Floating island visited in Gulliver's Travels / SAT 10-17-15 / Region beyond Karman line / Lilliputian informally / Exotic Now Voyager setting / Irish equivalent of Jane / Old English county court sessions / French metropolis near Belgian border
Saturday, October 17, 2015
Constructor: Timothy Polin
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium, once you get the gimmick. No telling how long that will take you...
THEME: OUTER / SPACE (25A: With 39-Across, region beyond the Kármán line ... or a literal hint to what this puzzle has) — all the edge answers are BLANKS and are represented by just a series of blank squares. Oh, and four intersecting 13s all relate to OUTER / SPACE:
- LUNAR ECLIPSES (19A: Sun blocks?)
- USS ENTERPRISE (11D: Setting for many sci-fi stories)
- ALIEN INVASION (49A: Recurrent "Twilight Zone" plot device)
- CONSTELLATION (4D: Hercules or Perseus)
Laputa is a flying island described in the 1726 book Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift. It is about 4.5 miles in diameter, with an adamantine base, which its inhabitants can maneuver in any direction using magnetic levitation. (wikipedia)
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When I finished this, I thought the "New Idea" was just a 13x13 themeless of no great distinction stuffed inside a kind of April Fools shell. But then I noticed that the long answers all relate to the theme of OUTER / SPACE, and my appreciation for the puzzle went up a few notches. It's a pretty loose grouping of OUTER / SPACE-y things, but it's OK. Also explains why the rest of the grid wasn't more interesting. Themelesses should be sparkly, but this one had a bunch of themers (it turns out!) so the mere acceptableness of the rest of the fill makes sense (theme answers, depending theme on density, really really restrict what you're able to do w/ the rest of the grid). Interesting choice to make those outer answers [BLANKS]. Kind of goes away from the whole astronomical theme, but gives an interesting, new, literal dimension to the OUTER / SPACE theme.
I got very lucky in solving this puzzle. I did the usual initial flailing one does when one wades into a tricky grid. Had some tentative answers (none of them ultimately correct). And then I scanned the clues for the revealer. Found it! But had no idea at all what the "Kármán line" was supposed to be. Something Asian? NORTH / KOREA fit. So did SOUTH. But couldn't get crosses to work. Then, miracle of miracles, I saw the 26D: W.W. II poster girl, which I think I would've gotten immediately no matter what, but which was Particularly easy for me because I had just watched "The Life and Times of ROSIE the Riveter" earlier in the evening. It's an important and astonishing documentary made in 1980 about women who worked in factories and shipyards during W.W. II. It tells this important part of U.S. history through interviews with five women: three black, two white, all unbelievably charming and insightful about their own experiences. I DVR'd it from TCM, which is focusing on women in film all month ("Life and Times..." was directed by Connie Field). ANYway ... ROSIE went right in, and instantly I knew the revealer was OUTER / SPACE (just from having both of those words' last letters). Once I put in OREOS, I found myself in the very unlikely position of having the revealer worked out ... but nothing else:
- FAIN (37D: Willingly, once) — [from Sidney's "Astrophil & Stella" 1]: "Loving in truth, and FAIN in verse my love to show / That she, dear she, might take some pleasure of my pain; / Pleasure might cause her read, reading might make her know, / Knowledge might pity win, and pity grace obtain." It goes on for 10 more lines. This is one of only three poems I have memorized cold. *And* I just taught it on Thursday. *So*, like ROSIE, FAIN was on my mind.
- FLIER (37A: Take a ___) — I say this all the time. I don't know where I got it. I don't if other people I know say it. I just like the expression. A lot.
- FALCO (36A: Singer with the 1986 #1 hit "Rock Me Amadeus") — I have been on something of a '70s/'80s Top 40 kick lately. Mildly obsessed, actually. I name-checked Bryan Adams in my Renaissance poetry class, that's how bad it's gotten. Seriously. I found myself saying, and then nearly singing, the phrase "Straight from the Heart" when I was discussing the aforementioned Sidney poem, which ends, semi-famously, "Fool, said my muse to me, look in thy heart and write." This is all to say that I have heard "Rock Me Amadeus" (probably several times) in the past few weeks, as Casey Kasem's American Top 40 (the '70s/'80s) is kind of my default work music at the moment. (Stream it here.)
Couple more things.
- Caleb Madison (ed. of the new BuzzFeed crossword, which debuted this past Monday) and I did a radio interview with the great Emily Jo Cureton yesterday about the state of contemporary crosswords. I really enjoyed it. You can listen here (roughly 20 min.).
- The BuzzFeed puzzles are very much worth checking out (Friday's themeless by 15-year-old phenom Paolo Pasco was particularly impressive) (get it here) (read about it here). Another puzzle debuted this week too—HIGH:low, a biweekly (free!) themeless puzzle by the super-talented K. Austin Collins (currently Ph.D.-ing at Princeton). The main idea is low word-count, high quality. Sign up to have the puzzle delivered right to your inbox on the 1st and 15th of every month. I solved (and wrote about) HIGH:low #1, and it was really entertaining.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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