1969 Tony winner for Promises Promises / SAT 5-12-12 / 1955 Dior debut / Tiropita ingredient / 1989 EPA target / Quintillionth prefix / Kikkoman options / Producer of venom solenopsin
Saturday, May 12, 2012
Constructor: Caleb Madison
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
Word of the Day: CRYSTAL SET (28D: Early radio receiver) —
A crystal radio receiver, also called a crystal set or cat's whisker receiver, is a very simple radio receiver, popular in the early days of radio. It needs no battery or power source and runs on the power received from radio waves by a long wire antenna. It gets its name from its most important component, known as a crystal detector, originally made with a piece of crystalline mineral such as galena. This component is now called a diode. (wikipedia)
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ALTERANT (17A: Change-producing agent) and STENTORS (59A: Their voices really carry). Loved BOB BARR (11D: 2008 Libertarian presidential candidate) and really want to love THIRTY ROCK (since I watch it and all) (31A: Emmy-winning show of 2007, '08 and '09) (not the greatest clue), but no one anywhere ever has written that THIRTY out. Now, writing out numerals is a crossword tradition, so the answer isn't exactly wrong, but instead of inducing a "wow" reaction, it got more of a disappointed sigh (disappointed at myself for not getting it more quickly, disappointed that a marquee answer has this numeral/word issue). The other thing that brought me down, was the SE corner, which just blinded me with stuff I didn't know. I thought the difficulty level was pretty normal for a Saturday, maybe even slightly on the easy side, until I got down there. Never heard of CRYSTAL SET, NATHAN (42D: Annual George Jean ___ Award for Dramatic Criticism), or ATTO- (51D: Quintillionth: Prefix), and since they all crossed the not-so-common STENTORS, that corner Wrecked me. So much so that I started doubting stuff that was obviously right, e.g. U.S.S.R. (52D: Locale in a Beatles title) Having all my ignorance concentrated in that one tiny corner was annoying—more my problem than the puzzle's, I guess, but when the tough stuff is just "???" and not "wow," then I'm left a little disappointed. To be completely fair, my biggest problem down there was my complete inability to see how a third-person singular verb could end -US (50A: Starts to stagnate). Brain just kept going "has to be wrong has to be wrong has to be wrong." When I finally (and I mean finally) got PLATEAUS, I think I may have said "(You) idiot!" aloud to myself. At myself.
BOB BARR and SOON-YI cross (16A: André and Mia adopted her), because I knew them both instantly (better to have my gimmes spaced out—for maximum traction). Also knew A-LINE DRESS (38A: 1955 Dior debut), which somehow got me all the way into the NW. LEE TIDE off the -DE (4D: It goes whichever way the wind blows) and (more impressively) LYRIST off the -ST (5D: Apollo, for one). Confused AVAST and ABAFT (6D: Sailor's behind), but that didn't last long. Didn't know POLA, but it didn't matter—all her crosses were gettable/inferrable (2D: ___ Debevoise, Marilyn Monroe's "How to Marry a Millionaire" role). Loved GUN FOR HIRE (7D: Piece offer?), which allowed me to get RACIER (26A: More likely to be bowdlerized), which beforehand had just been sitting there as -ER. Loved seeing Jerry ORBACH in the puzzle (20A: 1969 Tony winner for "Promises, Promises")—his son Tony is a frequent crossword constructor and all-around nice guy. Hey ... [Tony winner ...] ... and his son's name is Tony. I just got that. Not that there's anything to get, it's a coincidence, but still: there it is. I got Michael STEELE without any crosses (58A: 2009-11 Republican National Committee chairman)—I know him best from his frequent muppet-form appearances on "The Daily Show." He is Reince Priebus's predecessor (which would've made an interesting clue).
ALAR is often in the puzzle, so I got it off the first "A" (46A: 1989 E.P.A. target) but nearby NINES was not nearly so easy (42A: Nearly flawless bodies?). I had -INES and had to run the alphabet (the only way I got enough crosses to infer NATHAN). FETA and FIRE ANT were just good guesses (40A: Tiropita ingredient + 40D: Producer of the venom solenopsin). Clearly I don't know the key words in either of those clues. And SOYS really feels like its missing its SAUCE (53D: Kikkoman options). Really really feels that way. But getting it wasn't hard, so no harm done. Wish I'd liked this one better, but a flawed Caleb Madison puzzle is still a pretty good thing.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld