French novelist Pierre / FRI 8-24-12 / Giant bronze man in Greek myth / Sea fan colonists / Reduce through retirement / Gentle giant of Steinbeck's Of Mice Men / Eureka Excelsior
Friday, August 24, 2012
Constructor: Mark Diehl
Relative difficulty: Easy
Word of the Day: PINNA (26D: Outer ear) —
n., pl., pin·nae (pĭn'ē), or pin·nas.
- Botany. A leaflet or primary division of a pinnately compound leaf.
- Zoology. A feather, wing, fin, or similar appendage.
- Anatomy. See auricle (sense ). [AURICLE = "The outer projecting portion of the ear. Also called pinna."]
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GAG RULE is a nice Down (1D: Discussion stopper), but mostly the Downs are just holding the Acrosses in place, and I guess, in the end, the long Acrosses are good enough to justify some of the dreck we get in the Downs (PINNA, TALOS, LOTI, not to mention the more common stuff) (26D: Outer ear + 28D: Giant bronze man in Greek myth + 9D: French novelist Pierre). Never heard of SPIDER SOLITAIRE (50A: Microsoft Windows game), but the rest of the Acrosses are solid, vivid, interesting. The top is especially clean (LOTI notwithstanding). Puzzle was very easy given that it was not hard to get a bunch of short crosses and then see very clearly where the long Across answers were going. Up top, I tentatively wrote in RITE, and then more firmly wrote in ATTA, SPCA, ARKS, and EVAN, all of which proved more than enough to take out all those Acrosses (except GARAGE SALES, which proved a little bit more tenacious) (1A: Category on Craigslist). Middle section took the longest, but only because of PINNA and TALOS. I was lucky enough to know ARTIE even though I stopped watching "Glee" over a year ago (23D: ___ Abrams, character on "Glee"). That certainly helped. Down below, I got the SE very quickly, and then hammered my way into the SW. Converged upon a scary place where I didn't know a bunch of stuff (POLYPS, PYRITES, ATTRITE, SPIDER ...), but I just threw in my best guesses as fast as I could, stood back, looked it over, and realized it all had to be right. And it was. (32D: Sea fan colonists + 41A: Sulfide-containing group + 33D: Reduce through retirement)
All in all, an enjoyable, easy puzzle, with just a few rough patches along the way.
- 25A: Subject of the book "Red Moon Rising" (SPUTNIK) — first thought was something Chinese (Mao's Red Book?) or Japanese (the flag?), but -IK seemed an unlikely ending for anything from those two places. Then the "moon" part led me to space, and bam, SPUTNIK.
- 29A: Early "cure" for tuberculosis (DESERT CLIMATE) — did the climate not "cure" anyone? Cursory online research shows people sure *thought* it did. One quote I read: "There is no question: tuberculosis put Palm Springs on the map."
- 36A: "Eureka" and "Excelsior" (MOTTOES) — got it pretty easily, since I knew "Eureka" was California's motto. "Excelsior" is New York's. I grew up in CA. I now live in NY. Neither of these facts explains why the "E" In MOTTOES looks so horrible.
- 13D: Gentle giant of Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men" (LENNIE) — big fat gimme for anyone who had 9th grade English. LENNIE's unintentional murderousness was one of my first "holy #$^&!" literary experiences.
- 42D: Target of a Fox hunt? (IDOL) — very clever clue, even though the capital "F" made the answer pretty obvious.
- 43D: One singing "Fight, fight, fight for Maryland" (TERP) — one of the crosswordesiest of the college mascots. Flat-out gimme.
- 44D: "Aunt" with a 1979 best seller (ERMA) — as in Bombeck. The best seller is "Aunt ERMA's Cope Book" (a title I learned from xwords). Cope book??? I still don't quite get what that is or what phrase it's playing on. Cook book?
- 47D: Old comics dog (TIGE) — Buster Brown's dog. You've seen him recently—in my July 31, 2012 puzzle.