1937 film based on Gershwin musical / SAT 6-14-14 / Ornament at top of spire / River of Hesse / Teatro Costanzi premiere of 1900 / First person outside NASA to receive moon-rock award 2006 / Gathers on surface chemically / Ching preceder
Saturday, June 14, 2014
Constructor: Alex Vratsanos
Relative difficulty: Medium
Word of the Day: MONTE (30A: National card game of Mexico) —
Monte Bank, Mountebank, Spanish Monte and Mexican Monte, sometimes just Monte, is a Spanish gambling card game and the national card game of Mexico. It ultimately derives from basset, where the banker (dealer) pays on matching cards. The term "monte" has also been used for a variety of other gambling games, especially varieties of three-card poker, and for the swindle three-card monte. (wikipedia)
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GO ROGUE and ZONK OUT. Those are great. The rest is fine, with come clunkers here and there. The DENARII bridge from DANO to ITAS was probably my least favorite part. Though it will seem minor, my greatest coup was getting EDER (23A: River of Hesse) off the presumed -ED at the end of what turned out to be JILTED, and then getting ONEIDA off of that. Four-letter European rivers, long a staple of crossword puzzles, remain a confusing morass in my brain, lo these x many solving years later, so nailing EDER feels great, even though EDER is not what you'd call great fill. I needed that boost, because this puzzle had me frustrated from 1A: "Diamonds and Rust" singer, 1975 (JOAN BAEZ). In retrospect, I have seen this exact clue (or something close to it) before, but the only singer I wanted was Neil Young (who didn't fit). Why did I want him? What does he have to do with diamonds and/or rust? I think it's the rust/rush similarity from "After the Gold Rush" that threw me, though Mr. Young also has an album entitled "Rust Never Sleeps," but since I only just discovered that now, I don't think it had any influence on my initial wrongness.
Had SASH at 26A: Wound around the body? (GASH) and PENTE (!?) for MONTE early on, despite knowing that PENTE is a game played with stones, not cards. But back to MONTE—I'm dubious about the clue, largely because the wikipedia entry has a big "" next to the "national card game of Mexico" bit (which this puzzle just lifted verbatim). If you google "national card game of Mexico," the results aren't promising—mainly game apps and other sites all using identical language. NYT puzzle's own blog shows up on first page of results. I'm not saying clue's wrong. I'm just saying the immediately available sources aren't exactly resplendent with authority. Anyway, in case you needed reminding, wikicluing is the worst. Trust, but verify.
Worst self-maiming moment of the day: spelling IDIOSYNCRASY with a terminal -CRACY (undoubtedly inferred from the common governmental suffix). It's an odd spelling, I think. Do other words end -RASY?
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld