Sunday, March 18, 2012
Constructors:Mark Nothnagel and Byron Walden
Relative difficulty: CHALLENGING
THEME: REAR-END COLLISIONS — Common two-word phrases where the second word piles up in the grid, two letters to a square. I was beginning this writeup before I realized the first words also come into play, in a way that is difficult to explain because the theme used all the words I want. Basically, the first words can all be verbs that indicate some sort of SQUEEZing or CRUMPLing or COMPACTing action, but in the phrases they are all adjectives.
Word of the Day: MCADAM (Scottish Inventor and road builder John Louden) —
John Loudon McAdam (September 21, 1756 – November 26, 1836) was a Scottish engineer and road-builder. He invented a new process, "macadamisation", for building roads with a smooth hard surface that would be more durable and less muddy than soil-based tracks. (wiki)
• • •Hello, Fellow Rexites. Our fearless leader is either out with the party crowd in New York or in bed recuperating, so this is treedweller filling in. I gladly perform this service of activating the comments thread for everyone who won't read this as soon as they figure out it isn't written by Rex.
Often, I skip Sundays; they seem to struggle to fill up the extra spaces and end up feeling like a few small, boring puzzles stuck together.
Fortunately for me (and all of us), this was one of those Sundays that deserve the extra real estate. I knew I was in for a ride when I saw the names of the constructors, both of whom have left me wadding up late-week puzzles in the past out of frustration. Sundays are generally well within my reach, but this one was a solid challenge throughout and flattened me in the end when I googled the Peeping Tom clue (one of those times when "Safe search" is handy). Even cheating, this took me over an hour, which is easily twice as long as a "good" Sunday time for me.
I guessed quickly that there was some kind of trick going on, but the clues were just ambivalent enough to keep me from seeing it for the longest time. After one full pass reading clues and dropping in the sure things, I had maybe a third of the grid filled (including several mistakes). Once I finally got one of the theme answers, things started moving a little faster, but it was one tough section after another, right up until I gave up on the last few clues. I knew I was trying to get ENTRUST and CTSCANNER in there, but I couldn't decide which cross would be the theme answer (and only just realized they are symmetrical). It didn't help that, of the nine million voices Mel Blanc is famous for, DINO was one I never knew he did (125D Cartoon character voiced by Mel Blanc).
- 15A Burro, e.g. --- PACK ANIMAL
- 26A When the pressure's on --- CRUNCH TIME
- 45A Big media event --- PRESS CONFERENCE
- 53A Widely popular shows, say --- CROWD PLEASERS
- 55A Bunting is part of it --- SQUEEZE PLAY Not the bunting you see on a parade float, but rather the bunting you see in baseball.
- 71A Some morning fundraisers --- PANCAKE BREAKFASTS
- 86A Late rallies --- CLUTCH PERFORMANCES
- 99A Car safety feature --- CRUMPLE ZONE
- 101A Data storage device --- COMPACT DISC
- 111A Mexican cooking ingredients called "flores de calabaza" in Spanish --- SQUASH BLOSSOMS I kept glossing over this, sure I would remember it eventually. Turns out I was thinking of huitlacoche, a corn fungus. I finally figured it out when I translated the Spanish phrase.
- 135A Diamond substitute --- PINCH RUNNER Zirconia fits here, as some of you undoubtedly noticed.
- 142A Occasions to try out riffs --- JAM SESSIONS
I won't belabor the icky stuff --- the minor compromises are worth it, yielding a solid, lively puzzle.
- 72D Habitual teeth grinding / BRUXISM — I have trained myself to stop this when awake, but my dentist kept telling me I was destroying my teeth in my sleep. Now I have a mouth guard like athletes use to protect those molars at night. I nevertheless did not remember this word until I had almost every cross.
- 134D Italian Actress Eleonora / DUSE — Huh? I skipped over this several times. I really wanted 139A Put into motion to be ACTivATE, but that doubled square would be out of place and "Divse" made less sense than DUSE. I finally had to run the alphabet for the U.
- 143A Peeping Tom's home / COVENTRY — This was part of my unfinished section. I was not aware of Tom's association with the Lady Godiva legend. Many times, I read the clue and thought, "Jail cell?" but it didn't fit.
- 63A Irk / NEEDLE --- I needed ANTE meridian to replace NEttLE.
- 56D Remedy for acid reflux / ZANTAC --- I use baking soda. Luckily, crosses were fair.
- 64A Sources of pollen grains / STAMENS --- As a professional arborist and amateur botanist, I smugly typed in "catkiNS." Also:
- 81D Climb, as a rope / SHIMMY UP — As someone who climbs rope for a living, I saw this eight-letter answer and eagerly dropped in "footlock". I know that's an obscure term outside my industry, but I was finding the whole puzzle tough and hoped this would be the one moment when my specialty would pay off. When I finally admitted I was wrong, SHInnY UP slowed me down some more.
Signed, treedweller, on behalf of
Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld