Eucharist plate / TUE 1-15-13 / Women's tennis champ Medina / Hip-hopper's home / 1973 film for which John Houseman was named Best Supporting Actor / Color akin to silver / Main part of Japan / Soviet launch of 1986 / Surfer girl maybe
Tuesday, January 15, 2013
Constructor: Peter A. Collins
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: FISH (65A: Something hidden in 20-, 28-, 43- and 52-Across ... or landed with the help of 1-, 10-, 37- and 63-Across) — different FISH are embedded in the theme answers, and then BAIT, HOOK, REEL, and ROD in the NW, NE, SW, and center, respectively
- 20A: 1973 film for which John Houseman was named Best Supporting Actor ("THE PAPER CHASE")
- 28A: Shortest paths (DIRECT ROUTES)
- 43A: Igor, for one (LAB ASSISTANT)
- 52A: Blindsided (CAUGHT UNAWARE)
Word of the Day: ANABEL Medina (44D: Women's tennis champ Medina) —
Ana Isabel Medina Garrigues (born 31 July 1982 in Torrent, Valencia), better known as Anabel Medina, is a Spanish female tennis player. She reached a career high WTA Tour ranking of No. 16 on 4 May 2009, and has won 11 singles titles and 18 doubles titles, including the 2008 French Open and 2009 French Open with Virginia Ruano Pascual. Like many of her Spanish compatriots, she is a very crafty clay court specialist who grinds to win most of her rallies. However, unlike most of her fellow Spaniards, she prefers to play on hard courts. She won the WTA tournament in Strasbourg, France, beatingKatarina Srebotnik in the final in May 2008, thus defending the title she won the previous year against Amélie Mauresmo. Her other singles titles came inPalermo in 2006, 2005, 2004 and 2001; Canberra in 2006; Strasbourg in 2005 and Fès in 2009. (wikipedia)
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This is a somewhat interesting twist on your typical "hidden x" puzzle—bonus theme material theme answers thrown into each of the corners. Makes for a rather cumbersome revealer clue, but also makes for a decent "aha" moment at the end. I certainly never noticed any part of a fish theme until I got down to the FISH clue, and didn't appreciate the extent of it until I was done. I still think that an ideal "hidden x" puzzle is one in which "x" touches ever answer in the theme answer, so "THE PAPER CHASE" sticks out sorely for me (because, to be clear, the PERCH has nothing to do with the first word, "THE"). And the theme answers aren't what you'd call sizzling or spicy or even terribly interesting on their own (in fact, on its own terms, "THE PAPER CHASE" is actually the *best* of the lot). But the grid is solid, with very little barfiness (beyond the icky partial I EVER). I CAN'T over NO USE is a nice juxtaposition, and HERBICIDE gives us at least one long non-theme answer with some punch. I guess ASH GRAY isn't bad either (41D: Color akin to silver), though it's not a phrase I would ever use to describe ... anything. Not a color I know. I've probably heard it, but it's not in my mental palette. It certainly took me longer to get that any other answer in the grid, including ANABEL, whom I'd never ever heard of.
Which part of the velcro is the HOOK? Are all the little plastic parts HOOKs? I don't think I knew they had a name, and I would never associate the word HOOK with velcro, though on the most literal of levels the word surely applies. In my head, they're just the soft part and the plasticy part. As you can see, I've never thought too deeply on the physics of velcro. In terms of answer difficulty, I'd say ANABEL is the most obscure thing in the grid (the clue makes her sound like a much bigger deal in women's tennis than she really is). PATEN (38A: Eucharist plate) and WAHINE (31A: Surfer girl, maybe) are pretty specialized kinds of words and could easily have given some solvers fits. I totally forgot the big island of Japan was HONSHU, though with a few crosses, I was reminded (10D: Main part of Japan). I got MIR instantly, of course, because despite having burnt up as a result of its deorbit in 2001, MIR continues to float around Crossworld, and will likely do so forever (24A: Soviet launch of 1986). I also got OAS instantly, but I had no idea why Honduras should've been suspended from it in 2009 (34A: Grp. that suspended Honduras in 2009). So let's see ... Oh, right. Looks like the OAS saw the removal of President Zelaya by the Honduran military as a coup. The suspension has since been lifted.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld