Two-time president of Romania / THU 11-22-12 / Pastry in Sweeney Todd / So-called African antelope / Fictional locale five miles from Jonesboro / Seinfeld character with catchphrase Jerry Hello / Early explorer of Southwest
Thursday, November 22, 2012
Constructor: Joel Fagliano
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: Initial initials — familiar phrases are reimagined (via "?"-cluing) as wacky phrases wherein the first two letters stand alone:
L.A. DIES FIRST (18A: Cackling cry from a mad scientist before unleashing havoc on southern California?)
R.A. IN CHECK (33A: Dorm V.I.P. having to move his king?)
B.A. BY BOOMER (39A: Proud academic achievement of football star Esiason?)
B.O. ON DOCKS (50A: Evidence of longshoremen without antiperspirant?)
P.R. IS ON BREAK (64A: Why the press release has to wait?)
Word of the Day: E. J. DIONNE (70A: Political commentator E. J. ___) —
Eugene Joseph "E.J." Dionne, Jr. ( [...] born April 23, 1952) is an American journalist and political commentator, and a long-time op-edcolumnist for The Washington Post. He is also a Senior Fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution, a University Professor in the Foundations of Democracy and Culture at Georgetown Public Policy Institute, a Senior Research Fellow at Saint Anselm College, and an NPR,MSNBC, and PBS commentator. (wikipedia)
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ILIESCU holds many spelling perils (13D: Two-time president of Romania), where VAN DYKE is a feature that doesn't necessarily leap to mind with Lenin (14D: Vladimir Lenin had one), and where even HUSKIES (12D: Big East team) wasn't very intuitive (when asked for a team, I tend to think of the school name, not the mascot). I took an embarrassingly long time to get PIGLET; wasn't til I got the "G" that that answer became (painfully) obvious (31A: Hundred Acre Wood resident). Hesitated some at 29D: Not survive (DIE OF) because I read the "survive" as an intransitive verb; thus I wanted DIE OUT or DIE OFF, neither of which would FIT. But otherwise, there wasn't much bite to this one (though I'm seeing some longish times at the NYT site, so I wonder if I'm missing some potential pitfall). I didn't know (or didn't recall) DIONNE, but beyond that, everything else was somewhat-to-very familiar.
SHIV / SHIVER duplication I could do without, but most of the rest of the grid, I liked. There are some pretty inventive long Downs in the grid today—specifically UNCLE LEO (24D: "Seinfeld" character wit the catchphrase "Jerry! Hello!") and BIKE TIRE (40D: 26" rubber band?). I was thrilled to learn some OKAPI trivia (57A: So-called "African unicorn"), the OKAPI being by far my favorite crossword animal. It's weird that it's called the "African unicorn"—is this to distinguish it from all the other "unicorns" out there? Also love the clue on the overly familiar TARA (63A: Fictional locale five miles from Jonesboro). My first thought was "pfft, how should I know?", but at just four letters, guessing the correct answers wasn't hard. It's good to add at least a little spice to the clues of the oft-appearing short stuff.
Anything else? No. Happy Thanksgiving!
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld