Town on Cape Cod / THU 10-25-12 / Big Whig / Opera character sings Largo al factotum / only way to run away without leaving home / Part of Mideast orchard
Thursday, October 25, 2012
Constructor: Caleb Rasmussen
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: TETRIS — circled letters contain the word "TETRIS"; theme answers are a [basic instruction for TETRIS]: "DO NO LET THE / FALLING BLOCKS / REACH THE TOP"
Word of the Day: STAPES (43D: Smallest human bone) —
n., pl., stapes, or sta·pe·des (stā'pĭ-dēz').
The innermost of the three small bones of the middle ear, shaped somewhat like a stirrup. Also called stirrup.
[New Latin stapēs, stapēd-, from Medieval Latin, stirrup.]
Read more: http://www.answers.com/topic/stapes#ixzz2AH34ISVa
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FALLING BLOCKS around faster and faster and faster never held any appeal for me. Perhaps this is why I feel like I'm missing something here. I keep wanting there to be something more. Like, if I shake the paper or push a certain letter pattern the blocks will actually start falling. But I think the mere "basic instruction" (as well as the shapes formed by the black squares) is all there is to the theme. Fill is good and bad. The long Downs are pretty darned good—I especially like OIL RESERVE (28D: The Gulf of Mexico has a big one)—and who doesn't love Millard FILLMORE (34D: Big Whig), am I right? But this grid has one of my least favorite crossword towns in it (TRURO, ugh) (38A: Town on Cape Cod), and I don't think ERE and E'EN should ever be that close to each other (unbearable crosswordese proximity). Clue on GONE DARK is weird (10D: Closed, as a theater). Really should have some kind of spy clue—something about going off the grid. Something Jason Bourne-esque. Overall, though, the fill is fine—not particularly objectionable, occasionally interesting.
I looked at the clues for the NW at first, but didn't get anywhere and so went to where I saw my first gimme: 61A: "Evil Woman" grp. (ELO). With the exception of the "P" in STAPES, the whole bottom / SE section went down pretty easily. I think I moved in a vaguely anticLOCKwise fashion from there; I know I finished in the SW. Wasn't sure about LAY READER (25A: Congregation member authorized by a bishop to conduct part of a service), but the clue sure helped me get the LAY part and the rest just fell into place via crosses. I know squat about opera, but got FIGARO from -RO (37A: Opera character who sings "Largo al factotum"). Wasn't sure it was right, since I know FIGARO only as a repeatedly sung name, not a particularly character. I did, however, know who ORESTES was—right up my alley (40A: Brother of Electra). Got YEOMEN from -MEN because it just ... sounded Englandy (2D: ___ Warders (Tower of London figures)).
ART (5D: "The only way to run away without leaving home," per Twyla Tharp). Thought 24D: Where police look for matches might have something to do with arson. Then police line-ups. Never think of police actually being *in* DNA LABS, but I guess they do look *to* the labs for answers, so OK (24D: Where police look for matches). FIG TREEs were part of my backyard landscape growing up. Knobby trees with big-ass leaves. Lots of fig orchards in central California. Also in the Mideast (which I assume means "Middle East") as well (37D: Part of a Mideast orchard).
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld