River through Silesia / SAT 2-8-14 / Piece in fianchetto opening / Watchmaker's cleaning tool / 2013 Spike Jonze love story / Musical genre Poison Guns N Roses / Power to Surprise sloganeer
Saturday, February 8, 2014
Constructor: Doug Peterson and Brad Wilber
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
Word of the Day: POPOV (27D: Low-priced American vodka known affectionately (and ironically) as "Russia's finest") —
Popov is a brand of vodka produced by British drinks giant Diageo plc's Diageo North America subsidiary. It commands a significant marketshare among vodkas in the United States and competes in the low range pricing niche, and because of this it is also affectionately (and ironically) known as "Russia's Finest" among college students. (wikipedia)
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POPOV clue was apparently lifted straight from wikipedia (and feels it). Also, POPOV? Never heard of it. See also "fianchetto" (part of the "foreign stuff" that locked me out quite a bit), and "TRA poco" and PEGWOOD (?!) (7D: Watchmaker's cleaning tool). Actually, I think I mostly liked this one. It's just everything N and W of POPOV was irksome (and tough) for me. In case you're still wondering about 15A: Dieter's beef? ("ACH!"), "Dieter" is a German guy's name. I'm sorry, I (apparently) meant German HOMBRE. A German HOMBRE's name (synonym? syno-not) (19A: Guy). For the longest time, all I had in the NW was ASS and SHAMELESS. Wasn't sure that "millions" had, in fact, received B.A.'S in history (1A: Things millions of people have received in history?: Abbr.). Did someone fact-check that? Seems high. Tree with burs? &%^* if I know. Wanted ALDER. Is that a tree? Answer was BEECH. Eventually SPEED presented itself as the right answer to 23A: Ticket number?, and then I saw BATHSHEBA, and that was that. But being held up by short foreign stuff and off cluing really took the luster off this one. It's clearly far above average, grid-wise. I just didn't have the usual "wow" / "cool" feeling I have when solving puzzles by either/both of these guys. Only clue that really seemed worthy of them was the one on TEENS (49D: Nancy Drew never left hers behind).
JUKE BOX HERO" (the one moment of my solve where I thought "great answer"!) (16A: Foreigner hit in the musical film "Rock of Ages"). Rest of the solve was slow and steady, down through the center to the SW and SE (the latter of which was by far the easiest part of the puzzle, with gimmes aplenty (SLEAZY, MIRA, BRAN, HAIR METAL, EZRA POUND). Just watched the opening ceremonies of the Sochi Olympics, so the SOVIET UNION was fresh on my mind (lots and lots and lots of abstraction/symbolism in the opening ceremonies meant that the Soviet period came off as a time of … red … and hammers … I may have misinterpreted). Thought "Inside the Actors Studio" was on AMC so I had AMCTV in there for a bit, sadly, instead of BRAVO. But in the end, it was just me vs. the NW in a mini-puzzle fight to the death. I won, but not happily. ODER? Oh, dear. Four-letter European rivers apparently *remain* my nemesis (35D: River through Silesia).
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld