Diminutive for Baryshnikov / SAT 11-24-12 / Like refreshing agua / 1978 sequel set in shopping mall / Peak east of Captain Cook / Like four ill-fated popes / African country with namesake lake / Part of Freddy Krueger costume / South Park co-creator Stone / Killer source material for comedian / Southwest city founded by Mormon pioneers
Saturday, November 24, 2012
Constructor: Joseph Knapp
Relative difficulty: Easy
Word of the Day: Sam ERVIN (48A: Senator of Watergate fame) —
Samuel James Ervin, Jr. known as Sam Ervin (September 27, 1896 – April 23, 1985), was an American politician, a Democrat, he served as a U.S. Senator from North Carolina from 1954 to 1974. A native of Morganton, he liked to call himself a "country lawyer", and often told humorous stories in his Southern drawl. During his Senate career, Ervin was a legal defender of the Jim Crow laws and racial segregation, as the South's constitutional expert during the congressional debates on civil rights. Unexpectedly, he became a liberal hero for his support of civil liberties. He is remembered for his work in the investigation committees that brought down Senator Joseph McCarthy in 1954 and especially his investigation in 1972 and 1973 of the Watergate scandal that led to the resignation in 1974 of President Richard Nixon. (wikipedia)
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AWE (5D: State at a spectacle) and then MALAWI (14A: African country with a namesake lake) and then was off to the races. The middle of this grid is beautiful — very nice triple stack of thirteens — but also Very easy to pick up, one answer right after the other. Needed only the "WN" to get "DAWN OF THE DEAD" (35A: 1978 sequel set in a shopping mall), only the "K" and the "X" to get JACK IN THE BOX (37A: It might pop up at a nursery), and then ... I don't know, by the time I saw the clue for ACE IN THE HOLE, it was quite obvious (32A: Secret weapon). Only the NE and SW corners gave me any trepidation. Any time you venture into wide-open corners like that, there's always this feeling in the back of your mind that you might never get out alive, that you might be eternally condemned to a self-contained little nightmare of a mini-puzzle ... but those fears didn't pan out today. SMITH and KENO gave me more than enough leverage to work the NE, and though the SW proved a bit harder, once I threw MISHA down (45D: Diminutive for Baryshnikov), I could see the HOUSE part of HOTHOUSE, which made everything else fall into line pretty quickly (56A: Where things might pop up in a nursery). There's not a single unfamiliar word or person in this grid. I finished the puzzle in about 2/3 the time it took me to do yesterday's. And I was dead tired before I did this puzzle—I was seriously contemplating just going to sleep and solving / blogging in the morning. Just my good luck, I guess.
DAWN OF THE DEAD" and the poisoned popes and Freddy in a FEDORA (30D: Part of a Freddy Kreuger costume) and the HITMEN lurking in the corner (59A: Ones given money to waste?) and, well, "I'M CALM" becomes the unlikeliest of sentiments. The nursery/pop up clues are kind of far apart to really, uh, pop, but it's the thought that counts. I didn't know Captain Cook was a ... what, a mountain? I also didn't know MESA was founded by Mormon pioneers. That clue may as well have stopped at [Southwest city]—I had the "M" and didn't need anything else. Didn't know the [Patron saint of the Catholic Church] straight off, but I knew it started with a "J" and ... well, it seemed like it probably had to be someone *pretty* big, so it didn't take me that long to hit JOSEPH. I knew Mandalay was *somewhere* in the East (I feel like there's a film production company with a tiger logo called "Mandalay" ...), but I didn't know where. Luckily for me, the president and Sec. Clinton were just in MYANMAR the other day, so that country was fresh on my mind (58A: Home of Mandalay). Aside from these minor struggles, as I say, this puzzle was kind of a pushover. I blew through this so quickly I didn't even see several of the clues (e.g. for MCI, for NTH, for ORT). Not complaining. It was good-easy, not where-the-hell's-my-Saturday-puzzle easy.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld