Tsar's Bride composer / TUE 10-2-12 / Straight-bladed dagger / Louis Braille Louis Chevrolet / Taken into account in terms of container's weight / Home 1996 Emilio Estevez film / Operating system since 1969 / Cricket World Cup powerhouse / NASA launch of 1990
Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Constructor: Ethan Cooper
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
THEME: WHEEL COMPONENTs (48A: Beginning of 20-, 25- or 43-Across) — theme answers begin with parts of a wheel:
RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (20A: "The Tsar's Bride" composer)
SPOKEN WORD ALBUM (25A: It has its own Grammy category)
HUBBLE TELESCOPE (43A: NASA Launch of 1990)
Word of the Day: Tortellini in BRODO (31D: Tortellini in ___ (Italian dish)) —
• • •
BRODO in my life (this is possibly the most obscure Italian word I've ever seen in a grid, though apparently the dish itself is reasonably well known), and I barely believe UNRIP is a word (32D: Tear open). WAR AT isn't winning any awards either (28D: "The ___ Home," 1996 Emilio Estevez film). I saw this problem happen on a grid of mine—a quote puzzle that had two 15s, one after the other, on either side of the center of the grid, just like this one. When they were 3-spaced (like this one), I got the grid done, but it was kind of icky. Distractingly icky. Then, even though I was "done," I decided to build it all over again with a grid where those 15s were just 1-spaced. As my testers, and anyone with an eye who sees the puzzle, can tell you, the latter was infinitely superior. The grid ended up way, way more smooth, and solvers could then focus on the awesome quote and not be distracted by whatever gunk I had gunking up the grid in the first version.
WHEEL COMPONENT is among the worst revealers of all time. It's a nothing phrase. The puzzle's in a bit of a bind, though, with this theme, and it's hard to see another way out—that's because there really *aren't* any more plausible parts of a wheel. Are there? And if not, well, three theme answers just aren't enough these days. If there were a fourth wheel component, then you could've just had the revealer as "WHEEL," and tucked it down at the bottom of the grid. But, we've got what we've got, and there's at least a few things to like. I like all the theme answers as answers. You don't see 14s much, and RIMSKY-KORSAKOV's a good one (part of the toughness today was spelling that damn name correctly). Junkiness at center of the grid is offset by mostly nice work in the small sections up top and down below. Scrabbly without forcing the issue (e.g. no attempts to pick up a "Z" at the expense of overall grid smoothness). And I always appreciate when a constructor really takes advantage of the long Downs. Make your long non-theme answers *count*! HOT MIKES (4D: Feedback producers) and SUCKED UP (39D: Was obsequious, informally) count. Good stuff.
- 5A: Mountains out of molehills (TO-DOS) — this took me forever. I had every letter and still didn't really get it. "What's a TODO?" I figured it out, after the fact.
- 34A: Taken into account in terms of a container's weight (TARED) — a not-great word, unsurprisingly located in that whole problematic Middle Zone. Good thing it was a gimme. I think about the word "tare" a lot—every time I'm at the supermarket, or anywhere stuff gets weighed in containers.
- 47A: Cricket World Cup powerhouse: Abbr. (PAK.) — As country abbrev. clues go, I really like this one.
- 62A: Operating system since 1969 (UNIX) — I had the "U," so no problem.
- 1D: One who knows what it means to travel (REF) — great clue but holy-crap hard. I had to run the alphabet to get that "F," because 17A: It's impressive (FEAT) wasn't doing anything for me. I kept thinking of things that make impressions...
- 7D: Straight-bladed dagger (DIRK) — it's in the crosswordese arsenal right next to the SNEE.
- 45D: Louis Braille or Louis Chevrolet (EPONYM) — got this without ever seeing the clue, which is a good thing, 'cause again, this seems hardish for Tuesday. The double-Louis thing is a total fake-out. Nice but late-weekish clue.