Screwball character on Simpsons / SUN 1-27-13 / Precocious Roald Dahl heroine / Egg-sorting device / Old barnstorming needs / Dramatist Sean / Paparazzi payer / Author who wrote about frontier life
Sunday, January 27, 2013
Constructor: Jeff Chen
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (roughly 14:00, on paper)
THEME: "Black Cats" — 9 theme answers have (apparently) missing CAT, which is represented in the grid by black squares (specifically, the four crosses and the central black bar)
- COPY [CAT] CRIME (30A: Offense that's provoked by lurid news)
- RAT [CAT]CHER (6D: The Pied Piper of Hamelin, e.g.)
- CRAZY [CAT] LADY (14D: Screwball character on "The Simpsons")
- WILL [CAT]HER (43A: Author who wrote about frontier life)
- TOM[CAT]TED (63A: Sowed one's wild oats)
- DELI[CAT]ESSEN (58D: Hero's spot)
- MUS[CAT] GRAPE (88A: Base of Asti wine)
- STAY[CAT]ION (76D: Modern R&R option)
- LATEX [CAT]SUIT (102A: Dominatrix's wear)
(intr) to cry or wail plaintively like a cat
[of imitative origin] (freedictionary.com)
• • •
I have a dinner party to go to tonight, so I tried to hand the blog off to a constructor friend of mine, but he had a dinner party to go to as well, so I just hollered at Jeff Chen and he sent me a .PDF of the puzzle immediately. Security breach!
I solved a puzzle with this same concept just last night. It was in the latest collection of Fireball puzzles (which you should totally get, mostly because the lead blurb on the back was written by yours truly). Even though I have a subscription to Fireball, I don't always get to all of them, so having the book is nice. Even when I find myself solving a puzzle I've solved before, I usually don't remember it that well and still struggle mightily to finish. Where was I? Oh, right, so ... I've not only seen this concept before, I *just* saw it. This allowed me to pick up the theme almost instantly (at COPYCAT CRIME), though at first I didn't realize the answers extended clean through the black squares. Thought the answer to 30A: Offense that's provoked by lurid news was COPYCAT. Then I noticed all those "—" clues throughout the grid, and figured out what was going on. Even though the puzzle was pretty easy, I found it very enjoyable. Theme answers were often playful and surprising, and the grid is built around some nice longer non-theme answers like SPARE TIRES (10D: Middle weights?) and PROP PLANES (72D: Old barnstorming needs). The one minor issue I had with the theme was, a couple of times, I didn't even notice an answer *was* a theme answer because the pre-CAT part seemed complete in itself. This was especially true of DELI[CAT]ESSEN, where DELI is a perfectly good answer to 58D: Hero's spot, and also true at LATEX [CAT]SUIT (102A: Dominatrix's wear). LATEX works great. CATSUIT was a bonus. STAY[CAT]ION and CRAZY [CAT] LADY were especially bright, modern answers. An easyish, clever romp; some roughness around the edges, fill-wise, but only around the edges.
Started strong with an instant gimme at 1A: Break in poetry (CAESURA). I teach the concept all the time (it's especially common in Old English poetry), so no problem. I enjoyed the other literary answers in this puzzle as well, such as O. HENRY (90D: Master of literary twists) and MATILDA (51D: Precocious Roald Dahl heroine). I thought the [Egg-sorting device] was a SEXER, but that's a chick-sorting person, so ... SIZER. No better or worse than SEXER as an answer, I guess. I have definitely heard of the BARENTS Sea, but that doesn't mean I didn't need virtually every cross (106A: ___ Sea, body of water north of Norway). "It's that sea ... that sounds like that other sea ... BERING? ... BALTIC? ..." First instinct for 1D: It may be spotted in a pet store was OCELOT. Pretty high-end, la-di-da pet store, I guess. WAUL was a new one on me. Wanted WAIL. Managed to remember VALENCE from the last time I studied Chemistry (circa 1986) (32D: Bonding measurement).
I think that's it.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld