Manatee's order whose name comes from Greek myth / SAT 12-31-16 / Noble Italian family name shared by three popes / Preservers of plant specimens / Analogues of circuit solicitors / Cosplay fanfic are parts of it / Manhattan topper
Saturday, December 31, 2016
Constructor: Jeff Chen
Relative difficulty: Challenging
Word of the Day: UNOBTAINIUM (35A: Hypothetical miracle material) —
In fiction, engineering, and thought experiments, unobtainium is any fictional, extremely rare, costly, or impossible material, or (less commonly) device needed to fulfill a given design for a given application. The properties of any particular unobtainium depend on the intended use. For example, a pulley made of unobtainium might be massless and frictionless; however, if used in a nuclear rocket, unobtainium would be light, strong at high temperatures, and resistant to radiation damage. The concept of unobtainium is often applied flippantly or humorously. For instance, unobtainium is described as being stronger than helium, and lighter than air. // The word unobtainium derives humorously from unobtainable with the suffix -ium, the conventional designation for a chemical element. It pre-dates the similar-sounding IUPAC systematic element names, such as ununennium. An alternative spelling, unobtanium is sometimes used (for example, for the crypto-currency Unobtanium), based on the spelling of metals such as titanium. (wikipedia)
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HERBARIA (13A: Preservers of plant specimens) and SIRENIA (18A: Manatee's order, whose name comes from Greek myth) and PARADROP (52A: Delivery of supplies by air, in a way), it's time to rethink what it is you're doing. I liked the parts of this puzzle that were hard for the right reasons, but the obscurities were painful, as was VIRTU (16D: Knowledge of fine arts) and the THE of THE ANDES. And PELHAM, another proper noun nightmare (2D: The "P" of P.G. Wodehouse). I tried to read the wikipedia entry for UNOBTAINIUM beyond the first two paragraphs, but ugh, too much NERD CULTURE for me, and not the fun kind (35A: Hypothetical miracle material). The tiresome kind. The Comic Book Guy kind. Just because you have the world's biggest wordlist or whatever doesn't mean you need to use everything on it. Just go ahead and delete SIRENIA right now. No one will miss it. It is too Maleskan for this world. Kiss it goodbye.
If I just ignore UNOBTAINIUM, the SW and middle were pretty decent. I must've spent a couple minutes roaming this grid before I got my first bit of traction with ACE / ANACONDA. Started in NW and got absolutely nothing. That 1A clue (1A: Join, as two pieces of metal by application of heat and pressure) is like a parody of the "as-" type clue, i.e. clues that follow the pattern [Verb, as hypothetical object of that verb]. Knowing precisely none of the proper nouns in the NW meant that there was no way I was getting in there until I managed to back ERASURE and MISCREANT in there, and even then progress was slow and iffy. I thought the director's name might be LIN, but I hated that movie so much I've tried (successfully!) to forget virtually everything about it. It wasn't terrible so much as pointless, which is actually kinda worse than terrible. Terrible is at least distinct, and possibly funny or otherwise memorable. "Star Trek Beyond" was none of these things. Nobody's really sure it actually happened. It's more theoretical than actual at this point. We assume it happened, but did it? How would you know? Seriously, it wasn't good.
Botched the Battle of Marathon answer at first, which is slightly humiliating. Wrote in SPARTANS. At least I had ... the time period and general region ... right. Ugh. Do people really know [The TV network in "Network"]? Again, PARE your wordlist maybe a little. Is UBS supposed to be a pun? You B.S.? If so, is CBS a pun? It's actually more compelling, pun-wise, than UBS. Is [Strips to pieces?] a pun on "rips to pieces"? I get that BACON BITS are "pieces" of bacon "strips," but I'm having trouble identifying the exact wordplay in the clue. MISCREANT, GO-GETTER and PRINT RUN are fun answers. None of the rest of this did much for me. Seriously, if you'd asked me before I started this puzzle, "Hey, Rex, what's HERBARIA?" I'd've said "The ... uh ... area? ... near Herb?" "Herb's in a real bad mood right now, you're gonna wanna avoid the whole HERBARIA." I'll spare you my SIRENIA musings. Hope your New Year's Eve is swell.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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