Panglossian person / FRI 3-2-12 / Beau geste headgear / Hmong homeland / Longtime Russian acronym / Exeter exclamation / Polynesian farewell song / Second-largest city in Finland / Sax All Night New Ager
Friday, March 2, 2012
Constructor: Scott Atkinson
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: NONCONTIGUOUS (63A: How this puzzle's black squares are arranged)
Word of the Day: "KATIE BAR THE DOOR!" (1D: "Take cover!") —
The phrase Katy bar the door! (also as Katy bar the gate!; sometimes written as Katie) is a very American exclamation, more common in the South than elsewhere, meaning that disaster impends — “watch out”, “get ready for trouble” or “a desperate situation is at hand”. (worldwidewords.com—full explanation of the phrase's origins here).
• • •
Not really in my wheelhouse, but pretty easy nonetheless. NON-CONTIGUOUSLY isn't so much a "theme" as it is a fleeting "hey, look at that" moment, but it's still interesting. I thought that SPIRAL STAIRCASE clue was recycled (10D: Round-trip flight?), but now I think I'm simply thinking of the following factoid, which I just found on wikipedia: "[Will Shortz] has declared that his favorite crossword clue of all-time is "It might turn into a different story" (whose solution is SPIRAL STAIRCASE)" (wikipedia). The problem with the special black square arrangement is how much short stuff it gets you. I'll take a mess of 6- to 9-letter words over a group of interlocking 15s and a boatload of 3- to 4s any day of the week. And REAIM, ouch (47A: Adjust one's sights). Still, the puzzle was enjoyable enough.
Found the top much, much harder than the rest. Had no idea who was barring the door until I got it narrowed down to -ATIE. Good thing that makes only one real name, since KIM (1A: The miss in "Miss Saigon") was a total mystery to me, and MIRA (3D: Star in Cetus) wasn't much better (that's three interlocking proper nouns I was not-at-all sure of ... but educated guesses got me through, so I can't complain). Stuff like "Beau Geste" and "The Producers" isn't really in my ken, so I was thinking PITH (helmet) at first instead of KEPI (7D: "Beau Geste" headgear) and I had no idea about GHIA (Carmen GHIA's a kind of car, right?) (18A: Carmen ___ ("The Producers" role). SCI. is really strangely clued as a [Grade school subj.]. It's also a [Grad school subj.] and a [High school subj.] ... why "Grade school?" Unpleasant, unclever misdirection. I read "Candide" so I know who Pangloss is, but I still had trouble with ETERNAL OPTIMIST (esp. the ETERNAL part) (16A: Panglossian person). Confused lie and lay and so ended up with SITS ON instead of SETS ON at first (49A: Lays atop). But none of these snags were anything but minor. Of course I was lucky enough to remember ESPOO from prior crosswords (w/o said crosswords, I would never ever have heard of that place) (48D: Second-largest city in Finland).
- 4A: Burger go-withs (SHAKES) — I've ordered a shake with a burger maybe once or twice in my life. Even at my fast-food-eatingest, that would've been overkill for me.
- 13A: Dishes fit for astronomers? (RADIO TELESCOPES) — again, not up my alley. I've heard of these, but couldn't picture them. I assume they are dish-shaped.
- 36A: South Asian chant word (KRISHNA) — Currently (slowly) reading the Bhagavad Gita, in which KRISHNA figures prominently.
- 6D: Polynesian farewell song ("ALOHA OE") — I know this song only from cartoon caricatures of Hawaiian singing in '70s (or earlier) cartoons.
- 27D: "Sax All Night" New Ager (TESH) — The final piece in his Sax Trilogy (following hot on the heels of "Oral Sax" and "Sax Offender")
- 62D: Apollo's chariot "passenger" (SUN) — wrote this in instantly, but then didn't like the looks of the "GUO" string it created ... until I got NON-CONTIGUOUSLY, and then all was good again.
- 42D: Pre-stunt provocation ("TOP THIS!") — clearly not understanding whose stunt the "pre-" was in relation to (the darer or the daree), I wrote in "TOP THAT!"