German-born photographer Barth / SAT 1-24-15 / Hungarian liqueur sold in green bottles / Traditional Japantown feature / Ancient Moorish palace in Granada / Meaningful language unit / Ohio university nicknamed Big Red
Saturday, January 24, 2015
Constructor: Kevin G. Der
Relative difficulty: Easy
Word of the Day: UNICUM (17A: Hungarian liqueur sold in green bottles) —
Unicum is a Hungarian herbal liqueur or bitters, drunk as a digestif and apéritif. The liqueur is today produced by Zwack according to a secret formula of more than forty herbs; the drink is aged in oak casks. During Communism in Hungary, the Zwack family lived in exile in New Yorkand Chicago, and Unicum in Hungary was produced using a different formula. Before moving to the US Janos Zwack had entrusted a family friend in Milan with the production of Unicum based on the original recipe. After the fall of communism, Péter Zwack returned to Hungary and resumed production of the original Unicum.Unicum is regarded as one of the national drinks of Hungary. The production facility offers tours which include a tasting session of the three different varieties (Unicum, Unicum Next, and Millenicum). Though Millenicum was a special edition, it can still be found at a few retailers. It is somewhat stronger than the original, with a slightly sweeter aftertaste. Zwack Frissitők is a pineapple-based version of the drink. According to the manufacturer, the original Unicum is no longer distributed in the US, having been replaced by Unicum Next (a sweeter, thinner-bodied drink with a more prominent citrus flavour), re-branded as "Zwack". (wikipedia)
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ALA / AWE, and from there, just finish the whole puzzle in one big swoop—across the NE, down to the -HIRT in LOSE ONE'S SHIRT, which lets you pick up STUDIO SET (aha) and HOME MATCH (a haha), and then DETECTIVE WORK and KIDS THESE DAYS become unmistakable, then LED ASTRAY and DIVE INTO down into that SW, then SEDATIVES and SWAN'S … NECK, maybe (yes), down into that SE corner, which is done in about ten seconds (not much exaggeration). Never even saw the nutso clue on UTA (42A: German-born photographer Barth). Speaking of nutso, UNICUM. In a supremely easy puzzle, that thing is a crazy outlier. Definition (as clued) didn't even show up on a straight-up google search of [UNICUM]. Apparently there are *other* definitions of UNICUM that google thinks I want to know more (including Urban Dictionary's, which … you don't want to know; let's just say it involves unicorns…). I had to add "Hungary" to the search to get this alleged "liqueur." Not great answer with obscure clue, which is weird, because a. it didn't make the puzzle much harder at all, and b. the rest of the grid is not only filled with much more familiar terms, it's just much better overall. This is a very clean, non-gunky grid. Had we ditched the UNICUM and toughened up the cluing quite a bit, we'd be in near-ideal Saturday territory.
It all starts from ALA / AWE, though. When I look back, it's that moment that propels me into the grid. Not sure where I'd've gotten into the grid if not there. Hard to imagine a path not taken. Maybe ELLY / SKYLIT. Maybe EVA / DIVE INTO. But neither of those crossings is positioned for maximum grid leverage. ALA / AWE sits at the front ends of a bunch of words in that quadrant. Got WELD and ETHEL immediately and then swoosh, off I went. Wouldn't have been able to push off with the same force if I'd started other places. My first entries were actually, as I said earlier, in the NW: HAS / YENTA, weirdly enough. That gave me MY WORD at 1A: "I swear …", which was fantastically wrong, but the "O" was right, and it gave me ON CD, which confirmed STUDDED, so MY WORD didn't mess me up for long. Only other errors I had were DEFACER for DEFILER, a misspelled VELURE ("velour"), and … yep, that's it. No, wait, I did have HOME GAMES before HOME MATCH. But IMED (one of the few less-than-great answers) set me right.
["Lithuanians and Letts [!] do it …"]
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld