Word from Arabic for struggle / TUE 10-15-13 / Quaff for Beowulf / Legendary lizard with fatal gaze / Japanese mushroom / Cru wine of highest rank / Gorilla pioneering in sign language / Journalist of Progressive Era
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Constructor: Patrick Blindauer and Andrea Carla Michaels
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: MAC- to MUCK- vowel progression
- 20A: Subject of the book "Revolution in the Valley" (MACINTOSH)
- 28A: Person who works with dipsticks (MECHANIC)
- 37A: People in this may have big ears (MICKEY MOUSE CLUB)
- 45A: Sioux shoe (MOCCASIN)
- 56A: Journalist of the Progressive Era (MUCKRAKER)
Word of the Day: KOKO (58D: Gorilla pioneering in sign language) —
Koko (born July 4, 1971) is a female gorilla who, according to Francine "Penny" Patterson, is able to understand more than 1,000 signs based on American Sign Language, and understand approximately 2,000 words of spoken English.As with other ape language experiments, the degree to which Koko masters these signs has been controversial, as has been the degree to which such mastery demonstrates language abilities.Koko was born at San Francisco Zoo and has lived most of her life in Woodside, California, although a move to a sanctuary on Maui, Hawaii, has been planned since the 1990s. Koko is short for the name Hanabiko (花火子 lit. "fireworks child" ) in Japanese, a reference to her date of birth, the Fourth of July. (wikipedia)
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MICKEY MOUSE CLUB makes a nice centerpiece, and MUCKRAKER's kind of a juicy word, but the rest of the theme stuff is just so-so, as is the fill. Too much crosswordese—all through the middle, and in that SE corner, and otherwise sprinkled throughout. Interesting move to float MECHANIC and MOCCASIN away from the edges by one square; that likely made filling the whole middle area much easier. Trying to drive 5-letter Downs cleanly through a 15 on either end can be a dicey proposition. Oh, wait ... now that I look at that middle more closely, I see that making those theme answers flush with the edges would've left a central Down answer with the letter pattern M-O-N, which is nearly impossible (MY OWN might work, though that's not great and also not in the cruciverb database). Flipping the positions of those theme answers wouldn't have helped either. So floating them away from the edge, even if the result is ENOKI (a piece of crosswordese I actually kind of like), makes the grid workable. It's awfully hard to drive a short answer through three theme answers. So the mess in the middle is somewhat understandable if you consider the technical problem of positioning these particular theme answers.
Really, really don't like KNEE preceding ON ONE. Awkward. Also don't like ADASH. At all. APINCH would not be legal, to say nothing of ATEASPOON, so ... no. I didn't know there was anything particularly cowboyish about GRUB, so getting started in the NW took an extra few seconds while I scrambled around until I found RITA. After that, very little resistance. I was very familiar with all the specialized crosswordese like ENOKI and CRU, and I once put KOKO in a puzzle, so nothing but my inability to spell MOCCASIN right the first time had any impact on my solving time. Finished just 3 seconds slower than yesterday's puzzle, and faster than any Tuesday I've solved in the past two months.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld