Jazz pianist McCoy / SUN 12-30-12 / Pope Agatho's successor / Hoppy pub quaff / Capone henchman / World capital that's home to Zog I Boulevard / Eponymous Italian city / Paperback publisher since 1941
Sunday, December 30, 2012
Constructor: Steve Savoy
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: "Plus Ten" — familiar phrases have "IO" added to them (because those letters look like the number "10"). Wacky phrases and cluing ensue.
Word of the Day: McCoy TYNER (17D: Jazz pianist McCoy ___) —
McCoy Tyner (born December 11, 1938) is a jazz pianist from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, known for his work with the John Coltrane Quartet and a long solo career. (wikipedia)
• • •
I struggled with this more than I do with most Sundays. I picked up the theme early (with COOLIO CUSTOMER), but somehow that didn't help much with taking down the theme answers. Actually, there were three that were really recalcitrant: STUMP ORATORIO (largely because the phrase "stump orator" isn't familiar to me, though "stump speech" is); CURIO RENT EVENTS (which is the clumsiest and most awkward of the theme answers, largely because the "10" breaks the base phrase into extra words); and OFF THE CHARIOTS (the first part of which is in an awfully brutal NE corner). The fill is pretty dire in places. I hit that IT TOO / OUT ON / A TO section and winced, then wondered if I'd ever seen a set of triple-intersecting partials like that. Singularly ugly. NOT SO HOT. Etc. In general the non-theme fill was forgettable-to-irksome. Not much else to say about this one. I quite liked a handful of theme answers (most notably STUDIO MUFFIN), but the rest left me a little cold
- 22A: Sign-off for Spanish spies? (CLASSIFIED ADIOS)
- 34A: Two bottled liquids kept in a cabinet? (WINE AND IODINE)
- 47A: Champion model maker at the county fair? (DIORAMA QUEEN)
- 65A: Wacky exercise regimen? (WILD CARDIO)
- 68A: 20 cigarettes per unit and 10 units per carton, e.g.? (PACK RATIOS)
- 82A: Green room breakfast item? (STUDIO MUFFIN)
- 93A: Musical composition about a lumberjack's seat? (STUMP ORATORIO)
- 113A: Try-before-you-buy opportunities at knickknack stores? (CURIO RENT EVENTS)
- 15D: Like Ben-Hur and company when not racing? (OFF THE CHARIOTS)
- 46D: "Gangsta's Paradise" buyer? (COOLIO CUSTOMER)
I learned a few things today. I learned that the country is Rwanda but the (or a) language is RUANDA (100D: Bantu language). Actually, that's not true. RUANDA is just an alternate spelling. Another name for this language is "Kinyarwanda" (I just discovered). I knew AMOS was Famous, but I did not know he was Wally (109A: Wally of cookie fame). I learned that the capital of Albania (also with two spellings—today's = TIRANE) has a boulevard that sounds like it was named after a "Superman" villain (71A: World capital that's home to Zog I Boulevard). I also learned that the OKAPI is "elusive." I've seen them in captivity; they don't look like they'd particularly good at eluding anybody (63D: Elusive African animal). Maybe this just means they live in remote places that people seldom go.
- 29A: Zero-calorie cooler (ICE WATER) — had the "T" and went with something-TEA at first.
- 37A: Language that is mostly monosyllabic (LAO) — I think I know only one three-letter language.
- 54A: Drain cleaner, chemically (NAOH) — I am chemically impaired, but I took a successful flyer on the NA- part, and the rest took care of itself.
- 63A: Movies often with shootouts (OATERS) — something about the syntax of this clue feels awfully unnatural.
- 79A: Hoppy pub quaff (IPA) — India Pale Ale, a strongly up-and-coming bit of three-letter fill.
- 105A: Paperback publisher since 1941 (AVON) — I own many old AVONs. Scores. Close to 100, probably. Besides getting my Ph.D. and honing my crossword skills, the other endeavor to which I dedicated a lot of time in the '90s was collecting vintage paperbacks.
- 118A: Part of an applause-o-meter (NEEDLE) — surely one of the greatest NEEDLE clues ever.
- 14D: Eponymous Italian city (BOLOGNA) — Seemed like it could've been anything. As I said earlier, that corner was rough. LEO II??? ROOTLE??? TYNER??? WEIGHER!?!?!?! There was a long moment when I thought I might be unable to finish. I started that corner with PIUS I and RUSTLE (at 21D: Pope Agatho's successor + 28A: Grub around). Ugh.
- 30D: Cymric (WELSH) — Ouch. Did not know.
- 50D: Skewed to one side (ALOP) — astonishing how easily this "word" comes to me now. An important bit of minor crosswordese.
- 63D: Capone henchman (NITTI) — an even more important bit of minor crosswordese.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld