD FIGHT)
- 119A: Democratic territory / Cardinal, e.g. / "Over the Rainbow" flier (BLUE STATE BIRD) — probably shouldn't have "territory" in your clue and TERR. in your grid (113D: Colonial land: Abbr.), but I doubt anyone but me noticed.
- 59A: "Up to ___," 1952 game show (PAAR) — ah, puns. I had no idea about any aspect of PAAR's career beyond "The Tonight Show"
- 124A: 1966 best seller set in Hong Kong ("TAI-PAN") — this clue made me think of my upcoming 20-year college reunion. Why? Well, let's see ... "TAI-PAN" was part of James Clavell's Japan Trilogy, as was "Shogun," which was made into a TV miniseries in 1980 starring Richard Chamberlain, who is an alumnus of my college (c/o 1956). These connections may seem tenuous, but in my head, they are rock solid.
- 128A: "The Battleship Potemkin" setting (ODESSA) — this is how I discovered COPYEDIT was wrong.
- 6D: ___ deux âges (middle-aged: Fr.) (ENTRE) — well, thank god for high school French. Not your typical ENTRE clues (which is probably [___ nous]).
- 9D: Nickname for a seven-time N.B.A. All-Star (T-MAC) — SHAQ? No. It's Tracy McGrady. When I finally figured this out, I was like "Oh, right, he *did* play in the N.B.A. once." He's actually still playing (on the Pistons). For a recent superstar player, he somehow feels not very famous. Weird. This is possibly because he's been plagued by injuries over the past five years and been unable to play for giant chunks of time.
- 38D: Reciprocal Fibonacci constant (PSI) — Me: "OK, so ... Greek letter. Come on, crosses!"
- 46D: "Sleigh Ride" composer Anderson (LEROY) — again, no clue.
- 99D: Speech blocker (GAG LAW) — I don't know what this is (GAG ORDER, I know), but I like it anyway. It's just fun to say. GAGLAW!
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