Dickinson with modeling agency / WED 6-1-16 / Elephant boy boy / One-named singer from Iceland / Coffehouse combo often / Em polly in literature / NCAA's Aggies informally
Wednesday, June 1, 2016
Constructor: Wren Schultz
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: diacritical marks — four of them in the grid, both as answers, and as the marks themselves, which can be found (if you solve on paper and care to write them in) at the intersection of four sets of words throughout the grid:
- CEDILLA (7D: Mark in the intersection of 58-Across and 43-Down) (GARÇON and CURAÇAO)
- TILDE (22D: Mark in the intersection of 56-Across and 38-Down) (SI, SEÑOR and AÑO)
- CIRCUMFLEX (45A: Mark in the intersection of 19-Across and 11-Down) (ÎLE and MAÎTRE D')
- UMLAUT (Mark in the intersection of 17-Across and 1-Down) (ÖYSTER and BJÖRK)
In Norse religion, Asgard (Old Norse: ''Ásgarðr''; "Enclosure of the Æsir") is one of the Nine Worlds and home to the Æsir tribe of gods. It is surrounded by an incomplete wall attributed to a Hrimthurs riding the stallion Svaðilfari, according to Gylfaginning. Odin and his wife, Frigg, are the rulers of Asgard. // One of Asgard's well known locations is Valhöll (Valhalla), in which Odin rules. (wikipedia)
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This is at least interesting. It takes a common crossword observation / complaint (esp. where the TILDE is concerned)—that crossing a letter with a diacritical mark over it with one that lacks such a mark is like crossing two different letters—and makes it the subject of the puzzle, with four crosses that actually get the diacritical mark thing right. OK. Interesting concept. There is some weirdness here–hilarious, to my mind—in that the examples for UMLAUT are neither of them actual words or place names. They are names belonging to musical acts. BJÖRK's, at least, is a given name. BLUE ÖYSTER CULT, however ... yikes. That's not just an umlaut—that's a "metal umlaut"! It's used "gratuitously or decoratively" in band names (mostly metal bands, hence the name). The most famous instance, to my mind, is the double metal umlaut in Mötley Crüe. I thought BJÖRK's umlaut was also decorative, but it's her actual given first name, apparently (Also, according to one very reliable source, "Thë ümläüt wäs ïnvëntëd by Ïcëländïc sïngër Björk ïn 197Ö."). Anyway, the UMLAUT portion of this puzzle is bewildering and funny. Which, I think, is actually a plus. Here's an interesting article on the difference between the UMLAUT and the dieresis (same symbol, different function). There really aren't many (any) English words with true UMLAUTs. Apparently, with German loan words in English, most of the time the diacritical marks are "suppressed." I'm just reading wikipedia here, so don't quote me.
The grid is choked with crosswordese, which is its main problem. As if AÑO and ÎLE weren't enough, there are old friends like RLS and AESOPS and ENE SLO SABU STR ILO REN. This incarnation of REN (49A: "Footloose" hero ___ McCormack) actually slowed me up more than almost anything in the puzzle besides another even worse piece of fill: CMIX (I miscalculated my random Roman centuries and started off with M...). As for the names of the diacritical marks not lining up symmetrically in the grid ... I just don't care. Concept is worth the "violation" of grid etiquette. Junky fill is a far bigger problem, and even that didn't ruin the solving experience completely.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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