Bengali who who 1913 Literature Nobel / SAT 10-15-16 / Swallowing worry in old wives tale / Directive in tennis after odd-numbered games / Longtime fitness guru Jack / Bechamel sauce with gruyere added / Small glass disk used as ornament in stained-glass window
Saturday, October 15, 2016
Constructor: Mark Diehl
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
Word of the Day: DRAGONET (3D: Brightly colored marine fish) —
Dragonets are small, perciform, marine fish of the diverse family Callionymidae (from the Greek kallis, "beautiful" and onyma, "name") found mainly in the tropical waters of the western Indo-Pacific. They are benthic organisms, spending most of their time near the sandy bottoms, at a depth of roughly two hundred meters. There exist 139 species of the fish, in nineteen genera. / Due to similarities in morphology and behavior, dragonets are sometimes confused with members of the goby family. However, male dragonets can be differentiated from the goby by their very long dorsal fins, and females by their protruding lower jaws. The Draconettidae may be considered a sister family, whose members are very much alike, though rarely seen. (wikipedia)
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ANT and MOSE and SMORE and ONES but ... they did nothing. Couldn't make any sense of the central conduit 31A: Swallowing worry in an old wives' tale (WATERMELON SEEDS) in large part because of the crafty cluing, which had me reading "Swallowing" as a gerund and "worry" as the object of "swallowing." What do old wives call the act of "swallowing worry," I wondered. I also wondered, a little, what "swallowing worry" was, but it sounded like a semi-familiar phrase meaning "pushing your anxieties down into a dark hole and not talking about them to anyone." Sigh. So I just jumped to a random place in the grid with short answers I could hack at, chose the SW, got AMO (38A: Latin trio leader) and MORE (43A: "Utopia" writer, 1516), bam bam, and finally got started in earnest.
The SW has a bad cross. I consider MORNAY and LALANNE a bad cross. I am old enough to know of Jack LALANNE (52A: Longtime fitness guru Jack), but not of how to spell it. That first vowel coulda been an "E" for all I knew (to say nothing of the end of his name, which I had to figure out from crosses). I do not know what MORNAY sauce is. I know what a moray eel is, and I know who Rebecca de Mornay is. But 39D: Béchamel sauce with Gruyère added? You lost me at "Béchamel sauce." MORNAY sounded French and because Rebecca de MORNAY confirms that the word MORNAY exists in the world, I went with it. Good choice.
But that was just the first bad cross, and not the worst. DRAGONET / TAGORE cross is really bad form (3D: Brightly colored marine fish / 19A: Bengali who won the 1913 Literature Nobel). Straight-up editing / constructing Fail. 8/10 on the Natick Scale (which I just made up and will probably never use again). I'm not concerned with whether you, personally, had heard of one, or the other, or both. The point is, those are highly, highly uncommon names, a species type and a proper noun of low general familiarity, crossing at a nearly uninferrable letter. The "nearly" is the only thing that saves this. I know that "dragon" is a word, and every other letter sounds wrong, so "G." Also, TAGORE sounded ... like a name I'd heard. I have a Ph.D. in literature and I couldn't pick TAGORE out of a line-up, which I take as a personal failing—I'm just saying, please don't try to convince me that that dude is well known. If his name got by me, it's gonna get by Lots (the majority) of solvers (per wikipedia: "his "elegant prose and magical poetry" remain largely unknown outside Bengal."). When you have a terrible cross like this, you distract the solver's energy and attention away from the other, stronger parts of the grid, and you sap overall good vibes.
Center was unexpectedly hard because STRONG was not followed by SUIT and CHANGE was not followed by SIDES. Even with _BLO__, couldn't see TABLOID (36A: Potential libel defendant). Even with ADS____, couldn't see ADSPEAK (wanted some kind of "sign"). RAS was an obscure no-hoper (26D: ___ al Khaymah (one of U.A.E.'s seven emirates)). Eventually I realized that the -NT at the end of the STRONG- answer was POINT! And that got the center unjammed. NE was toughish but tractable, SE was weirdly very easy. The end.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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