First bishop of Crete / SAT 11-17-12 / Zouave headgear / Hamas rival / Feature of pasta basta / Born Blonde maker / Ancient double-deckers / Adventurer Casanova / 2012 honor for 4000 miles / He supplied Lex Luthor with red kryptonite / Pioneer of slapstick cinema
Saturday, November 17, 2012
Constructor: Tim Croce
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
Word of the Day: MISTER MXYZPTLK (7D: He supplied Lex Luthor with kryptonite) —
Mr. Mxyzptlk ( // US dict: mĭks·yĕz′·pĭt·lĭk or // US dict: mĭks·yĕz′·pĭt·l·ĭk), sometimes called Mxy, is an impishsupervillain who appears in DC Comics' Superman comic books. // He was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, and first appeared in Superman #30 (September 1944). He is usually presented as atrickster, in the classical mythological sense, in that he enjoys tormenting Superman. In most of his appearances in DC Comics, he can be stopped only by tricking him into saying or spelling his own name backwards (Kltpzyxm - "kel-tip-zix-um"), which will return him to his home in the 5th dimension and keep him there for a minimum of 90 days. However, this specific limitation of the character has been eliminated since the Crisis on Infinite Earths reboot, upon which the character leaves only when he willingly agrees to do so after meeting some conditions he sets, such as having Superman succeed in getting Mxy to paint his own face blue. // In 2009, Mr. Mxyzptlk was ranked as IGN's 76th Greatest Comic Book Villain of All Time. (wikipedia)
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MISTER MXYZPTLK—I'm sure to some constructors it seems fresh and clever and edgy, what with all those Scrabbly letters and the wacky spelling and what not, but a. it's been done, and b. it's mostly just annoying because it's a long and totally uninferrable. And I'm saying this as someone who knows something about comic books and knew the character in question immediately. But even I couldn't spell it (I could remember only that the last name had no AEIOU vowels, started with "M," and had an "X" and "P" in it somewhere). In the end, I got it down to MXYZP-LK, but just couldn't figure out what to do with the cross, 50: Send a different way? (REFRACT). Why is there a "?" in that clue? That clue is a literal definition of REFRACT. Between the spelling of MXYZPTLK and the stupid "?" on the REFRACT clue (50A: Send a different way?) and the never-heard-it-before-ness of OUTFALL (?!) (35: Mouth of a river), I just died in the SW. Had to leave it and then come back to it at the very end. RETRACE and RETRACT both seemed to make sense—more sense, in fact, as "?" clues. Anyway, I had to run the alphabet at that "F" in OUTFALL. Joyless slog. Rest of the grid is OK, but not exactly exciting. IRRATIONAL FEAR is semi-decent, but everything else is mostly names and ordinary words, and also ROISTER and ASPERSE. Workmanlike. Solid, but somewhat tedious.
LONG ARM right away (1A: Extension of the law?), and getting 1A right away is usually a very good sign. But then there was the ho-hum trivia of APOLLO I and ST TITUS (?) (16A: First bishop of Crete, traditionally), and then I had SELLERS for the (much older) SENNETT (18A: Pioneer of slapstick cinema), and I had to rack my brain a bit to dislodge LASSER, and "NOT NICE" felt pretty forced (first thing I thought of, but I couldn't believe it was right so didn't write it in for a while), and GLINTED ... is a word, I guess (4D: Was fleeting brilliant). Misspelled GIACOMO ("O" for that "A") (22D: Adventurer Casanova), which kept me from seeing the not-scintillatin MAIN GATE for a while. Ooh, I liked FAKE TAN—that was nice. NW was easy, though I still don't get MASHED (unless the idea is that the word is somehow diner slang / abbreviation for the side dish's actual name, "masshed potatoes"). MLII (8D: Birth year of King Philip I) and ASO (33D: Largest active volcano in Japan) are free to go somewhere and die.
- 19A: Old means of crowd control (RIOT ACT) — Act of Parliament in force from 1715 to 1967 (!). Acc. to wikipedia, the Act's long title was "An Act for preventing tumults and riotous assemblies, and for the more speedy and effectual punishing the rioters."
- 37A: 2012 honor for "4000 Miles" (OBIE) — no idea, but an "honor" in four letters (esp. one starting w/ "O") is not that hard to guess.
- 43A: "Tepper ___ Going Out" (Calvin Trillin novel) ("ISN'T") — No idea, but it's the only four-letter word that made any sense at all there.
- 45A: Like the army that "eagle warriors" fought in (AZTEC) — off the -EC, I decided to go with OLMEC. Brilliant.
- 49A: Feature of "pasta" and "basta" (RIMA) — as in "they are Italian and they rhyme so please provide the Italian word for 'rhyme'." If I didn't talk about Dante's terza RIMA every year, I think I'd find this answer annoying.
- 54A: Born Blonde maker (CLAIROL) — answer seems obvious now, but I didn't know if Born Blonde was a cookie or a car or what...
- 10D: "The Bartered Bride" composer (SMETANA) — just knowing this guy's name existed helped a lot. Got it off the -NA.
- 38D: Ancient double-deckers (BIREMES) — the trireme has a much longer wikipedia entry. I think they are the more commonly mentioned warship in ancient Greek literature.
- 39D: Query upon witnessing a hanging? ("IS IT ART?") — one of the only truly transparent clues in the whole puzzle. Here, I get the "?"—signals the misdirect (i.e. not a hanging by the neck, as the phrasing of the clue suggests, but a hanging of painting).
- 53D: Zouave headgear (KEPI) — no idea what Zouave is, but I nailed this no problem. KEPI is high-end crosswordese. I've never seen the word anywhere but in the grid.