1950s coup victim / WED 11-14-12 / Old unit of conductance / Dodge bullet dodger / Apollo musically speaking / First Top 40 hit for Weird Al Yankovic / Blabber's opposite / Mount Olympus dweller
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Constructor: Joe DiPietro
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: AND (67A: Y : Spanish :: ___ : English) — Y replaces AND in common "___ AND ___" phrases and attaches itself to end of first word in the phrase, creating wacky phrases that are clued "?"-style:
- 17A: Aid for skipping out of school? (HOOKY LADDER)
- 3D: Prisoners who write tediously? (PROSY CONS)
- 25A: Sharp-edged plant growth? (POINTY SHOOT)
- 49A: Shipment of noisemakers, e.g.? (PARTY PARCEL)
- 60A: Area of town where the supernatural hang out? (FAIRY SQUARE)
- 35D: Robust religious observance? (HARDY FAST)
Word of the Day: MENA Suvari (33A: Actress Suvari, co-star of "American Pie") —
Mena Alexandra Suvari (born February 13, 1979) is an American actress, fashion designer, and model. Shortly after beginning her career as a model, she appeared in guest roles on such 1990s television shows asBoy Meets World and High Incident. She made her film debut in the drama Nowhere (1997). // Her first major film roles were in American Beauty (1999), for which she was nominated for a BAFTA Award, and American Pie (1999). Since then, she has appeared in Loser (2000), with her American Pie co-star, Jason Biggs, and played a main character in the comedy film Sugar & Spice (2001). She had appearances in the independent drama Spun (2002), and the thriller feature Trauma (2004). She also appeared in the HBO drama series Six Feet Under in 2004, and received a nomination as a member for Outstanding Cast at the 2005Screen Actors Guild Awards. In 2008, she was cast in a string of films, including Day of the Dead, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, and the film adaptation of The Garden of Eden. (wikipedia)
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I love this puzzle. The theme is clever and beautifully executed, and the fill, while not scintillating, is more than solid enough to hold the puzzle together in relatively groan-free fashion. In fact, the only real groan this puzzle got out of me was for the inclusion of both LYRIST and LUTISTS (10D: Apollo, for one, musically speaking + 29D: Minstrels, often). How many damn archaic string instrument players does one puzzle need? I have pretty strong Renaissance Faire Aversion Syndrome, so the LYRIST was OK but when the LUTISTS showed up, I got a little worried I'd see FAKE JOUSTING and GIANT TURKEY LEGS and MAYPOLE DANCING and other things that cause me nausea. But luckily they were nowhere to be found. Emergency averted.
It's fun thinking of other possible theme answers: NIGHTY DAY! TOY FRO!
I had trouble picking up the theme at first, because I thought there was such a thing as a "hook ladder," so I had not idea the "Y" was replacing anything. But then I couldn't think of any common phrase beginning with "prose" (and could Not come up with CLAM for [Blabber's opposite], so I had to wander off and eventually pick up the theme at POINTY SHOOT. Having the "Y" replace "and" is soooo much better than a simple Y-addition—I think the revelation that the theme had more to it is part of the reason I ended up liking it so much: "Oh, it's not just another add-a-letter. WHOOPEE!"
I misspelled Katey SAGAL's name at first ("Segal"), as I always do (6A: Katey of "Married ... With Children") (for a more modern SAGAL clue, try ["Sons of Anarchy" actress Katey]. I wanted the [Shout of exuberance] to be a more Homeresque "W(H)OO HOO!" at first. This made the whole lower WHOOPEE area rough, as I had OHM instead of MHO (36D: Old unit of conductance), which meant OH MY! (34A: "Jeepers!") was O BOY!, which meant instead of PERON I had P--MN (45A: 1950s coup victim). Didn't take too much effort to work it all out, but I did end up with more of a Medium-Challenging time. I corrected the difficulty rating based on the fact that my trouble seemed likely to be idiosyncratic, as well as on the fact that I was solving, atypically, at 5:30 a.m. Brain is a bit of a cold engine at that hour.
- 9D: Bio figure (AGE) — to illustrate the "cold engine" metaphor ... I had -G- and had no idea what this clue was getting at. I was imagining a book-length biography, so even when I got AGE I was like "... ?"
- 69A: First Top 40 hit for Weird Al Yankovic ("EAT IT") — I think I posted "FAT" just yesterday (another Weird Al Michael Jackson parody). So ... here. Have some more ...
- 39D: Dodge bullet dodger (EARP) — I like this clue a lot. Nice misdirect on "Dodge" (I thought "car make" at first). Then I thought Dodge was a guy who fired the bullet ... see, cold engine.