Polish border river / FRI 12-21-12 / Hans Christian pioneer of electromagnetism / Legendary creature similar to Sphinx / 500s in Dewey Decimal classification / Crabtree retailer of body products / Director Thomas H of silent era / Title girl in John Cougar #1 hit / Fitz old comic strip by Mort Walker
Friday, December 21, 2012
Constructor: Zoe Wheeler
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
Word of the Day: Hans Christian OERSTED (42A: Hans Christian ___, pioneer of electromagnetism) —
Hans Christian Ørsted (Danish: [hans kʰʁæsd̥jan ˈɶɐ̯sd̥ɛð]; often rendered Oersted in English; 14 August 1777 – 9 March 1851) was a Danish physicist and chemist who discovered that electric currents create magnetic fields, an important aspect of electromagnetism. He shaped post-Kantian philosophy and advances in science throughout the late 19th century.In 1824, Ørsted founded Selskabet for Naturlærens Udbredelse (SNU), a society to disseminate knowledge of the natural sciences. He was also the founder of predecessor organizations which eventually became the Danish Meteorological Institute and the Danish Patent and Trademark Office. Ørsted was the first modern thinker to explicitly describe and name the thought experiment.A leader of the so-called Danish Golden Age, Ørsted was a close friend of Hans Christian Andersen and the brother of politician and juristAnders Sandøe Ørsted, who eventually served as Danish prime minister (1853–54).
• • •
So, let's start with the good, because there is some. "THE BOOK OF MORMON" is splashy (17A: Winner of nine 2011 Tonys), and I'm intrigued by the MANTICORE in the RICE PADDY (who wouldn't be?) (32D: Legendary creature similar to the Sphinx + 33D: Certain irrigated cropland). I've seen GO COMMANDO recently (14A: Not be underdressed?), but it's still got a high freshness factor, and I don't believe I've seen ANGRY BIRDS in a grid yet, so ... congrats on bagging that one (58A: Fad of 2010-11). The rest did not go down so well with me. A 72-word themeless should be Smooth As Butter—the kind that wholesome maidens churn by hand. This one was Not. ICAL ACTER INO INCE — it's like Ugly Suffixes on Parade, except *only one of them* is actually a suffix. Also, generally, if you've got ugly fill, do Not attract attention to it, and do Not put your difficulty there. Just don't. So, for instance, the ugly partial ON ONE should not get the absurd and arbitrary clue [Two-___], especially if elsewhere in the grid you have used the word "ONE" in yet another absurd, arbitrary clue (i.e. [39A: One-___]=>ACTER). Honestly, I hated the word "ONE" by the time I was done with this thing. Then there's the ugly partial OR SEA—and oh, look, there's SEA in a different clue for an almost-as-ugly answer: INO (55D: Sea goddess who saved Odysseus). OERSTED is, I'm sure, an important person, but there's nothing inferrable about his name if you don't know him (I sure didn't), and putting him under another not-terribly-famous proper noun (i.e. NANCE) (40A: "Twin Peaks" actor Jack) makes that area a bit unreasonable. Really wish everything underneath SKYPE and extending to the SW corner had been torn out and redone. If you've got a cluster&$^% like ACTER/SROS/AROLE, esp. in a should-be-fillable 72-worder, it's time to rethink things. (Beautiful clue on SKYPE, though—36A: Ring with a face attached?)
[29A: Title girl in a John Cougar #1 hit]
Difficulty level was also uneven. NW went down in a flash, despite my never having heard of "The ICE PALACE" (3D: F. Scott Fitzgerald short story, with "The'). But then the middle and NE refused to budge. NE was especially irksome, as ... well, ODRA was up there, and that's never good, but my bigger problem was reasonable wrong answers at 21A: Off (ERRING) (I had ERRANT; better!) and 24A: Corrodes (EATS INTO) (I had EATS AWAY; better!). SALMA Hayek is the only SALMA I know, and she's Mexican-American, so 30A: Female Arabic name meaning "peace" was a total surprise. I had J-LO for 20A: Figure in a celebrated 2004 breakup. Then I got the -EN and though "Oh, they want the *other* half of the break-up: BEN." Uh, no (KEN, as in "Barbie and...").
I think that's all. Good night.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld