Winner of annual posedown / SAT 8-16-14 / Genre for Django Reinhardt / 1959 #1 hit for Fleetwoods / Eric Cartman's mom on South Park / Next President comedian / 2009 Grammy winner for Crack Bottle
Saturday, August 16, 2014
Constructor: Peter Broda
Relative difficulty: Medium for me, but this will vary widely today...
Word of the Day: VITUS (26A: One of saintdom's Fourteen Holy Helpers) —
Saint Vitus / /, according to Christian legend, was a Christian saint from Sicily. He died as a martyrduring the persecution of Christians by co-ruling Roman Emperors Diocletian and Maximian in 303. Vitus is counted as one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers of the Roman Catholic Church.Saint Vitus' Day is celebrated on 15 June. In places where the Julian Calendar is used, this date coincides, in the 20th and 21st centuries, with 28 June on the Gregorian Calendar.In the late Middle Ages, people in Germany and countries such as Latvia celebrated the feast of Vitus by dancing before his statue. This dancing became popular and the name "Saint Vitus Dance" was given to theneurological disorder Sydenham's chorea. It also led to Vitus being considered the patron saint of dancers and of entertainers in general.
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The Cross Nerd, which ceased regular production earlier this summer but seems poised to maintain irregular production (you can sign up for his Google Group and get new puzzles sent free, right to your Inbox). I gave one of Peter's puzzles Puzzle of the Week honors back in March, and he's been on the short list many other weeks this year. I generally think of his stuff as slightly too edgy or avant-garde for the NYT, so I'm glad in this case that I was wrong. This is a fresh and colorful puzzle, one that abounds in lively longer words and phrases. He's got a great ear for modern colloquialisms, and this lends his puzzles a lot of character and charm. Sure, AHA MOMENT's been done before, but "NOT YOU TOO!" and "DID I STUTTER?" are wonderful, wish-I'd-thought-of-it phrases, and even short ordinary stuff like META (41A: Like some horror films, in modern lingo) and GUMS (28A: Windbags beat them) is jazzed up by clues that situate those words in the context of the slangy way people talk. Common turns of phrase are something an observant, artful constructor is always looking out for. They lend unexpected pop to puzzles, and are more likely to make me smile than virtually any other category of answer. I love a deep dictionary cut like PTARMIGAN, but there's something magical about an answer rooted in the vagaries of human speech. Makes the puzzle feel alive.
Yes, there are weak spots. SAME'S and ELSE'S are particularly insidious S-ending contractions, and MESS TENTS is just a giant safety net of 1-point letters. ENATE never excited anyone, IDI and OTERI are hoary, and RST YOO must be kidding. Still, there's just too much good for any of that smaller stuff to matter much. I don't like the choice to cross IAN and LIANE and then give both of them contemporary TV show clues (51A: "Pretty Little Liars" actor Harding / 46D: Eric Cartman's mom on "South Park"). That's the kind of thing that gets you into Natick territory real quick. But that "I" really couldn't have been any other letter, so no real harm done.
JUMP at first). So despite not knowing VITUS and thinking PTARMIGAN (3D: Prey for an arctic fox) had a "T" on the end (through a bizarre conflation of TERMAGANT and CORMORANT), the NW went down easily enough. Had a little trouble with the word after DEGREE—seriously considered MINES and MINTS before the (now seemingly obvious) MILLS came into view. Had DRAKE / CHEEKIEST before eventually correcting to DR. DRE / CHEERIEST. Bottom half of the puzzle was very pliable, in general. Hardest part of puzzle for me by far was uncovering (!) MS. OLYMPIA. First letters were both solid and (to me) inscrutable. MSO-??? The only famous MS. I know is surnamed PAC-MAN. But then EPONYMS and UNSURE ended up coming pretty easily, and I eventually set MS. OLYMPIA into place to end the puzzle.
I did not know YO HEAVE HO was a thing (2D: Cry that helps people pull together). YO HO HO, yes. HEAVE HO, yes. YO HEAVE HO, no. But there it is.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld