Alpine wind / SUN 12-16-12 / Python in Jungle Book / Psychology pioneer Alfred / Drama set at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce ad agency / Funny Fields / Inspector in Elizabeth George mysteries / Antigonae composer Carl / Bygone bookstore chain / Steve 1980 Olympic track champion / Sacha Baron Cohen persona / Feminist Germaine /
Sunday, December 16, 2012
Constructor: Matt Ginsberg
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
THEME: "Hearing Double" — familiar phrases have two parts replaced with homophones, creating wacky phrases, clued "?"-style
Word of the Day: Steve OVETT (13D: Steve ___, 1980 Olympic track champion) —
Stephen Michael James "Steve" Ovett OBE (born 9 October 1955), is a former middle distance runner from England. He was gold medalist in the 800 metres at the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow, U.S.S.R., and set world records for 1500 metres and the mile run. To this day, he holds the UK record for 2 miles (3,219 m), which he set in 1978. (wikipedia)
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This is an interesting puzzle with a crazy-dense amount of theme—12 answers, 2 of which run right through 3 others. Normally, I wouldn't recommend trying to run *any* answer through three theme answers—"rebuild the grid," I'd say. "You're just asking for trouble, locking yourself in so tight." And while it's true that some trouble does, in fact, ensue, all things considered, the endeavor turned out reasonably well. I did groan a lot at first. That NW is loaded with partials not-so-nice fill and something called NODOSE (40A: Knobby). But once I got out of that section, things seemed to get at least a little bit better. As is usual with this type of theme, the more outlandish and Wacky the theme answer, the more I tended to like it. "C'EST GOOD, KNIGHT," is completely absurd in every way and I love it. LES IS MOORE, also good, though MOORE is not (as far as I know) a homophone of "more." I have no idea how "made of metal" qualifies as a valid base phrase any more than "made of [any material]" does. Actually, I think "made of stone" is probably valid—more valid, at any rate, than "made of metal." So that was puzzling. But the other theme answers work fine for me.
- 23A: Souvenir from the Petrified Forest? (WOOD YOU MINED)
- 31A: Agreement from the Gipper's coach? (AYE OF KNUTE)
- 29A: What randy bucks do? (NEED THE DOE)
- 42A: Plucky housekeeper? (MAID OF METTLE)
- 56A: "Well done, Sir Lancelot," in Franglais? ("C'EST GOOD, KNIGHT")
- 64A: Soothsayer's shoelace problem? (KNOT FOR PROPHET)
- 78A: Shorten a Bar Mitzvah by 50%? (HALVE THE RITE)
- 93A: Polar explorer, after getting religion? (BYRD OF PRAY) — ick to this; no such phrase as "of pray"—even wackiness is beholden to basic grammar
- 95A: Tagline for the biopic "Dudley" starring bandleader Brown? ("LES IS MOORE")
- 101A: Where Macy's keeps the wedding dresses? (AISLE OF WHITE)
- 3D: Book about the writing style of the Mongols? (PROSE AND KHANS)
- 54D: Abdicated? (THREW THE REIGN)
Mystery answers today included FOEHN (which I know I've seen in the grid before, but that didn't help) (88A: Alpine wind) and CORONAL (which is inferrable, but still, yikes) (16D: Like the ring in an eclipse). Totally baffled by names I don't recall ever seeing before, including KENAI (39D: Alaska's ___ Peninsula), OVETT, and LYNLEY (87D: Inspector in Elizabeth George mysteries). Took me forEver to get PROT., which is about the ugliest abbrev. I've ever seen. Are there really other EDDYS besides guitarist Duane? If you're going to pluralize a name, there really oughta be (apparently there are at least two; comment retracted). My favorite non-theme answer of the day is probably EX-ROYAL, as it seems both half-made-up and exactly right. Had three major missteps during the solving process, the first of which I know most of you will have had as well: JELL-O for ASPIC (1A: Food that jiggles), NITWIT for DIMWIT (74A: Chucklehead), and B.DALTON for BORDERS (83D: Bygone bookstore chain).
You can get a good crossword-related proper noun lesson in this grid. KAA is not that KAA-mon, but he raises his snaky head from time to time (59A: Python in "The Jungle Book"). SOON-YI is a useful "I"-ending 6-letter name, and one of the few names today that was a flat-out gimme (2D: André and Mia's adoptive daughter). You see a lot of Tolkien creatures in the grid, but you don't often see the shorthand for his "Lord of the Rings" trilogy (LOTR) (38A: Tolkien trilogy, to fans). You do often see ORFF (94D: "Antigonae" composer Carl), whom I often confuse with ARNE (four-letter composers whose names aren't BACH get jumbled in my head). Before Borat (another commonish crossword name), the best know [Sacha Baron Cohen persona] was ALI G (two words, not one), and he's in crosswords enough for you to want to remember him. And then there's Maude. I mean GREER. Germaine GREER (76D: Feminist Germaine). Whom I kind of associate with Maude because both are icons of 70s-era feminism. Mostly I just like saying "And then there's Maude."
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld