TUESDAY, Oct. 17, 2006 - Alan Arbesfeld

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Solving time: 7:01

THEME: EXES - Clues cleverly reimagine significance of words with "EX-" prefixes, e.g. 24A: Schwarzenegger today? (ex-Terminator => exterminator)

Ugh, Rex realized at about 1 A.M. last night that he has the beginnings of an annoying head cold, currently residing in the right side of his throat. Rex not happy - like his printer, Rex is in Power Save mode. But the Puzzle must go on. And Rex must go on, as he must attend a reception for Camille Paglia in the afternoon, and then attend her public lecture later in the evening (when Rex will want desperately to be tucked into a warm bed with tea and comics). Such is his commitment to the life of the mind. Rex will now listen to XTC's Apple Venus Volume 1, as it makes him happy, and probably has mystical healing effects.

This puzzle was a pleasant diversion, solved in below-average time, in part because of all the free prefixes (exes, exes everywhere). A couple of answers I did not know or knew and forgot and now know again. A bunch more Pantheon words. And a brief excursion into the differences among ERIN, EIRE, and ERSE. Puzzizzle!

1A: _____-Seltzer (Alka)

Just what a sick solver wants to see first thing. A sweet little gimme that also recalls one of the silliest advertising icons of all time.
51A: Architect Saarinen (Eero)
32D: Belgian river (Yser)
50D: Longfellow's bell town (Atri)
73A: Gaelic (Erse)

A big crop of new Pantheon words today. EERO is Pure Pantheon material. The others are lesser gods, w/ ATRI being perhaps the most obscure and least recurring of the lot. I could have added 67A: One of the Aleutians (Atka), but I think that kid still needs to prove himself a little. I'm not sure he can win the big game. Can't get past that "K." For the literary record, the Longfellow poem, "The Bell of Atri," is part of a much larger work, Tales of a Wayside Inn. I don't have the energy to pursue the Chaucerian derivation of this work (sad, considering I'm supposed to be a Chaucerian), but given that the poem's full title is "The Sicilian's Tale: The Bell of Atri," I'm going to take a risk and say that Longfellow's Tales is in some way based on Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. I used to know someone who was related to Longfellow. Her name was Longstreth. I don't know if the LONG- prefix had anything to do with the family relationship, or was just coincidence. I do know that Sarah was sweet and funny. I think she's a lawyer now. Somewhere.

As for ERSE (Old-fashioned word for Gaelic), I always get it confused with ERIN (Romantic English name for Ireland), and EIRE (Irish name for Ireland), perhaps because they ALL RELATE TO IRELAND. Seriously, how many four-letter E-words do you require for naming aspects of your country and language, Ireland? As you can probably tell, I'm more of a SCOTLAND man, myself.

49A: Italian automaker since 1906 (Lancia)

Here's an answer our overseas solvers are more apt to get quickly than we North Americans are. I had never heard of this car, perhaps because the Lancia is available Only In Europe. They have a model called the Thesis, which, if you are or have been a graduate student, is the Worst Name Ever given to a moving vehicle. If you go to Carsurvey.org, you will find an oddly and, it turns out, unaptly titled page called "Lancia Thesis reviews, the most well written." I can't decide which is more "well written": "In 4 year I will buy another!" or "Beatiful [sic] and luxurious." Normally wouldn't snark at non-native speakers (I assume) struggling to put their car-love into English words, but if you're going to call your reviews "most well written..." - Makes me want to see the reviews that didn't make the cut.

70D: Nerd (geek)

This nerd would like to Challenge! GEEK implies a certain amount of technical savvy, which may or may not accompany Nerdiness. In my case, it may not.
5D: Ursula Andress film (She)

Hammer Studios 1965 version of the H. Rider Haggard novel (of the same name). I knew this answer almost instantly, and I don't know why, as I've never seen it. But, since it's got Ms. Andress in it, you can bet I'm going to Google it right now. Hello!
7D: _____ Highway (old 1,500-mile route) [Al-Can]

Did not know this. It's short for the Alaskan-Canadian highway, and according to this website, the highway is actually 1,522 miles long, it was built during WWII, and about 3,700 of the nearly 11,000 soldiers who helped build it were black men. Also, the highway ran from Fairbanks, Alaska to Dawson Creek, BC.

36D: Alternative to Rover (Rex)

Rex likes this, as his name sits at the dead center of the puzzle, where it belongs. He does not, however, like the implication that his name is especially canine. Rex likes dogs, but is not to be confused with one. (See also, Rex Grossman, who is technically a Bear, but who played like a dog last night, despite the Bears' absurd 24-23 win.)

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


mellocat 11:34 AM  

Been reading a while and figure it's time to pipe up that I enjoy your take on the day's puzzle -- very entertaining!

Your sense of the relative rarity of ATRI (and ATKA) vs. the other Pantheon words seems right on the mark. In my database of 6800+ puzzles I've got 108 ERSE, 96 EERO, 87 YSER, 20 ATRI and only 6 ATKA.

Thanks for the fun commentary.

Anonymous 12:38 PM  

What is "Dawson Creek, BC"?

Orange 3:49 PM  

ATTU is so much more popular, crosswordwise, than ATKA. No inconvenient K, and yet still so obscure to those who are not Alaskan geography buffs.

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