Capital on Niger / FRI 4-18-14 / Art enabled / Blue symbol of Delaware / Add tiger's chaudron For ingredients of our cauldron
Friday, April 18, 2014
Constructor: James Mulhern
Relative difficulty: Medium (Easy-Medium for me)
Word of the Day: BAMAKO (48D: Capital of the Niger) —
Bamako is the capital and largest city of Mali, with a population of 1.8 million (2009 Census, provisional). In 2006, it was estimated to be the fastest growing city in Africa and sixth fastest in the world. It is located on the Niger River, near the rapids that divide the upper and middle Niger valleys in the southwestern part of the country.Bamako is the nation's administrative center. The city proper is a cercle in its own right. Bamako's river portis located in nearby Koulikoro, along with a major regional trade and conference center. Bamako is the seventh largest West African urban center after Lagos, Abidjan, Kano, Ibadan, Dakar, and Accra. Locally manufactured goods include textiles, processed meat and metal goods. There is commercial fishing on the Niger River.The name Bamako comes from the Bambara word meaning "crocodile river". (wikipedia)
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ET ALII, but I decided to drop CELLI at 10D: Parts of many chamber groups, and that made all the difference. EPOCH and then APIA came easily, and I saw straight through the enigmatic cluing at 10A: Art enabled (CANST). I did not see straight through the enigmatic cluing at 18A: Moving supply (LITHE) (great clue), but all the crosses fell easily into place. The one real stick point—the answer I had to come at from both directions before I finally took it down—was BAMAKO. Had the BAM- and thought "oh … no. African capitals. Crap." Actually wanted BAMAKO (despite having no idea where it was), but the "K" looked weird wrong at that point (my first pass at the word), so I abandoned ship and went back to work where I had started, in the NW. Worked my way steadily and easily from there, clockwise, back to the SE, where it turned out BAMAKO was right all along. So I solved until I ran into BAMAKO, retreated, and then solved again until I came back to BAMAKO from the opposite side. The end.
I like this puzzle, despite some wobbly short fill, particularly in the upper center and ENE sections. FO SHIZZLE reads as hilariously dated to me, but I still enjoyed seeing it (1A: "Definitely, dawg!") ("Dawg" also reads as dated). I like that the 15s are Downs in this one. Longest answers in themelesses are usually Acrosses. But aside from that little grid oddity, it's a pretty standard grid, with solid, somewhat above-average fill. Great clues help add to the entertainment value. I already covered [Moving supply] and [Art enabled]; I also liked [Something awful] for LIKE CRAZY, which fooled me completely, despite the fact that I use "something awful" in that idiomatic way all the time. I had MAMMAL for MARMOT (54A: Woodchuck, e.g.), and disbelieved that WANS was a word (36D: Pales). Otherwise, as I say, this was an enjoyable, largely bump-free ride.