Extract with solvent / TUE 9-18-12 / Rock legend Jimmy / Long-running PBS film showcase / Signs of deep sleep on an electroencephalogram / Old Spice alternative / Aztecan language / 88 98 carwise
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Constructor: Andrew Reynolds
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN BY LED ZEPPELIN — circled squares, which ascend (like a stairway) from SW to NE corner, spell out this phrase. A few other Led Zeppelin answers are thrown in here and there:
PAGE (1A: Rock legend Jimmy)
GUITAR SOLO (3D: Standout performance for 1-Across)
JOHN BONHAM (29D: Bandmate of 1-Across)
Word of the Day: JOHN BONHAM —
John Henry Bonham (31 May 1948 – 25 September 1980) was an English musician and songwriter, best known as the drummer of Led Zeppelin. Bonham was esteemed for his speed, power, fast right foot, distinctive sound, and "feel" for the groove. He is widely considered to be one of the greatest drummers in the history of rock music. Over 30 years after his death, Bonham continues to garner awards and praise, including a Rolling Stone readers' pick in 2011 placing him in first place of the magazine's "best drummers of all time" (wikipedia)
• • •PAGE at 1-Across, as if he were the subject of the puzzle, but he doesn't even get his whole name in (and doesn't have a symmetrical companion answer either). JOHN BONHAM's inclusion here is totally arbitrary, based on the Unfortuitous Discovery that ROBERT PLANT (the face/voice of the damn band) just won't fit into the scheme of things. So the Fortuitous Discovery is all there is, and it's pretty epic, so OK. But as a piece of puzzle construction, this puzzle is pretty wobbly. Density of the theme also creates a crosswordese ripple effect over the entire grid. When I went ELUTE into ESTOP, I had to stop and take a deep breath—get the wind back in my sails (wind = will to go on). UTO EDO ALETA NIK GNAR ALY ESTO STE TAI RIT SITU etc. are a lot to take in a 78-worder (or any puzzle). I actually really like the other long answers (though I had never heard of DELTA WAVES; 41A: Signs of deep sleep on an electroencephalogram). If TED KOPPEL were NORWEGIAN, I'd have to change my rating to a strong thumbs-up. But as is, this is a B-. That's on the positive side, but just barely.
Only real hold-up happened when I put in TREED for AT BAY (53A: Cornered, as a wild animal). Then I wrote in TRIO (!?) for 53D: Small marching band? (ANTS). Didn't take that long to extricate myself, but an error pile-up like that is always a time-killer. Probably a 20- to 30-second mistake, which is fairly major on a Tuesday. I also slowed a bit when I couldn't recover the aftershave AFTA (another crosswordesey answer) (5D: Old Spice alternative). Brain got stuck on ATRA. Then there was the DELTA part of DELTA WAVES, which took some hammering away to get. Nearly wrote GRRR before I remembered the existence (in crosswords, anyway) of the word GNAR (44A: Growl). I don't think the clue on "P.O.V." is very Tuesdayish (feels harder) (26A: Long-running PBS film showcase), though it's not like it slowed me down much.
ISAAC STERN has to wonder what the hell he's doing in this puzzle (30D: Polish-born violin master). Wrong GENRE (31D: Category).
Thanks to Finn for filling in for me yesterday. He did a fine job on very short notice. I had a MINCEMEAT puzzle rejected by Will a couple years back, so I just recused myself from that particular write-up. No hard feelings, just ... potential conflict of interest.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld