Japanese sword sport / WED 8-19-15 / Oregon city named for furrier / Egg-laying animals / Indira Gandhi's ill-fated son / Vaulter's hurdle / Instrument similar to cor anglais
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
Constructor: Timothy Polin
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium but with two hard bits (for me)
THEME: WATER / FALLS (5A: With 68-Across, what the groups of circled letters are famous examples of) — circled squares (or however they appear in your paper) form the names of five waterfalls. Circles also mimic waterfalls, in a way, by running level then falling (i.e. going down)
Word of the Day: KENDO (26D: Japanese sword sport) —
- a Japanese form of fencing with two-handed bamboo swords, originally developed as a safe form of sword training for samurai. (google)
• • •
RIBBIT (31D: Croaking sound)). I waved as I went right past YOSEMITE—a familiar national park that I grew up not too far away from. I didn't stop to think about what it was doing in those circles, and even if I had, I wouldn't have gotten it. I know there are waterfalls in YOSEMITE National Park, but when I think of the park I think of Half Dome ... I don't think I could've told you there was such a thing as YOSEMITE Falls. See also (eventually) RHINE and ... no, just those two. I knew there was an ANGEL Falls, but I couldn't have told you where (until just now, when I looked it up—Venezuela. It's the highest waterfall in the world at 3000+ feet, which make its relative tininess and very short "fall" in this grid adorably ironic).
So no trouble, until trouble. A little, at first: I am sure I've seen this ENGEL guy before, but I never ever remember him. I completely blanked on KENDO. As you can see, KENDO and ENGEL are next to each other, so that was problematic, but the KRAKEN was friendly today and got me out of trouble (25A: Sea monster of Norse myth). But then the NE: no. Just stopped cold because OVIPARA = not in my vocabulary (10D: Egg-laying animals), so no way into that little section, and then both BAR and OIL had (to me) unobvious clues. Also I forgot what a cor anglais was and tried LUTE as the answer there. VAIN was clued "?"-ishly. So that tiny section cost me probably 1/4 of my total solving time. I think of vaulters vaulting vaults. That's a gymnastics event, right? The vault. A *pole* vaulter vaults a BAR. Anyway, I remembered eventually that there was not a Suez or a hostage crisis in 1973, but an OIL crisis (12D: Subject of a 1973 crisis), and then that area resolved itself. OVIPARA is probably something I should know, but from a constructor's point of view, that is not great fill, or even good. That is "lord help me get out of this section" fill. Things get understandably iffy in and around the waterfalls. From TIAMO to ENGEL. But as iffiness goes, that section wasn't bad. OTOH OMRI TABU, also around a waterfall, also not great. You can just look around the grid and see this happening with all the falls.
When you build your grid in a way where you are forced into a terminal-V situation, well, you really Really limit what you can do, which may be why the last section I finished, over there in RAJIV land (33D: Indira Gandhi's ill-fated son), played so rough for me. I forgot Indira Gandhi's son's name I wanted RAJ...AH? But I also wanted the "30 Rock" actor to be JONAH Friedlander. [Sad trombone sound!] Wanted I LOSE to be the much-more-likely-to-be-said I GIVE. And then there's the manifestly not-great OCULI (34D: Eye-shaped openings) and then ... MEDOC. "And then there's MEDOC!" (35D: French red wine)
Fill remains bland, and these falls are at least partially arbitrary, and WATER/FALLS is *not* two words, but still, this beats Monday and Tuesday, I'll give it that.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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