Impulse carrier / THU 7-12-12 / Symbol of the planet Neptune / "The forbidden fragrance" / Orange TV character
Thursday, July 12, 2012
Constructor: Pawel Fludzinski
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: You Choose, You Lose — Three similar idioms describing two forces that present someone standing "between" them with a difficult choice. Each idiom is split into multiple entries and is clued the same way ("With X and Y, difficult things to be 'between'").
Word of the Day: NYNEX (19A: Former Baby Bell) —
NYNEX Corporation (//) was a telephone company that served five New England states (Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont) as well as most of New York state, except the Rochester area, from 1984 through 1997.
Formed January 1, 1984, as a result of the Bell System Divestiture, NYNEX was a Regional Bell operating company made up of former AT&T subsidiaries New York Telephone and New England Telephone. Hence, the name NYNEX stood for New York/New England, with the X representing the unknown future (or "the uneXpected"), but the X is also widely believed to mean eXchange. NYNEX merged with Bell Atlantic on August 14, 1997, in what was, at the time, the second largest merger in American corporate history. (Wikipedia)
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Onto today's puzzle, the NYT debut of Pawel Fludzinski. It's undeniably impressive that all three themed idioms have identical meaning and could be placed symmetrically throughout the grid. This could only be achieved by splitting the idioms into partial phrases and cross-referencing them in multiple clues, and even by intersecting two pairs of theme answers with each other. Normally, partial phrases + multiple cross-referenced answers don't equate with the most enjoyable solve for me, but all of the theme answers are solid and are connected in a neat way that I didn't appreciate until after finishing the puzzle (more on that in a bit).
HEMI, A SIGN, the aforementioned NYNEX, IN HIS, DAUB, REE, ETNAS, AGRI, ESSEN, IDEATE, and RES. In the putting-lipstick-on-a-pig department, the clue for CVII (21D: Roman numeral that's an anagram of part of Caesar's boast) gives a tiny bit of sizzle to an answer that makes an un-sizzling second appearance in the NYT since 1993.
There were a couple of minor slip-ups mid-solve. I instinctively threw down AMINO at 23D (Kind of acid), but the C of SCAR gave me the correct OLEIC without too much resistance. Being a transplanted Midwesterner living on the East Coast, WATTS (22D: Part of Los Angeles) was completely out of my wheelhouse, but I got it with all of the crossings. 20A: Club was a pretty cryptic clue for CIRCLE, but with the help of the initial CI-, that too fell after only a brief struggle. All of that pushed me to my normal time for a Thursday, hence the Medium rating.
- 24A + 37A + 46A (THE DEVIL AND / THE / DEEP BLUE SEA)
- 3D + 30D (A ROCK AND A / HARD PLACE)
- 10D + 33D (SCYLLA AND / CHARYBDIS) — In Homer's Odyssey, the choice between Scylla and Charybdis was literally a choice between the devil inside a rock (Scylla) and a hard place inside the deep blue sea (Charybdis). I wish I were smart enough to have realized this long ago. I'm not.
- 9D: Source of the line "Each of us bears his own Hell" (AENEID) — A bonus theme answer that reminds us how in Greek mythology, everything in life sucked -- constant war, monsters that could swallow you whole, dangerous waters that could also swallow you whole.....it was a pretty rough life. Gotta like how SCYLLA falls in between AENEID and IONIA (11D: Ancient land SE of Lesbos).
- 21A: Dion who didn't sing with the Belmonts (CELINE) — Great clue. Even though her full name appeared as an answer in September 2010, this is actually the NYT debut for her first name only -- surprising, given the Scrabble-friendly combination of letters.
- 25D: What Fred Astaire danced with (EASE) — A cute but sorta bizarre clue-answer combo. I suppose Astaire made difficult dance moves look easy, but I doubt he would say it was easy to practice and perform them, not after spending several years honing his craft. I originally wanted a physical object that he might have danced with in one of his umpteen-million videos, so with -ASE, I dropped in VASE. Well, if he could do it with a hat rack, why not a vase?
- 43D: Bully, by nature (ABASER) — The friendlier cousin of the ABUSER, which was my first guess. Can't say I was crazy about the correct answer, nor its crossing the less-than-commonly-used EARLAP (51A: Cap add-on).
- 44A: Something that's not hard to drink? (ALE) — Wanted ADE, which made me like ADVISED for the correct ALERTED (41D: Given a tip).
- 44D: Four-time Pro Bowler ___ Samuel (ASANTE) — A gimme if, like me, you're A) a big football fan and/or B) a Philadelphia resident who has heard countless hours on sports talk radio devoted to complaining about how the former Eagles cornerback could make the most amazing interceptions but could not tackle anybody. Otherwise, this one might have been a real head-scratcher.
- 55A: Champion wannabe (CONTENDER) — I went about this all wrong at first. The correct way to read the clue is "person who wants to be a champion." I originally read it as "champion of all wannabes." For anyone who had the same confusion, DANE COOK didn't fit.