Reggae artist Paul / TUE 9-25-12 / Fungus that affects cereal / Game piece on Stratego board / Miserly Marner / 1999 Frank McCourt memoir
Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Constructor: Ian Livengood
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: NESSIE — circled squares (or gray squares, depending on your solving medium) spell out "NESSIE" and appear to represent, in their layout, the figure of the LOCH NESS MONSTER (38A: Subject of this puzzle) as depicted in the famous "SURGEON'S PHOTO" (20A: Supposed evidence of the 38-Across); NESSIE, like Sasquatch and the yeti, is a subject of interest in the field of CRYPTOZOOLOGY (51A: Field of study that includes the 38-Across). Some think NESSIE is REAL. Most (I assume) think FAKE (66 or 67A: What some consider the 38-Across to be)
Word of the Day: DOWSE (50D: Search for water, in a way) —
intr.v., dowsed, also doused, dows·ing, dous·ing, dows·es, dous·es.
To use a divining rod to search for underground water or minerals.
Read more: http://www.answers.com/topic/dowse#ixzz27RdNbFSZ
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LOCH NESS MONSTER puzzle with the added little bit of visual interest in the grid's attempt to approximate the famous Nessie photo. I've looked at the photo. I've looked at the grid. The likeness ... isn't great. Therefore the gimmick feels a little forced. But the head-peeking-above-water bit, with the extra square up top, is a nice flourish, and the grid is reasonably clean, so my overall feelings about this one end up somewhat on the positive side.
Took me Forever to get that first theme answer: SURGEON'S PHOTO. It is really, really hard to parse when you have no idea what the context is. "A SURGE ... OF? ... something?" Also had a lot of trouble seeing BAR GRAPH (4D: Chart in many a PowerPoint presentation), even with BAR- solidly in place. But since it's an early-week puzzle, I didn't spend a lot of time struggling (the earlier in the week it is, the less time I spend trying to get unstuck before moving on). I just jumped to the next section over and restarted there, and that sent me off like a shot. Would've gotten held up at ERGOT, except ERGOT is my old friend ("Hello ERGOT my old friend ...") (32A: Fungus that affects cereal)—it absolutely wrecked one of my grids many years back, so I've never forgotten it. Not that it's good fill; it isn't. Neither is the plural D'OHS. I love Homer, but that's an ugly plural.
ERGOT aside, there are several clues requiring rather specific knowledge of niche cultural categories, like board games (SCOUT) (24A: Game piece on a Stratego board), reggae (SEAN) (6D: Reggae artist ___ Paul), and olympic swimming (THORPE) (27D: 2000 and 2004 swimming gold medalist Ian). To make up for this, there are a bunch of literary gimmes: SINCLAIR (40D: Upton who wrote "Oil!") and SILAS (26D: Miserly Marner) and 'TIS (29A: 1999 Frank McCourt memoir), to name three. Speaking of literature—you should get Salman Rushdie's Joseph Anton and read it now. It is a gripping and moving and inspiring account of his life in the wake of the publication of "The Satanic Verses" (1988). Like most memoirs, it is no doubt in some ways self-serving, but the occasionally righteous tone seems fitting, understandable, justified. Plus (and it's a Big plus): dude can write.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld