Four-time Pro Bowler Ahmad / THU 2-14-13 / Compounds with nitrogen / Eight-time Oscar nominee who never won / Hunters of now-extinct moa / Onetime Ebert partner
Thursday, February 14, 2013
Constructor: Jules P. Markey
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: OPEN DOOR (61A: Welcoming symbol ... or what each part of the answers to the six starred clues can do?) — two-word phrases / compound words, where each word (or word part) can precede "DOOR" in a common phrase:
- 16A: *Comfy place (FIRESIDE)
- 20A: *Alternative to a Crock-Pot (DUTCH OVEN)
- 27A: *Metaphor for a sharp mind (STEEL TRAP)
- 36A: *Gathering spot for the upwardly mobile? (ELEVATOR CAR)
- 45A: *Campaign from town to town (BARNSTORM)
- 55A: *Where a cast may be found (BACKSTAGE)
Word of the Day: LA PALMA (40D: One of the Canary Islands) —
La Palma [...] is the most north-westerly of the Canary Islands. La Palma has an area of 706 km2 making it the fifth largest of the seven main Canary Islands. The total population is about 86,000, of which 18,000 (2003 data) live in the capital, Santa Cruz de la Palma and about 20,000 (2004 data) in Los Llanos de Aridane. Santa Cruz de La Palma (the island's main port) retains many elegant 17th- and 18th-century houses, and produces high-quality handmade cigars made from locally grown tobacco. In 1815, the German geologist Leopold von Buch visited the Canary Islands. It was as a result of his visit to La Palma and Tenerife where he visited the Las Cañadas and Taburiente calderas, that the Spanish word for cauldron - "Caldera" - was introduced into the English language geological vocabulary. La Palma has "Sister City" status with El Dorado Hills, California, United States. (wikipedia)
• • •Happy Valentine's Day!
Here's something to get for your sweetheart, or yourself, or anyone you know who likes puzzles—"American Red Crosswords." It's a collection of all original puzzles (24 of 'em) to benefit the American Red Cross's Disaster Relief Fund. After Hurricane / Superstorm Sandy hit the NE late last year, I noticed that a friend of mine had offered to donate an original / custom-made puzzle to an auction that was raising money to help support people in affected areas. Seemed like the kind of thing a lot of crossword constructors might be willing to do. So then the potential title "American Red Crosswords" popped into my head (Red Cross + Crosswords), and instead of just mulling it over for a bit and then forgetting about it, the way I do with most ideas that pop into my head, I uncharacteristically pitched the idea to other constructors, and then to the head of the Red Cross (who is a crossword solver herself). Enthusiasm all around. Virtually every constructor I invited to participate said 'yes.' Patrick Blindauer took over puzzle-editing. Will Shortz agreed to write the intro. And now it's done and available for download (as a .PDF) from americanredcrosswords.blogspot.com. Rather than selling it, we're giving it away and asking people to make a donation. There's a link to the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund right there on the page. Please go get the puzzles, and give whatever you can. And if you could spread the word in whatever way you have available to you, that would be fantastic. Thanks! P.S. These are mostly easyish puzzles (think Mon-to-Wed. NYT), with a toughie or two thrown in for good measure, so don't be afraid ...
And now, today's puzzle.
This is a common theme type, but not one you commonly see on Thursdays. More Tues/Wed. Thursday usually throws us a curve, but today everything's very straightforward. It gets kind of Thursdayish in places, difficulty-wise, but mainly it's easy, and perhaps a little dull. One thing the puzzle does have going for it is theme density. Seven theme answers of 8+-letters in length is a hell of a lot. And thankfully, all the theme answers are real phrases (you can get some pretty forced stuff in a theme of this type, where both parts of the answer have to precede/follow a common word). Fantastic clue on ELEVATOR CAR, which I thought was going to be some kind of BAR. I was briefly excited about the idea of a building so fancy that it had ELEVATOR BARs, which is totally something I would require in all of my elevators if I ever had any. I did not care for a lot of the non-theme fill (most notably ECASH, EELED, and RELOAN), but all of that is likely an unfortunate byproduct of theme density. The denser the theme, the more restricted the non-theme fill. It's just how it works.
As I say, it played pretty easy for me, *except* in the SW, which was briefly nightmarish. I wrote in SABBATH instantly at 39D: Day of rest (SHABBAT). Deadly mistake. Eventually, HARD G (43A: What George lacks?) got me out of it, and it's a good thing, too, because I was *not* about to get most of the answers down there. LA PALMA? "C'mon Rex, how could you not know the fifth largest of the Canary Islands!?" Let me tell you how: thusly: [insert image of me sitting, with confused expression on face, at my computer]. EURO COIN is, I'm sure, a thing, but it hardly sprang to mind from the utterly non-regional clue 36D: New mintage of 2002. Had a hard time getting from the "plans" of 52D: Shippers' plans: Abbr. to RTES. Not really familiar with AMINES (63A: Compounds with nitrogen). So, yeah, rough stuff down there. But in the end, it was all very workoutable. Time was somewhere in the mid-5s.
- 8D: Four-time Pro Bowler Ahmad (RASHAD) — my first reaction: "Aw, hell, I don't know any pro bowlers ... Earl Anthony, is he somebody?"
- 38D: Oncology procedure (CT SCAN) — look, if you're going to go all *cancer* in a clue, there better be good reason. There was not good reason. This didn't offend me, but it annoyed me. You detect al *lot* of things with CT SCANs, not just tumors. Give me a cancer-specific clue, I expect a cancer-specific answer. Some people don't want *any* mention of serious diseases in their puzzles. I am not one of these people. But I do expect references to such diseases not to be gratuitous. (Full disclosure: my father was a radiologist)
- 47D: Eight-time Oscar nominee who never won (O'TOOLE) — I learned this very recently, in some other puzzle I was solving. Yay, memory.
- 49D: Hunters of the now-extinct moa (MAORIS) — yuck to the "S". (Full disclosure: wife is from N.Z.)
That's all, folks.