Shape-shifting Greek sea god / SAT 8-11-12 / Kid-lit title character I am ruler of all that I see / Largest living rodent / Noted dark film star of 1930s / Moon in Chinese / Annual holiday airing of grievances / Former GM compact / Epithet for many rapper / Apiphobe's bane
Saturday, August 11, 2012
Constructor: Josh Knapp
Relative difficulty: Medium
Word of the Day: LE ROUX (31D: "The Phantom of the Opera" writer) —
Gaston Louis Alfred Leroux (6 May 1868 – 15 April 1927) was a French journalist and author ofdetective fiction.
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Really liked this one, though I kind of short-shrifted it by watching the women's 4x100 and other track & field events while solving. Felt toughish, but then I realized any Saturday is going to feel toughish if you're giving it only half your attention. Once I found JAFAR (50D: Aladdin's enemy), I got the traction I needed and took off ("J"s are useful).
[Sorry, I'm kind of hypnotized by BMX racing right now. I had no idea I liked this sport so much. Both wife and I are riveted in ways we haven't been by other sports. I do NOT like how there are all these heats (tons of them) and this complicated scoring system, but then there's just a single short race for medals, so the racers who were dominating in most of the heats have one off race and they don't medal. Stupid.]
You know what's not stupid? NO DICE and "CREEPSHOW" (gold medal in the segue competition goes to ME!). In fact, there's virtually nothing stupid about this grid. This is what happens when you a. keep your themeless grid at a very fillable 70 words and b. you take the time and care needed to make your grid clean. Not everyone does this. I have been guilty of not doing this. But in my experience, putting in the time, being ruthless on yourself, pays off. Clean grids are happy grids. This one has just two less-than-lovely little answers: ORME and EMAG (55D: "... a man no mightier than thyself ___": "Julius Caesar" + 40D: iPad read, maybe). Maybe PEDS isn't Fabulous. But come on. I usually give a themeless a fat handful of passes on the short stuff, and there's hardly anything ugh-worthy here at all. Plus, the longer stuff is pretty interesting and occasionally sweet.
FESTIVUS was a real thing (13D: Annual holiday with an "airing of grievances"). I thought it was a made-up "Seinfeld" thing. I had trouble swallowing the idea of TOTO as a "star"—was the "actor" named TOTO too (22A: Noted dark film star of the 1930s). Had a bit of scare at the CAPYBARA / YIN crossing, as I confused CAPYBARA (34D: Largest living rodent) with "chupacabra" and that made me hesitate with the vowel. But then YIN was the only thing that made sense at -IN (47A: Moon, in Chinese). I got a bit frustrated with my movie knowledge when "CHRISTINE" didn't work for 1A: 1982 Stephen King horror film) and I couldn't figure out who this AL guy was who wrote and directed "Talk to Her" (17A: "Talk to Her" director/screenwriter, 2002 => Pedro ALMODOVAR). Thought English gardens might have HEDGEROWS (even though the clue was in the singular) (15A: Feature of some English gardens). Otherwise, no real problems, though I did have a little trouble getting up into the NE. Deciding on the -OLOGY ending at 12D: School allowed me to see TRYST (finally) (38A: It might be cheating), which then let me move onward and upward, finishing finally with the "F" in SCI-FI (an abbrev. which really should be signaled by the clue, I think) (10A: Domain of some invasions).
- 16A: Poet who wrote "All pity is self-pity" (AUDEN) — should've got this off the "A"; didn't.
- 19A: Sch. that Theo Huxtable attended on "The Cosby Show" (NYU) — first thing in the grid. I've noticed that my "first things in the grid" tend to be pop culturey.
- 30A: Classic 1977 song with the repeated line "Let's get together and feel all right" ("ONE LOVE") — wow; this is a massive gimme for a Saturday.
- 41A: U.N. observer starting in '74 (PLO) — also a gimme, though I'm not sure why. I think I just associate "observer" status most readily with the PLO. If there are other observers (and I'm sure there are), I can't name them off the top of my head.
- 8D: Longtime Tanglewood figure (OZAWA) — I was lucky enough to know that Tanglewood had something to do with classical music, and to have the "O" on place before I saw the clue. OZAWA is a pretty crosswordesey conductor.
- 26D: Kid-lit title character who says "I am the ruler of all that I see!" (YERTLE) — the turtle. Took me a while, as this is not one of the Seuss books I grew up with.
- 41D: Shape-shifting Greek sea god (PROTEUS) — dang, I *knew* this (from the adj. "protean"), but because I couldn't *&^%ing spell NEFERTITI (I went with NEFRITITI) (59A: Queen with a prominent bust), I couldn't get it to work so figured it was some other Greek sea god I didn't know about. Like, I don't know, LER or something. (Nope, that's Irish—my bad)