Academica author / SAT 11-1-14 / 1979 comedy set at Camp North Star / Husband of Elisheba / European Parliament locale / Porter Ally McBeal role / 1989 AP Female Athlete of Year / 1977 law school memoir / Apostle of Cuban Independence / Subject of tribute album every man has woman
Saturday, November 1, 2014
Constructor: Trip Payne
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: COVERT OPERATIONS — That's the title this puzzle was *designed* to have. Also, blurb was to have read: "No one said there was going to be math!" But fate and other nonsense intervened to give us this untitled puzzle with a condescending blurb.
Anyway, the basic idea is that the numbers in the themers relate to the numbered boxes in the grid, so you need to substitute the answers from those numbers and *then* read the equation out loud in order to make sense of the clues, ID EST
- BATTLEFIELD (19A: 81 ÷ 27)—i.e. PLACE (81A) divided by WAR (27A), i.e. [Place divided by war]
- NEUTROGENA (34A: 61 + 86)—i.e. PERT (61A) Plus RIVAL (86A), i.e. [Pert Plus rival] ("PERT Plus" being a brand name)
- REPEATEDLY (63A: 56 x 42)—i.e. MANY (56A) times OVER (42A), i.e. [Many times over]
- GROSS PROFIT (83A: 33 - 21)—NET SALES (33D) minus COSTS (21A), i.e. [Net sales minus costs]
Nelle Porter is a fictional character on the Fox television show Ally McBeal. She is portrayed by actress Portia de Rossi and appears in Seasons 2 through 5 of the show. A Boston-based lawyer, Nelle joins the fictional law firm of Cage & Fish with the ambition of someday becoming a partner. Romantically involved with partner John Cage during Seasons 2 and 3, she later appears mainly as a source of comic relief. She is also notable for her close friendship with Ling Woo, one of the show’s most remarked-upon characters. (wikipedia)
• • •
"Business Insider" profile. Shows the completed puzzle and everything. Big gaffe. So puzzle couldn't be used, and then [drama redacted], and here we are. It's a wonderful puzzle, and I don't think the title is necessary for many top solvers and regular meta-solvers. Actually, it may not be necessary at all, from an ease-of-solving standpoint. Whether you know the title is "COVERT OPERATIONS" or not, you still have to figure out that you aren't actually doing "math," but using the answers associated with the numbers to create phrases that would make appropriate clues. Cosmetically, I prefer the puzzle with the title. But you get what you get. And this is good stuff (back story aside).
I had no idea what was going on until I was done. Until after I was done. Like most of you (probably), I actually did the math. But I was bugged by [81 ÷ 27]. Why write it that way? Why not simply [9 ÷ 3], if we're just doing math? Made no sense… and that was beginning of the thinking that got me to look at the boxes with the numbers in them (the same way you had to look at the boxes with the numbers in them to make sense of the Patrick Blindauer meta-challenge from last month). When I noticed that the "56" in the clue for REPEATEDLY (63A: 56 x 42) was the clue number for MANY (56A: ___ a time), I thought "'MANY times …' aha!" and then sure enough, the "42" part was OVER (42A: Supervising). So REPEATEDLY is [MANY times OVER]. It sure is.
I started out pretty fast on this one, but then it turned out that I had to get Every Single Themer from crosses + inference. That definitely slowed me down. Difficulty level otherwise felt more Thursday than Saturday. No tough or obscure fill (except NELLE, ugh—I remain philosophically opposed to any and all "Ally McBeal" clues, and this only gets truer with each passing, blessedly "Ally McBeal"-free day) (37D: ___ Porter, "Ally McBeal role). Toughest parts of the puzzle for me, by far, were those tiny, mostly walled-off corners in the NE and SW. Somehow managed a good guess in the SW with YEARS leading to SPRY and things coming together from there, but in the NE I was not nearly as fortunate. Why? Well, I can't spell NEUTROGENA. I had it as NEUTRAGENA. Still seems reasonable. Anyway, as I had no idea what "Academica" was, 11D: "Academica" author was blank. I had it ending -ERA. So that effectively meant No Access to that NE corner. And since the clues up there were at least slightly vague / hard. I flailed around quite a bit before I put together the correct answers. Managed to finish and still be wrong. Had HOSTS for 21A: Lists for (this seemed reasonable from an Internet standpoint), and so with the NEUTRAGENA misspelling, my author ended up as CIHERA (™, by the way—it's my new pen name, and it's pronounced "Sierra").