Star in Virgo / SAT 11-23-13 / Spinal cord surrounders / Title name written on door of this legended tomb in poetry / Its main island is Unguja / Grammy-nominated Ford / Sound in comic BC / Sitcom pal of Barbarino Horshack / Great Caruso title role player
Saturday, November 23, 2013
Constructor: Frederick J. Healy
Relative difficulty: Easy
Word of the Day: PIAS (49D: Spinal cord surrounders) —
Pia mater (/ / or / /) often referred to as simply the pia, is the delicate innermost layer of themeninges, the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Pia mater is medieval Latin meaning "tender mother." The other two meningeal membranes are the dura mater and the arachnoid mater. Pia mater is a thin fibrous tissue that is impermeable to fluid. This allows the pia mater to enclose cerebrospinal fluid. By containing this fluid the pia mater works with the other meningeal layers to protect and cushion the brain. The pia mater allows blood vessels to pass through and nourish the brain. The perivascular space created between blood vessels and pia mater functions as alymphatic system for the brain. When the pia mater becomes irritated and inflamed the result is meningitis. (wikipedia)
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PIAS (49D: Spinal cord surrounders), which set up a near-Natick for me at 49D/49A: Board game with black and white stones (PENTE). Some vague memory of owning a game of PENTE as a child allowed me to guess the "P" correctly, but that crossing feels awfully rough. Anyway I thought the bad fill was minimal because I blew through this thing. But a constructor-friend of mine points out that this shape of grid is among the easiest themeless grids to fill, and thus the wealth of sub-optimal fill is probably not justified. He took me on a tour: TIAS, SOI, ZOT (!?!?!), SPICA, ANIL, PIAS, SAIS *and* AUSSI, TABUS … and he's right. They're all kind of yucky, and that much yucky has no place in a 72-word themeless like this, especially when there is nothing particularly original in the longer fill. This is a lesson in relativity—relative ease/difficulty can massively warp one's sense of whether a puzzle is good/bad. We will tend to love the stuff we ace and dislike (if not hate) the stuff that makes us huff and puff. Just because a puzzle has a bunch of Zs and Js does not mean that it's particularly good.
Why was this so easy for me?:
- JETS FAN (1D: One feeling 15-Across after Super Bowl III) — I knew who played in Super Bowl III. Thus, this answer went straight in the grid, and the whole NW corner came together quickly after that.
- "ULALUME" (2D: Title name written "on the door of this legended tomb," in poetry)— this is possibly the longest piece of crosswordese in existence. I also saw it recently, which helped me recall it with just a cross or two.
- PASEOS (42D: Leisurely strolls) — why do I know this word (as anything but a bygone Toyota model)? I just do. Crosswords. Sometimes stuff like this just sticks.
Everything else was just easy on its surface.
Nothing else here is really worth mentioning. Good night. And thanks to treedweller for covering for me yesterday.