Figure skater Mao / SUN 8-24-14 / Connie's husband in Godfather / Boccaccio wrote biography of him / Cantor German mathematician who invented set theory / Joseph Anton memoir autobiographer / Lane acting first lady during Buchanan's tenure
Sunday, August 24, 2014
Constructor: Patrick Berry
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: "Second Shift" — second and third letters in first words of common phrases swap places. Wackiness ensues.
- BLOT ACTION RIFLE (23A: Paintball gun?)
- LEI DETECTOR (28A: Device that can tell if someone's recently vacationed in Hawaii?)
- SLIVER MINE (33A: Narrow shaft in a mountain?)
- BRA OF CHOCOLATE (44A: Item from the Victoria's Sweetness catalog?)
- DIARY MAID (57A: Anne Frank, e.g.?)
- ERA OF CORN (73A: "Hee Haw" heyday, say?)
- SATINLESS STEEL (89A: Novelist Danielle without her glossy dress?)
- CLOD CEREAL (95A: Honey Bunches of Oafs, e.g.?)
- CALM CHOWDER (101A: Soup after it's been taken off the burner?)
- CROONER'S INQUEST (113A: What might determine if the moon hitting your eye like a big pizza pie is truly amore?)
Word of the Day: HARRIET Lane (117A: ___ Lane, acting first lady during Buchanan's tenure) —
(May 9, 1830 – July 3, 1903), acted as First Lady of the United Statesduring the presidency of her uncle, lifelong bachelor James Buchanan, from 1857 to 1861. Among the handful of women who have served as first lady while not being married to the president, she is by far the best known. (Most of the other women were relatives of widowed presidents.) // The capital welcomed its new "Democratic Queen" to the White House in 1857. Harriet was a popular hostess during the four years of the Buchanan presidency. Women copied her hair and clothing styles (especially when she lowered the neckline on her inaugural gown by 2.5 inches), parents named their daughters for her, and a popular song ("Listen to the Mockingbird") was dedicated to her. While in the White House, she used her position to promote social causes, such as improving the living conditions of Native Americans in reservations. She also made a point of inviting artists and musicians to White House functions. For both her popularity and her advocacy work, she has been described as the first of the modern first ladies, and her popularity at the time is compared to that of Jacqueline Kennedy in the 1960s. The presidential yacht was named for her—the first of several ships to be named for her, one of which is still in service today. // From her teenage years, the popular Miss Lane flirted happily with numerous men, calling them "pleasant but dreadfully troublesome". Buchanan often warned her against "rushing precipitately into matrimonial connections", and she waited until she was almost 36 to marry. She chose, with her uncle's approval, Henry Elliott Johnston, a Baltimore banker. Within the next 18 years she lost her uncle, both her young sons, and her husband. (wikipedia)
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BRA OF CHOCOLATE I was like "Now we're talking …" DIARY MAID was a bit jarring, as I'm not used to seeing Anne Frank used for whimsy, but ERA OF CORN was dead-on, as was CLOD CEREAL and CROONER'S INQUEST. The clues are particularly nice. Again, the rule with Wacky is go big or go home. I love the invented products in today's clues. I'm telling you right now that Victoria's Sweetness would do huge (Huge) business. How does that not exist already? A little adjacent candy shop where you can buy the perfect complement to Gift of Underwear? Somewhere there is an EXEC going "oh hell yes." And then there's Honey Bunches of Oafs, a perfect vintage Mad Magazine-type spoof name. True, this puzzle is not a jaw-dropper, but it's entertaining, and the fill (as always w/ Mr. Berry) is air tight. Could've been a bit more colorful, perhaps, but overall this was somewhat north of Satisfying.
Puzzle seemed to be of roughly uniform difficulty throughout, except for the NW, which seriously, if somewhat briefly, threatened to remain a wee white hole. Thankfully I had the LEID in the theme answer, and from that was able to infer LEI DETECTOR, because before that, yeesh. First pass at all the Acrosses and Downs yielded squat, plus I had a 1/4 dozen flat-out wrong answers. OILS for TALC (29D: Masseur's supply); BASS for ALTO (17D: ___ clef); OLD for SAW (32A: Dated). Couldn't remember where Ovid was from. "Virgil's from Mantua, and Ovid's from … from … come on, 20+-year-old Latin education, where are you!?" Turns out clue didn't care where he was from; just wanted EXILE. In the end, LEI DETECTOR settled things. But it was a harrowing 30 seconds or so.
It was a nicely literary puzzle today, with RUSHDIE and DEFOE really classing up the joint. And of course Danielle Steel. Didn't mean to overlook her. There were several names I did not know, but they ended up being names I had at least seen before—names that were recognizable as names one might have, as opposed to some dumb name like EDEL. I mean I know a GEORG Solti (98D: ___ Cantor, German mathematician who invented set theory) and a HARRIET Tubman (117A: ___ Lane, acting first lady during Buchanan's tenure) and a Carne ASADA (83A: Figure skater Mao), so even though I didn't know any of those names based on their clues, it was just a matter of a few crosses before I set each of them in place.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld