Guitar device producing vibrato effect / SAT 1-19-13 / Religious emblem informally / Onetime spokesmodel for I Can't Believe It's Not Butter / Place without water in Mongolian / Comics character named for flower / Carleton College rival / Mediterraneo tourist locale / Statistician's anathema
Saturday, January 19, 2013
Constructor: David Quarfoot
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
Word of the Day: BILLABONG (17A: Backwater, in Australia) —
- A dead-end channel extending from the main stream of a river.
- A streambed filled with water only in the rainy season.
- A stagnant pool or backwater.[Wiradhuri (Aboriginal language of southeast Australia) bilabaǌ, watercourse filled only after rain.]
Read more: http://www.answers.com/topic/billabong#ixzz2IO8iqWyE
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[Deep-voiced introduction: "The NYT Crossword Puzzle ... is brought to you by ... Hyundai. Hyundai: New Thinking, New Possibilities."]
Klassic Kwarfoot. Toughish and entertaining with hardly a weakness to be found. There's a certain awkwardness / redundancy in the answers OPERA ARIA and TATTOO ART (more in the former than latter), and there's an awful lot of Es and Rs and Ts and Ss in that there SW corner, but otherwise the grid is just dominated by good-to-great entries, many of which have odd or clever or provocative clues. Normally I start with 1A, or I at least start in the NW corner and get 1A fairly early. Today I started there, but didn't actually get the surprising JESUS FISH at 1A: Religious emblem, informally until the very end. It was a nice way to round things out. I actually started with one of JESUS FISH's crosses—EPISTLE (2D: Missive)—which gave me AT. NO. which gave me OCHO, and I tightened up that area in then moved south via the lovely KING ME (28D: Cry when reaching the other side) to the WHAMMY BAR section of the program (48A: Guitar device producing a vibrato effect). Not sure how I knew WHAMMY BAR, but I did. If you didn't, that corner was likely Very hard. It was hard enough even *with* WHAMMY in there, but I ultimately trusted in AZERA (66A: Hyundai model) and EERIE (52A: Chilling), and that let me piece things together (really don't like the clue on PICTS, mainly because of the way "clan" is being used ... or maybe I *like* the clue for that reason. The PICTS were not SCOTS, so we're not talking about "clan" in the traditional Scottish sense, the way Stuart is a clan. "Clan" is being used loosely, generically in the clue, which I didn't expect given the Scottish specificity of the geography (Orkney). It's possible I know too much about medieval Scotland to enjoy this clue in an uncomplicated / unconflicted way.
Anyway, SE turned out to be a cinch, after SOUP helped me change EASY AS PIE / ABC to EASY PEASY (67A: So simple). After that, it was just a quick jog up the east side of the grid, and then back to the NW, where a serious stoppage seemed quite possible. Got IRONIC and SINGLET but not much else to help with the long Acrosses (of which I had none). Guessed MCCOO (!?) at 6D: Onetime spokesmodel for I Can't Believe It's Not Butter (FABIO). But after I guessed HAG, I was able to see BILLABONG, which (finally!) gave me JOBS ACT (1D: Governmental stimulus of 2012). That "J" was all I needed to finish everything else off. OPERA ARIA was the last thing I wrote in.
This clue has the most interesting and elaborate LANA clue of all time (37A: Girl's name that becomes a boy's name when the last letter moves to the start). No offense to the fine folks at ST. OLAF, but ... [Carleton College rival]? Is that in sports? Because in academics ... I'm not so sure. (I have one friend who is a ST. OLAF alum, whereas I have at least half a dozen who went to Carleton, so I feel comfortable smugly bashing ST. OLAF—but don't feel bad, ST. OLAF. It could be worse. You could be Macalester. Amiright!? Ah, I love a good Minnesota liberal arts college slam.
See you tomorrow,
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld