Political activist James undercover videos / TUE 4-26-11 / Storied duelist large nose / Golf club similar niblick / Old Curiosity Shop heroine
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Constructor: Brendan Emmett Quigley
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
THEME: EASY A (69A: No-brainer class, an example of which is named by combining the ends of 20-, 36-, 42- and 55-Across) — those ends form the phrase UNDERWATER BASKET-WEAVING.
Word of the Day: LOFTER (48A: Golf club similar to a niblick) —
n. 1. (Golf) An iron club with a sloped face, used in lofting the ball; - called also lofting iron. (freedictionary.com)
Nifty, original theme, with a grid that is jam-packed with interesting words and a boatload of Scrabbly letters. Js, Xs, Ks, and Zs everywhere you turn, in every last cranny of the grid. Where does the joke class "UNDERWATER BASKET-WEAVING" come from? I've heard it before, of course, but have no idea if it has a single source or is just one of those mythical phrases that enters public domain as if out of nowhere. As for the theme answers, I really liked KNUCKLE UNDER, didn't care so much for SPELL-WEAVING (not so snappy or familiar), and liked the others just fine. Puzzle was toughish for a Tuesday, with the west and the south proving the biggest obstacles. Never heard of a LOFTER (48A: Golf club similar to a niblick) or the expression "EWE lamb," and only recalled HARROW (29D: Tilling tool) and O'KEEFE (30D: Political activist James known for undercover videos) with some prodding from crosses. Not sure how I feel about BRED over BREAD (despite their etymological unrelatedness), but I love "WHO'S NEXT" (28A: 1971 rock album with the hit "Won't Get Fooled Again"), so problems aside, that section's alright with me. The south actually proved much harder, though fewer problem answers were involved. Couldn't remember if CAHN (64A: "Three Coins in the Fountain" lyricist Sammy) was CAAN or CAHN, so had the mysterious W-I- for 57D: Zoom (eventually, WHIZ) and RA-E for 70A: Knock down, and while RAZE is obvious once you hit on it, it didn't leap to mind and even after I'd chosen CAHN, I had to run the alphabet (long way to "Z"). Still, the whole thing was plausibly Tuesdayish, and largely enjoyable.
- 20A: Consent reluctantly (KNUCKLE UNDER)
- 36A: Is active without making progress or falling behind (TREADS WATER)
- 42A: Main food-supplying region of a country (BREAD BASKET)
- 55A: Wizardry (SPELL-WEAVING)
- 41A: Programming language that's also the name of an island (JAVA) — I'm not so hot when it comes to programming languages, but it would've helped if I'd actually read to the end of this clue the first time I saw it. Instead, I saw "programming language," thought "uh uh," and moved on.
- 67A: Google executive Schmidt (ERIC) — he's back ... and this time, I got him. Lots of contemporary names in this grid.
- 9D: Dr. Watson player in 2009's "Sherlock Holmes" (JUDE LAW) — here's another contemporary name for you.
- 26D: On a scale of 1 to 10, what one amp in "This Is Spinal Tap" goes to (ELEVEN) — Rich! I assume everyone knows this classic mockumentary moment, but if not, or if so, here it is.
- 27D: Storied duelist with a large nose (CYRANO) — got instantly, but still, what a great clue—I just like the phrase "storied duelist." I learned the story of CYRANO from ... "The Brady Bunch."
- 31D: Title TV character in a brown, skirted, leather outfit (XENA) — a pretty obvious XENA clue. Constant solvers know her well, whether they've seen her show before or (like me) not.
- 32D: Aster relative (TANSY) — know this flower only from crosswords. PANSY's stupid-looking cousin.
- 44D: Hill near a loch (BRAE) — Scottish crosswordese 101.
- 55D: Sch. system with campuses in Albany and 63 other places (SUNY) — I'm headed to one of those places in another hour...
- 59D: "The Old Curiosity Shop" heroine (NELL) — know NELL better as that Jodie Foster movie where she speaks her own wilderness language or whatever. Also, as Charles II's mistress, NELL Gwyn.
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