Ancient Mideast language / WED 12-25-13 / Aa pahoehoe / Rebellious region of Caucasus / Via main street of ancient Rome / Perino George W Bush's last press secretary / Anything 1994 Nick Nolte Albert Brooks film / Second-highest peak in Cascades
Wednesday, December 25, 2013
Constructor: Jacob Stulberg
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
Ossetia (// Ossetic: Ир, Ирыстон Ir, Iryston; Russian: Осетия, Osetiya; Georgian: ოსეთი,Oset'i) is an ethnolinguistic region located on both sides of the Greater Caucasus Mountains, largely inhabited by the Ossetians. The Ossetian language is part of the Eastern Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages family. The Ossetian-speaking area south of the main Caucasus ridge is recognized by most countries as within the borders of Georgia, but under the control of the Russian-backed de facto government of the Republic of South Ossetia. The northern portion of the region consists of the republic of North Ossetia–Alania within the Russian Federation. (wikipedia)
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FIVE GOLDEN RINGS is a perfect (i.e. grid-spanning) 15. It also works very well as a theme revealer. These aren't really rings, though. They're squares. I'm sure you could draw a circle that technically touched all the letters involved, but rings are rings and squares are squares and these are squares. Still, it's a cute idea, and it's probably close enough for horseshoes and hand grenades, ring-wise. I don't know what a Golden HORN is. Turns out it's the "inlet of the Bosporus dividing the city of Istanbul." Cool. Good to know. The fill on this one is average to below-average, but that's largely due to the theme, which sets up major restrictions all over the grid. I'm not sure that excuses the atrocious EAU DE, but it probably does excuse (or at least explain) the SSRS SYS SYRIAC business, or STET EELS, or DONEE ALEE I'LL DO ELL, etc. Actually, KABUKI (9D: Japanese dance-drama) is quite a nice answer. Always good to be able to shoehorn a winner into such a thematically dense grid.
This one played harder than normal for me. Couldn't remember Monsieur HULOT (more used to seeing TATI's name than his character's name in the grid). Had the squirrels eating SUET there for a bit. OSSETIA was slow coming, largely because I know the "rebellious region" as *South* OSSETIA and can't remember ever hearing OSSETIA on its own. Had SYRIAN instead of SYRIAC. You'd think that corner could've been worked out in SYRIAN's favor—would've been a major improvement. No one likes running into an [Ancient Mideast language]. Plural LAVAS is probably something a grid could also do without, though it's mildly interesting that there are, in fact, multiple kinds of lava, and that they have such curious (and, unsurprisingly, Hawaiian) names (29D: Aa and pahoehoe).
OK then. That's all.
Merry Christmas to all who celebrate (or simply appreciate the down time)
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld