Wine whose name means fragrant / SAT 12-10-11 / 11th-century invaders / Fisher with eponymous concert hall / Tarzan Ape Man star 1981 / Company in 2002 headlines
Saturday, December 10, 2011
Constructor: Corey Rubin
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
Word of the Day: AVERY Fisher (43A: Fisher with an eponymous concert hall) —
Avery Robert Fisher (March 4, 1906 – February 26, 1994) was an audio specialist who made numerous contributions to the field of sound reproduction. [...] In the 1950s, Fisher invented the transistorized amplifier and the first stereo radio-phonograph. These breakthroughs brought Fisher both fame and fortune. From 1959 to 1961, his company also made important improvements in AM-FM stereo tuner design. In 1969, Fisher sold his company to the Emerson Electric Company for US $31 million, which in turn sold the company to Sanyo of Japan. Fisher was a consultant for both Emerson and Sanyo. (wikipedia)
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This one played pretty average for me, time-wise, but I can see by the times at the NYT site that it's playing slightly more difficult than that for most folks. It definitely felt like a struggle, but I still somehow managed to come in under 10 minutes, which is in the Medium range (maybe even on the low end of that range). I loved this puzzle. A lesson for all you aspiring themeless constructors out there ... actually for most themeless constructors not named Patrick Berry: keep your word count on the high end. This one has 72 words, the max for a NYT themeless puzzle. While it's true that there are no daunting white expanses, and no answers at all longer than seven letters (?!), this grid is incredibly clean *and* has some crackling mid-range fill. I love the freshness of "YA THINK!?" and NEW COKE (58A: Famous pop flop) as well as the pairing of "MY TREAT" and "I INSIST," and with the exception of the high-end wine crosswordese of OLOROSO (15A: Wine whose name means "fragrant") and the slightly Odd Jobby ENCODER, there was virtually nothing that made me wince. Cluing tough and playful, answers solid and entertaining. A real winner.
I like the "V" crossing of the two title "relatives" of drama: VINNY and VANYA (I would've said "title 'relatives' of THEATRE," but that's a bit of a stretch for "My Cousin VINNY") (27D: Cousin of film + 27A: Title relative in a classic Russian play). I also like that the maddeningly ambiguous [Syllable-saving poetic word]s (ERE and O'ER) were symmetrical. Nice touch. ERE gave me untold amounts of trouble in the NW (the hardest section of the grid for me). I don't really consider ERE "syllable-saving"; I guess the idea is that it has one less syllable than "before" (?), but that's pretty weak. I considered only O'ER and E'ER because those apostrophes actually elide a syllable. Anyhoo, the long Downs up there were hard to get without the right little word in there. Had ENRON (19A: Company in 2002 headlines) and RTES and MOWN and OREOS (4D: They come in a Triple Double variety) pretty early, but still couldn't get those long Acrosses quickly. Had to abandon that section for a while and come back when I got DANDIES and NORMANS (7D: 11th-century invaders). Ended up finishing in the SE—threw down DAWS (52D: Crows' kin) and then, from N-W----, I got NEW COKE. "K" gave me EEL-LIKE and from there it was a short battle until I finally wrapped it up with the hard-to-parse I NAS NIT (55A: Noticeably peeved).
- 8A: Features of some crooked enterprises (MOB TIES) — another great answer. That NE corner really is lovely.
- 39A: "Tarzan, the Ape Man" star, 1981 (BO DEREK) — never heard of this movie, but BO DEREK became superfamous a couple years earlier with "10." I was lucky to know both her name and ELI ROTH's name, because the film names alone weren't doing it for me.
- 2D: Civic or Corolla competitor (ELANTRA) — a very highly rated sedan. I was shopping for a new car until I realized I don't really need one. We're a one-car family now, and so far, so good.
- 11D: Article in man a hip-hop title (THA) — such as "THA Carter," "THA Carter II," "THA Carter III," and "THA Carter IV" ... and probably some others.
- 25D: Actress Kruger of "Unknown" (DIANE) — Never heard of actress, never heard of film. Recognizable woman's name? Check. OK, moving on... Not sure I could pick KRISTEN Bell out of a line-up either, but I've heard her name before, and I've definitely heard of "Veronica Mars" (one of those critical favs that don't get enough viewers and then get axed and then everyone goes on and on about the injustice of it all) (42D: "Veronica Mars" star Bell).
- 49D: "Welcome to the human network" sloganeer (CISCO) — I read this as "Welcome to the human sloganeer network" — ominous.
- 51D: Certain badger or raccoon (BOAR) — had nooooo idea what this meant, until I realized BOAR was probably just the word for the male of the species. Rough.