1975 Tony winner for best play / THU 7-26-12 / European blackbirds / Sportscaster Scully / Time's 1986 Woman of Year / Pioneering Isaac Asimov book / Unit of length that's roughly diameter of proton
Thursday, July 26, 2012
Constructor: Joel Fagliano
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
THEME: Double U — Rebus puzzle where (on 8 occasions) one square represents "UU" in the Across answer and "W" in the Down [grid is 16 wide to accommodate the 14-square central theme answer]
Word of the Day: MERLS (28A: European blackbirds) —
[Middle English, from Old French, from Latin merulus, merula.]
• • •AQUINO is (2D: Time's 1986 Woman of the Year) and B. have at least heard of the play "EQUUS" (15A: 1975 Tony winner for best play). Anyway, that's how I figured it out (very early). Still, despite understanding the theme, this one still took me a hell of a long time. 9:59 on paper. This is mostly due to my rusty Latin, which figured that a [Will-'o-the-wisp] must be an IGNUM FATUUM (this despite the fact that if you had asked me the nominative singular for the Latin "fire" I would've told you IGNIS immediately ... ugh). Wouldn't have been so bad except that the IGNUM / IGNIS screw-up essentially blocked my flow into the bottom of the grid. Just cold blocked it. SEDGE (58D: Water chestnut, e.g.) and SILENT (51D: Not providing any hints, say) were impossible to see with the error in place. So I had to come back around and attack from the SW, going DATABASE (39D: Researcher's electronic tool) to "I SEE..." to VIN (a gimme that really helped finish things off down there) (64D: Sportscaster Scully). Walked face first into MUUMUU—had no idea there would be anything down there. Absolutely love that the grid "ends" with a 1-2 UU UU combination. Nice exclamation point.
- 19A: Situated somewhere between two extremes (ON A CONTINUUM)
- 24A: Forever (IN PERPETUUM)
- 39A: "Capeesh?" ("YOU UNDERSTAND?")
- 57A: Will-o'-the-wisp (IGNIS FATUUS)
- 64A: Like some bags of food (VACUUM-SEALED)
- 70A: Colorful dress (MUUMUU)
I've seen a theme very much like this before—in the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. 2007 or 2008, somewhere in there. But I don't think it had the rebus or the directional variation, so ... good for Joel. Joel attends college at my alma mater and currently, as in Right Now, works for Mr. Shortz as a summer intern. He's reading / accepting / rejecting several of my puzzles as we speak. I love you, Joel! Here's the positive review you asked for!
- 1A: White-robed figure of Greek mythology (FATE) — Weren't they all wearing white robes? They were in Clash of the Titans, anyway.
- 21A: It orbited Earth 86,331 times (MIR) — big fat gimme. An orbiter in 3 letters? How is that not MIR?
- 44A: Torque symbol (TAU) — hard, until I saw it ended in "U"—then easy.
- 49A: 1894 opera set in Alexandria ("THAÏS") — once again, the plural of THAI gets passed over for the relatively obscure opera. You THAIS who solve the puzzle need to put a bug in Will's ear.
- 55A: Gymnasium floor choice (MAPLE) — Wow. Is this common knowledge? The wood type of gym floors? I was not looking wood. I was looking, I don't know, MATs or something MAT-like. Maybe parquet.
- 72A: Rays' home, informally (ST. PETE) — went looking for the ballpark itself, not the city. THE ... something, I figured. Only I wanted THE TROP, which didn't fit. (I am happy to report, however, that I was right about THE TROP being the ballpark's informal name)
- 1D: Unit of length that's roughly the diameter of a proton (FERMI) — no idea. Even when I had 3/5 of a physicist in place ... no idea.
- 12D: Best pal in a 1950s sitcom (ED NORTON) — first thought: "ETHEL MERTZ"
- 22D: Pioneering 1950 Isaac Asimov book ("I, ROBOT") — a not-uncommon crossword answer. Something about its starting with the "I" and having alternating vowels and consonants seems to make it useful.
- 50D: How Perry Mason often caught the guilty (IN A LIE) — first of all, this is how almost all "the guilty" are caught, whoever they are and wherever they're caught. Second, hurray for Perry Mason. I just started reading the Perry Mason books (by xword stalwart ERLE Stanley Gardner) this past month while on vacation. Formulaic, for sure, but in a way that really works. Gardner is a really good writer. Scenes are vivid. The prose, economical. He cut his teeth in the pulps—as writing training grounds go, you could do worse.
Finally, from the self-promotion department, a couple things. First, if you missed it while I was gone, I have an article in "Rock Cellar Magazine" this month—"A Crossword Revolution? Indie Puzzle Makers and the Music That Moves Them." You should check it out. Also, next week's Tuesday NYT (July 31) is mine. I'll let someone else blog it, partly because I don't want to blog my own puzzle, and partly because I'll be out of town *again* (this time, Oregon). No, wait, I don't leave til Tuesday, which means I'll still be here Monday night to blog, so ... nah, I'm handing it off. I don't know which puzzle of mine it is (Will has a few in his possession). So we'll all be surprised together.