Group of mountains / THU 4-5-12 / Sicilian province its capital / Title role in 1975 Truffaut film / Stanley who wrote George Mills / Comics character who almost never speaks / Square at end of fourth row in Battleship / Woody part of Ohio /
Thursday, April 5, 2012
Constructor: Elizabeth C. Gorski
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: "CHECKERBOARD" — this is the word that the un"check"ed letters spell out. You figure this out by looking at the "theme":
- GAME OF CHESS (17A: Pastime for Napoleon and Fidel Castro) [Me: "Who's Napoleon Castro?"]
- JOCKEY SILKS (11D: Colorful riding gear)
- QUILT DESIGN (24D: Bee production)
- RACING FLAGS (51A: Things waved at the Indy 500)
Word of the Day: MASSIF (1A: Group of mountains) —
- A large mountain mass or compact group of connected mountains forming an independent portion of a range.
- A large section or block of the earth's crust that is more rigid than the surrounding rock and has been moved or displaced as a unit.[French, massive, massif, from Old French. See massive.]
Read more: http://www.answers.com/topic/massif#ixzz1r841CWyS
• • •
Winced a lot during this one. An *awful* lot for a Gorski puzzle. How I got through it almost 2 minutes faster than either of my last two Thursday puzzles, I have no idea. I think I winced because I was actually solving the strange / awkward answers rather than getting stumped by them. Let's start at 1A: MASSIF, a word I've literally never seen. So ... why not learn a new word? Great. But then there's ADELE [&$%ing] H, what on god's green earth!? (8D: Title role in a 1975 Truffaut film) I literally watched a Truffaut film ("The 400 Blows") less than 48 hrs. ago, and then read a short (Ebert) article on it—an article that mentioned many other Truffaut films—and I don't recall seeing this title character. Love (hate) that the "H" is one of the unchecked letters. Ended up not mattering, but that's still some perverse stuff right there. So after I SHEAVED that answer (again, I say: "!?!") (26D: Collected, as wheat), there was ELKIN (42A: Stanley who wrote "George Mills") (who? and he wrote What? How is that helping?), and then D-TEN (41D: Square at the end of the fourth row in Battleship); *again* with the unchecked letter being the one "Could Be Anything" letter in the answer [Later: "oh ... 'fourth row' ... 'D' ... yeah, that makes sense ... now"]. Jeez louise. LEUMI is something out of some crossword nightmare I had years ago (i.e. I'm sure I've seen it, but it's terrible as a crossword answer and I'll never remember it) (27A: Bank of Israel). It was like this all over. Not. Smooth. At all. Plus, SHOWER SCENE (25A: It prompted a flood of "Psycho" analysis) and PRESELECTED (43A: Chosen beforehand) are both as long as the other theme answers (Across and Down), but ... they are not theme answers. That's really bad form. It just is. The shower curtain in "Psycho" was *not* checkerboard-patterned, I assure you. Nevermind that two of the theme answers are preposterously worded. Pretty sure Castro and Napoleon played CHESS, not GAME OF CHESS, and bees produce QUILTS; quilters don't just "design" them and then say, "that's it, let's play a GAME OF CHESS." Criminy. So many issues.
That said the core idea is pretty dang smart—especially considering the way CHECKERBOARD plays on the types of letters that make up the word, i.e. "unCHECKed" letters. That's a stroke of genius. And those unchecked letters ended up being very gettable, just from considering what CHESS might have to do with the theme. So I love the theme idea and really don't care for the execution at all. And there we are.
- 15A: Comics character who almost never speaks (ODIE) — resisted this for a long time. I'm guessing this is "speak" in the dog sense. I don't remember his ever uttering words.
- 37A: Where King Arthur was conveyed for his wounds to be healed (AVALON) — Right up my alley. This is how I knew my (flying leap of a) guess at SHEAVED was right.
- 35D: Sicilian province or its capital (ENNA) — always gets a lot of googlers. Crosswordese of the highest order. See also ARIOSE (30A: Songlike). Thank god I do a lot of these things.
- 29A: Woody part of Ohio? (HAYES) — Woody HAYES was the longtime coach of OSU's football team. The clue is a bit forced. I got it and recognized the name but couldn't place it while solving. Only when I was done did it come to me. Eight years at Michigan may have caused me to develop a tendency to repress OSU knowledge.