Hometown of TV's McCloud / SUN 4-7-13 / Backs anatomically / Onetime sunblock agent / Great 1666 conflagration / British soccer powerhouse / Legendary queen of Britons immortalized by Shakespeare / Gecko's gripper / Birthday suit enthusiast / Fleetwood Eldorado informally / Novelist who had two spouses / Scotland's Granite City
Sunday, April 7, 2013
Constructor: Matt Ginsberg
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: "Fitting Rearrangements" — names or phrases that are aptly described by their own anagrams (both the name/phrase and its anagram appear in the grid—sometimes intersecting, sometimes symmetrical); I believe the term is APTAGRAM
Word of the Day: ORNIS (71A: Local bird life) —
(Life Sciences & Allied Applications / Zoology) a less common [emph. added] word for avifauna
[from Greek: bird] (freedictionary.com)
• • •
This was fun. Please understand, though, that these aptagrams are *found*, not *invented* by the constructor. You can find any of these aptagrams out there on various anagram sites. The puzzle was pleasant to solve, but the fact that it involved no particular ingenuity on the part of the constructor means I can't bring myself to ooh and aah that much. Feels a little bit like passing someone else's cleverness off as your own. Getting some of the anagrams to cross is impressive, but it also introduces a major stylistic inconsistency: some pairs cross, some are simply symmetrical (mere symmetricality is much easier to pull off). Still, as I say, it was an interesting challenge to figure out the aptagrams. I'd certainly never seen any of them before today, so the fact that the answers are pulled from pre-existing anagram lists didn't affect my enjoyment at all.
Fill gets dicey in places, but overall seems pretty smooth. My only problem was with ORNIS (!?!?!). I also got a bit slowed down in some of the gunkier little nooks and crannies. The CTR / TRAM / RABE nexus, for instance, or the SETA / ABORC corridor. Everything else seemed to fall quickly into place. No, wait, I spoke too soon. The clue on AIDA? Yeesh (6A: Memphis belle?). I had -IDA and couldn't see it. Memphis was, of course, an ancient city of Egypt. Nothing about "belle" said "slave girl" to me, so good thing I could figure out that 6D: Grant, e.g. was AID, or I might have thought the belle was VIDA or LIDA or god knows what and just assumed it was some character I'd never heard of. Oh, I also wrote in EXIT LANES for SLOW LANES (121A: They're on the left in Britain).
- 31A: Procrastinators' enablers (SNOOZE ALARMS) / 3D: ALAS, NO MORE ZS
- 24A: College student's place (DORMITORY) / 116A: DIRTY ROOM
- 55A: "Decision Points" author (GEORGE BUSH) / 30D: HE BUGS GORE
- 79A: Galileo, for one (ASTRONOMER) / 54D: MOON STARER
- 42A: Visa offering (DEBIT CARD) / 94A: BAD CREDIT (this one is kind of lame, in that a lot of people with good credit have debit cards)
- 103A: "Great" 1666 conflagration (FIRE OF LONDON) / 63D: INFERNO OF OLD
If nothing else, I learned something about Anaïs NIN today (52A: Novelist who had two spouses simultaneously). And TV's McCloud (!?) (45D: Hometown of TV's McCloud => TAOS). And ABERDEEN (15D: Scotland's "Granite City"), where I once attended a conference. Gorgeous, but then I've never been anywhere in Scotland I didn't like.
P.S. in case you missed it yesterday, check out my conversation with constructor Matt Gaffney about a 1989 Sunday NYT puzzle over at David Steinberg's "Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project" website.