King Hussein Airport locale / SAT 1-28-12 / Silverwing flier / Aretha's Grammy-nominated sister / Incredibles family name / Sheila's welcome
Saturday, January 28, 2012
Constructor: Barry C. Silk
Relative difficulty: Medium
Word of the Day: SAND BARREL (56A: Many a crash cushion at a construction zone) —
[can't find a definition—[define "sand barrel"] yields very few hits. Looks like barrels filled with sand ??? never seen the term before]
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Solve from NW to SE, and this is one puzzle (easy); solve it along the other diagonal, and it's something else (hard). Those NE and SW corners were light years harder than the other corners. Not sure why that should be, but that's how it worked out. This was a typical Barry Silk puzzle—solid but unflashy grid with clues designed to be as tough at every turn. Very few flat-out gimmes (mine were MEAL PLAN, BAG, RED, G'DAY (17A: Sheila's welcome), PEAR, and INDIE). Several places where I had all but one letter of an answer and still had no idea (first letter of -ICS for 27D: P.R. releases ... and my final letter, the "W" in BREW and BLEW, which I had to run the alphabet to get) (9D: Java, for one + 21A: Messed up). NE was hard mostly because all the shorter crosses for those 10-letter answers were fantastically vague. The one I was sure I had correct ended up being wrong (I had STOATS; answer was STOLES—14D: Some ermines). In the opposite corner, same problem. PARR and ERMA side by side? That's very rough play. (53D: "The Incredibles" family name + Aretha's Grammy-nominated sister)
Wrong answers: STOATS for STOLES, SHAD for HAKE (8D: Cod relative), ENL for LTR, ETON (?) for ELON (63A: School in the Piedmont region). I think that's it. Never heard of SAND BARREL or ROAD GRADER (62A: Civil engineering vehicle), which tells you how much time I've spent on construction sites. I don't think "'02" is enough of a signal that 5D: One of the subjects of the best-selling '02 books "The Conquerors" is an abbr. (HST). Also having trouble accepting the phrase NO TAIL as a "trait" (13D: Manx trait). It's not there, so it's not a trait—the "NO" part is what's bugging me. RED HAIR or GREEN EYES or adj. / noun of any kind, I'd buy as a "trait." I thought "coulee" was a racist term for a Chinese man ... but I was thinking "coolie" (see here). How is OMAN the toe of a boot? Italy is a boot. I have never, ever, ever heard the Arabian peninsula referred to as a "boot." Booooooooooo ... t.
- 1A: Concern for a dermatologist (LUMP) — this is what we call a "F&ck You" clue, in that it takes this form *only* to trick you into writing in a wrong answer, in this case ACNE. Maybe we should call it an asshole clue, but "F&ck You" clue just has too much poetry on its side.
- 22A: Roster curtailer: Abbr. (ET AL) — inventive, if weird, cluing
- 39A: Signs near a teller's window, maybe (ENDORSES) — there should be a term for this–where clue is written to suggest a word is one part of speech (here a noun) when it's really another (here, a verb)
- 47A: Silverwing flier (CESSNA) — I know nothing about planes, but I had the "C" and I also know that CESSNA is a reasonably grid-friendly plane.
- 24D: Her help was solicited in a hit (RHONDA) — I guess this was pretty close to a gimme too.
- 38D: Universidad de las Américas site (SANTIAGO) — pfft, no idea. But I had the -GO, which was enough.
- 40D: "Children of the Albatross" novelist (NIN) — she's a crossword double threat. First and last names, very useful.
- 51D: Daughter of Zeus and Themis (IRENE) — guessed off the "I"; seemed reasonable, though the possibility of IRENA crossed my mind. Then I decided that sounded more like a Russian tennis player than a mythological character.