Wife whose face was never seen on Cheers / TUE 3-13-12 / Architect with avian name / Unfruitful paths / Popular vodka informally / Hobos hangout / Heroine in one of Salinger's Nine Stories
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Constructor: Jeff Chen
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: DEAD ENDS (57A: Unfruitful paths ... or a description of both words in the answers to the seven starred clues?) — every word in answers to starred clues can follow "DEAD" in a familiar phrase
Word of the Day: PAMPAS (9D: Patagonian plains) —
The Pampas (from Quechua pampa, meaning "plain") are the fertile South American lowlands, covering more than 750,000 km2 (289,577 sq mi), that include the Argentine provinces of Buenos Aires, La Pampa, Santa Fe, Entre Ríos and Córdoba, most of Uruguay, and the southernmost Brazilian State, Rio Grande do Sul. These vast plains are a natural region only interrupted by the low Ventana and Tandil hills near Bahía Blanca and Tandil (Argentina), with a height of 1,300 m (4,265 ft) and 500 m (1,640 ft) respectively. The climate is mild, with precipitation of 600 mm (23.6 in) to 1,200 mm (47.2 in), more or less evenly distributed through the year, making the soils appropriate for agriculture. This area is also one of the distinct physiography provinces of the larger Paraná-Paraguay Plain division. These plains contain unique wildlife because of the different terrains around it. Some of this wildlife includes the rhea, the pampas deer, several species of armadillos, the pampas fox, the White-eared opossum, the Elegant Crested Tinamou, and several other species. (wikipedia)
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This is a textbook "both words" puzzle. Lots of theme answers, with a revealer that's a play on words. Right over the plate. Stee-rike. It's a type of puzzle that's been done. A lot. Nothing much exciting going on, but very professionally executed, for sure. I solved on paper ... in red pencil, which ... who knows, really? It was handy. Anyway, I was still well under 5 minutes, so this must be not too hard. Most of my times are on-screen times, and that can make a minute+ difference on early-week puzzles, when speed is easy. Once the puzzles toughen up, the time difference (for me) is less significant. Today, I had three significant slowing points. First, I put in RAGGED where RAGTAG was supposed to go (4D: Shabby). Second, I had no idea what was meant by "Jumper" in 39A: *Jumper alternative and so wanted SWEATER. Took many crosses to see that basketball was the frame of reference there. Third, I wanted LLANOS where PAMPAS was supposed to go (having already encountered the LLAMAS, I was just going with the fllow). Oh, and somewhere in there I briefly wrestled with the APICES / APEXES question (50D: High points). Either one is an acceptable plural of "apex."
- 20A: *"Everyone off!" ("LAST STOP!") — here, I thought someone was telling other people to get off of him. I swear, that is what I thought on first read.
- 22A: *Exactly right (SPOT-ON)
- 28A: *Often-restricted zone (AIR SPACE)
- 37A: *Bag remover, of a sort (EYE LIFT)
- 39A: *Jumper alternative (SET SHOT)
- 46A: *Wrestling move (HEAD LOCK)
- 53A: *Deckhand, e.g. (SEAMAN)
Thought maybe MEATLOAF was part of the theme (5D: Beefy entree), but "dead loaf" doesn't feel right.
Reaching back a ways to get VERA—that's a gimme or a WTF!? depending on your "Cheers" knowledge (not exactly the first or second or seventh "character" that comes to mind with that show) (14A: Wife whose face was never seen on Cheers). I liked the clue on WREN, even if it is rather straightforward (63A: Architect with an avian name). I think it's just springtime (even if calendar says otherwise) and all the bird activity is making me happy. I just stood and watched a bluejay fly around today. That's how doped up I am on "spring." Nice chance to brush up on your crosswordese today with ARLO (6D: Janis's partner in the funnies) and ESME (67A: Heroine in one of Salinger's "Nine Stories") and STOLI (21D: Popular vodka, informally). I thought the Jim Morrison biography might be "Mr. MOON Risin'," briefly (it's MOJO). I always think of "hangout" as someplace people want to be, which is why I found it mildly odd (if literally accurate) in the clue for SKID ROW (44D: Hobos' hangout).
P.S. from the Dept. of Self-Promotion: the profile of me in Binghamton Research magazine just came out, complete with a crossword I constructed esp. for them. Here's a link to the article at the fancy magazine interface (from which you can print out a single-page view of the puzzle, if you like), and here's a link to just the puzzle (which you can download easily). It's a very easy puzzle because I thought my audience (whoever might read that magazine) might not be habitual solvers. Enjoy.