Ballerina of children's lit / WED 12-2-15 / Little name in 1960s pop / Horn-honking brother of old comedy / Calligrapher's purchase
Wednesday, December 2, 2015
Constructor: Alan Arbesfeld
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: astronomical puns — astronomical terms reimagined as non-astronomical phrases via wacky clues
- LIGHT YEAR (17A: Easy two semesters at school?)
- POLESTAR (25A: Lech Walesa, for one?)
- RADIATION BELT (36A: Attire during an X-ray exam?)
- RED GIANT (51A: Lenin, say?)
- SUPERNOVA (61A: Fabulous deli delicacy?)
A radiation belt is a layer of energetic charged particles that is held in place around a magnetized planet, such as the Earth, by the planet's magnetic field. The Earth has two such belts and sometimes others may be temporarily created. The discovery of the belts is credited to James Van Allen and as a result the Earth's belts bear his name. The main belts extend from an altitude of about 1,000 to 60,000 kilometers above the surface in which region radiation levels vary. Most of the particles that form the belts are thought to come from solar wind and other particles by cosmic rays. The belts are located in the inner region of the Earth's magnetosphere. The belts contain energetic electrons that form the outer belt and a combination of protons and electrons that form the inner belt. The radiation belts additionally contain less amounts of other nuclei, such as alpha particles. The belts endanger satellites, which must protect their sensitive components with adequate shielding if their orbit spends significant time in the radiation belts. In 2013, NASA reported that the Van Allen Probes had discovered a transient, third radiation belt, which was observed for four weeks until destroyed by a powerful, interplanetary shock wave from the Sun. (wikipedia)
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NOVA as salmon (i.e. a "deli delicacy") except in crosswords, so SUPER___ (and that whole SE corner) was oddly tough to get into. Eventually I got the theme and figured it out. At first I thought "oh, they're all stars," but they're only 60% stars. Still, it's a reasonable theme. Theme answers seem pretty arbitrary, but the clues work OK. Turns out I had no idea what a RADIATION BELT was. For a while, as I was solving, I had RADIATION VEST in there (you wear those when you get X-rays at the dentist, right?).
The fill has some clunky parts, but for the most part it's clean, with lots of nice longer Downs to give the grid personality. I had issues with ICE RAIN, which I don't believe exists. I mean, I've seen ICE and I've see RAIN, and I've seen sunny days that I thought would never end, but ICE RAIN? There's a reason it's clued [Sleetlike precipitation]—that's because it's called "sleet." I live in a place that gets this so-called ICE RAIN from time to time. We call it "sleet" (or maybe "freezing rain"). If you google [ice rain], freezing rain and sleet come up. So there. Further, LIE ABOVE and [Rest on] don't seem equivalent. The latter implies touching and the former does Not. If I say something's "on the fridge," it means it's sitting on the fridge. If I say it's "above the fridge," it's probably in a cupboard ... above the fridge. The books in front of me are resting on my desk. They are not "lying above" it. Etc. Also, if you google ["lie above"], the results are reasonably plentiful but All over the map. Math, song lyrics, golf. That's what's on the *first* page of hits. What we have learned here is no one uses "lie above" to mean "rest on."
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
PS somehow OVER (65A) being so near ACROBAT (which was clued [One going head OVER heels?]) (emph. mine) bugged me. A little dupe like that won't normally matter, but when one answer lies above (!) the other, the dupe is in danger of becoming irksomely noticeable.
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