Newswoman Mitchell / MON 4-28-14 / Sneakers since 1916 / English cathedral town / Roush of Baseball Hall of Fame / Hamburger chain that offers the Baconator
Monday, April 28, 2014
Constructor: Jim Modney
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: BODY DOUBLES (35A: Star stand-ins … or a hint to 17-, 25-, 48- and 58-Across?) — "body" parts that are "doubled" in expressions related to competition
- 17A: Direct, as competition (HEAD-TO-HEAD)
- 25A: 17-Across, literally (Fr.) (TÊTE-À-TÊTE)
- 48A: 58-Across, literally: Sp. (MANO A MANO)
- 58A: Direct, as combat (HAND-TO-HAND)
The Cairn Terrier is one of the oldest of the terrier breeds, originating in the Scottish Highlands and recognized as one of Scotland's earliest working dogs. The breed is commonly used for hunting and burrowing prey among the cairns.Although the breed had existed long before, the name Cairn Terrier was a compromise suggestion after the breed was originally brought to official shows in the United Kingdom in 1909 under the name Short-haired Skye terriers. This name was not acceptable to The Kennel Club due to opposition from Skye Terrier breeders, and the name Cairn Terrier was suggested as an alternative. They are usually left-pawed, which has been shown in dogs to correlate to superior performance in tasks related to scent. Cairn Terriers are ratters. (wikipedia)
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TÊTE-À-TÊTE does not express competition or combat, in English. It is a private, face-to-face (hey, more body doubling!) conversation. So the puzzle gets a bit lop-sided there. Otherwise, I like the way the revealer works—snappy phrase repurposed as a literal expression of the theme. Also, the fill is good. Puzzle is well put together, and the non-theme fill is even somewhat interesting in places (especially for a Monday). Not to fond of ESQS, but it's probably worth it for that nice double-Q action in the longer Downs. Lots of Scrabbliness in this one, but fill quality is not sacrificed (I'm just looking the other way on ESQS). See the "J" down there? In the NINJA / ANJOU crossing? No fill was harmed in the making of that crossing. Approved.
The nature of the theme, with all its doubling, made it especially easy. I walked to a 2:42 solving time, and the people whose times are usually closest to mine on the NYT applet actually beat me. Main hold-up came while I was trying to exit the NW–couldn't get the first themer off of HEADT-, for some reason, so I just whacked at the rest with crosses til it was obvious (at that point I hadn't seen the revealer). I was helped along by some Super Solver Secret Weapons, i.e. knowing ELY right off the bat (29D: English cathedral town), as well as EDD (53A: Roush of the Baseball Hall of Fame), ANIME (51A: Japanese cartoon art), and a few other assorted answers. Hey, did you know TOADS hibernate? Yeah. It's true. I just learned that … somewhere.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld