Old dagger / MON 12-10-12 / Milton leader to Uganda's independence / Kind of scale of mineral hardness / Cashew hazel in grove / Drool catcher
Monday, December 10, 2012
Constructor: Michael David
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: SIDELINES (21D: Where to find coaches at football games ... or a description of the answers to the 16 starred clues?) — first three and last three Down columns are filled with words that can precede "LINE" to make familiar words/phrases
Word of the Day: CONGA (45D: *Cuban drum) —
The conga, or more properly the tumbadora, is a tall, narrow, single-headed Cuban drum. Although ultimately derived from African drums made from hollowed logs, the Cuban conga is staved, like a barrel. These drums were probably made from salvaged barrels originally. They are used both in Afro-Caribbean religious music and as the principal instrument in rumba. Congas are now very common in Latin music, including salsa music, merengue music, and Reggae, as well as many other forms of American popular music. (wikipedia)
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Here's a sentence that I honestly uttered just seconds after finishing this puzzle and surveying all the different LINES: "Wait ... what the hell is an AIR LINE?" You'll be happy to know I figured it out.
This puzzle is impressive in retrospect, but not a ton of fun to solve. I only noticed just now that the "SIDELINES" implicated in the theme run three deep on each side. I only noticed the two at first. But solving it, I mainly felt "wow, there are a lot of 3-letter words in this thing and that is a Lot of black space on the sides there ..." Grid is definitely solid and some of the longer answers are even enjoyable (I do like a good SHEEPDOG) (47A: Border collie, for one), but the actual solving of this thing was only moderately enjoyable. The aha came post mortem. I guess that's OK—maybe that still counts as part of the overall experience. I will say that IRES is a word that should die and OBOTE (51A: Milton ___, leader to Uganda's independence) seems to be the new IDI, in that I've seen it twice now, both times in easy puzzles, and I can't remember the last time I saw IDI. Maybe I'm seeing him all the time and I'm so used to him that I don't even notice any more. But my gut tells me his appearances have been fewer of late. OBOTE up, IDI down.
I've been helping to edit a lot of puzzles lately for this charity collection I'll be telling you about soon, and it's made me oddly attentive to the tiniest details in puzzles. For instance, I would probably have asked the constructor to get rid of GAS (39A: Exxon product) just so that there would be no LINES that weren't SIDE. I know, nuts, right? This is the kind of editorial hyper-attentiveness that Patrick Blindauer (the editor I'm helping) has begun to drill into me. And yet I'm still botching bush league stuff like "make sure to the write the constructor back and tell her her grid is approved" and "make sure the grid doesn't contain duplicate words," etc.
Oh well. Live and fail and learn. Talk to you later.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld