Atomic clock part / SUN 9-7-14 / Expensive Super Bowl purchase / Ayatollah predecessor / Small flycatcher / Dutch Golden Age painter / Die Meistersinger soprano
Sunday, September 7, 2014
Constructor: Tracy Gray and Jeff Chen
Relative difficulty: Medium
WE works in the Acrosses; NS works in the Downs. Unchecked squares near the center of the grid reenact the same compass construction
Word of the Day: MASER (80A: Atomic clock part) —
A maser (//) is a device that produces coherent electromagnetic waves through amplification by stimulated emission. The word "maser" is derived from the acronym MASER: "microwave amplification by stimulated emission of radiation". The lower-case usage arose from technological development having rendered the original definition imprecise, because contemporary masers emit electromagnetic waves not just at microwave frequencies, but rather across a broader band of the electromagnetic spectrum. Hence, the physicist Charles H. Townes suggested using "molecular" to replace "microwave" for contemporary linguistic accuracy. (wikipedia)
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I first grasped, or semi-grasped, the theme with CLEANS HOUSE, when I knew that had to be the answer, but then it looked like actual answer was going to be CLEAN HOUSE. Naturally, this caused alarm in the Grid Patrol region of my brain, as I figured the puzzle had a major clue/answer correspondence error. But no—"NS" occupied the single square, so the right answer worked after all. Hmmm, now that I look at the grid, I think I actually figured out the cardinal point thing with the westernmost theme square, i.e. SENSEI / TWEEN. I'd written in TEEN, but couldn't get SENSEI to work in the Down … and then something clicked. Then I went back and cleaned house in the NW. After that, the theme squares were mostly easy to uncover (with only one little hiccup—see below).
PALEO DIET is great (as an entry, not as a diet). Mary QUANT rings only the faintest of bells—she's a big reason that section of the grid took me longer than any other. That, and the fact that I couldn't parse the compass points right the first time I threw ORSON WELLES in there (I put the "NW" in one square instead of the "WE"). A PEWEE (53D: Small flycatcher) is a bird, right? [Looks it up…] Yes. I had it as a PEWET for a bit, perhaps confusing it with a godwit or … oh, no, my confusion is much more reasonable, as there is in fact a bird called a PEEWIT (or PEWIT). Also known as the northern lapwing. NORTHERN LAPWING is 15 letters long, in case you're interested in that sort of thing, you crossword constructor types. Where was I? Um … MASER! That was the one part of the puzzle where I got every letter from crosses, then double-checked all the crosses, then just crossed my fingers that that was a thing. And it was! Thought 11D: Expensive Super Bowl purchase was an AD SPOT, not a TV SPOT. With -A-A- in place at 92D: Stick on the grill? I went for KABAB. So that was some kooky fun (real answer: SATAY). The puzzle in general felt clean and pleasant. Nice work.
Puzzle of the Week this week is the one I mentioned on Friday—Patrick Blindauer's brutal "Bi-curious" (an American Values Crossword production). Get it here for a buck. It will take you ten times longer than most puzzles take you, so your buck will go a long way.
Since I really dropped the ball on Puzzles of the Week over the summer, I'll direct you to Matt Gaffney's survey of his favorite puzzles for August (and July).
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld