Flaming Gorge locale / THU 1-9-14 / Lucy title character in Sir Walter Scott's Bride of Lammermoor / Richard War Zone Diary journalist / Rock Roll Hall of Fame inductee with only one Top 40 hit
Thursday, January 9, 2014
Constructor: Caleb Emmons
Relative difficulty: Medium (Easy, but having to do all that mental shifting was time-consuming)
[It's possible that BANANA PEEL (21A: You might slip on it) and PATCH OF ICE (48A: You might slip on it), because they involve slipping, are also theme answers, though what they have to do with earthquakes or fault lines, I don't know.]
[Is BREA on the fault? (38A: City in southern California) It's not a very big place, but that might also be a theme answer?]
Word of the Day: Frank ZAPPA (1D: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee with only one Top 40 hit) —
"Valley Girl" is a song by the musician Frank Zappa and his then 14-year-old daughter, Moon Unit Zappa. It was released on Zappa's 1982 album Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch. Moon supplied Frank with much of the content, speaking typical "Valley girl" or "Valspeak" phrases she heard at "parties, bar mitzvahs, and the Galleria". Zappa intended to lampoon the image, but the single popularized the Valley Girl stereotype nationwide. There was a significant increase in "Valspeak" slang usage, whether ironically spoken or not (not the least of which was the film, Valley Girl). This song was also included in the compilation album Strictly Commercial.The song was Zappa's only top 40 single in the United States, peaking at #32 in the Billboard Hot 100, although he had charted hits in other parts of the world. It is one of the most unusual Zappa tunes because of how relatively "normal" it is, and is played entirely in 4/4 with the exception of the 7/8 groove at the very end. (wikipedia)
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THE PUZZLE: This is an interesting puzzle, but there's really not a lot to it. You just shift the east half of the grid up one. The end. There are no theme answers except the central one. I'd expect some kind of themeish action to be happening in the NW and SE. Maybe a quake-related word or two? Something? So it's thin. It's well made, otherwise. Fill is clean. PEACH FUZZ is a great answer (3D: Sign of puberty, maybe). It's not as exciting as it wants to be, however, because it's really just an easy themeless that's broken in the middle. I've seen an earthquake-related puzzle done before, and now I can't think of where. I'm waiting to hear back from my friends with better memories. But the existence of other fault line puzzles isn't a knock against this one. The main negative for me, actually, was just the headache of having to continually reimagine, or revisualize, I guess, how the fault-crossing answers worked. There was a significant element of tedium there. This is not to be confused with difficulty, of which this puzzle has very little. The weirdest / most interesting element of the grid is probably the lonely little "T" down there at the bottom (65A: ___-square). One of the few times you're going to see a true one-letter answer in a crossword puzzle.
Picked up the theme at SHINY (15D: Glistening, as Christmas ornaments), or, rather, at MESS (5A: Clutter), or, rather, at the whole north area. Got UTAH and TONI to fit in the grid, but the obvious answers above and below them (MESS and BANANA…, respectively) just didn't fit. I already had SAN ANDREAS FAULT at that point (that answer was transparent), so the first thing I thought was, "oh, right, slippage." The rest of the puzzle was just a matter of making the necessary mental adjustments. What's weird is, before I had any idea what the theme was, when I was still moving through the NW and W, I was thinking "this is a nice grid … can't see the theme yet, but this is really well filled. Ungratuitous Zs. MUTANT (5D: Certain horror film villain). Good stuff." And then there was the theme. Which was fine, but, as I say, obvious, and more annoying than interesting or difficult to work out.