Porter created by Burroughs / SAT 9-14-13 / Assistant played by Bruce Lee / Fuel for warp drive engine on Star Trek / First capital of Last Frontier / Ham's handoff / Basidium-borne body / Drink said to have originated on Lesbos
Saturday, September 14, 2013
Constructor: Jeff Chen
Relative difficulty: Medium
Word of the Day: Aldrich AMES (5D: Subject of the 2012 book "Circle of Treason") —
Aldrich Hazen Ames (born May 26, 1941) is a former Central Intelligence Agency counterintelligence officer and analyst, who in 1994 was convicted of spying for the Soviet Union and Russia. So far as is known, Ames compromised the second-largest number of CIA assets—second only to those betrayed by Robert Hanssen.While spending nine years working in CIA counter-intelligence, he declared an annual income of $60,000 but his credit card spending of up to $30,000 a month funded a lifestyle that included a new Jaguar and a $540,000 house (2012 value: $810,000) paid for in cash. (wikipedia)
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A snazzy Saturday puzzle. Really impressive on the cleanliness front. Very little to snipe at here, at least in terms of the fill. Pretty tame on the Scrabbly letters except for that 1A, which was definitely a seed answer, and which, like all 1As, can hold Scrabbly letters more easily than most other answers (since it puts the tough-to-handle letters at the beginning of all the Downs). Little bit of Scrabble-f*cking there in the SW, but the resulting fill (except for LYIN') is good, so no harm done. What's most impressive here are not the 9-stacks in the NW and SE—though those are nice; it's how clean the fill stays through those two rather large 7-(ish)-stacks in the puzzle's midsection. I also like the preponderance of colloquialisms and 3-word phrases. Really gives the grid some character.
PIZZA JOINT went right in, but after that corner was polished off, things slowed down a bit. I really really really have to learn to look at all possible avenues out of any given section, however unlikely it seems that they'll be fruitful. Today, I had the initial "T" at 23D: Temptation for Luke Skywalker but didn't even look at the clue when trying to exit the NW because the odds of my getting an answer that long with just the one letter in place are low, and my clue-looking-at time was (odds are) better spent in the east, where I had the initial letters for a lot of considerably shorter answers. Just playing the odds. Except that I eventually got bogged down, later in the puzzle, with the entire SW still wide open, and I had to jump into white space with no crosses to guide me (always terrifying). If I'd only looked at the clue for THE DARK SIDE right then, I'd've got it instantly and probably finished a good minute faster. Instead, I threw down INHERIT, and did a bunch of other stuff in there and when I *finally* looked at the "Star Wars" clue I had it 50% filled in. Got this horrible "Why Did I Not See This Clue Earlier!?" feeling. Gah.
ESSO clue (14D: Standard breakup creation), with its disguised proper noun "Standard," totally fooled me. Eventually just put vowels in that first slot, and was like "well, ESSO is at least a thing, so .... Ohhhhhh." Biggest snag in the rest of the puzzle was HTS—that clue is Ri-Dick-ulous (that is "ridiculous" + "dickish"). "O"? When was the last time someone abbreviated "Ohio" that way? Again, the rule with terrible fill (which HTS is) is "don't do stupid things to make it hard." Because now it's bad *and* I resent it. "O." The only reason "O" is here is because people specifically *don't* associate it with geography (which makes the HTS abbr. harder to come up with). Since "Oregon" is a state that exists, I never considered Ohio, i.e. never considered a state at all. Junk. Also, Broadview HTS — is nowhere. It's not famous. I thought "Oh, this must be some famous place I just don't know about." But no. Population 19,400. Again I say "What the hell?"
Also tough: SNL ("Celebrity Jeopardy!" sounds like a real thing), SPENCE (he wasn't actually involved in the O.J. trial, the way the clue makes you think), LYIN' (clued via Young instead of via Eagles), and JANE (6D: Porter created by Burroughs) (Q: Which Burroughs?) (A: Edgar Rice, of "Tarzan of the Apes" fame). Also tough—having east/west dyslexia, which I do. Hence GO EAST for 25D: Follow the sun? Hence trouble.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld