Saturday, August 20, 2011

Finnish city near Arctic Circle / SUN 8-21-11 / 1936 Loretta Young title role / Edible Andean tubers / French island WSW of Mauritius / Will of Bible

Constructor: Alan Arbesfeld

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: "Underwater Search" => Note accompanying puzzle reads: "When this puzzle is done, look for a name (hinted at by 37-Down [FINDING NEMO]) hidden 17 times in the grid, each reading forward, backward, down, up or diagonally, word search-style." That name is "NEMO"

Word of the Day: OULU (42A: Finnish city near the Arctic Circle) —
Oulu [...] is a city and municipality of 141,742 inhabitants (31 January 2011)[2] in the region of Northern Ostrobothnia, in Finland. It is the most populous city in Northern Finland and the sixth most populous city in the country. It is one of the northernmost larger cities in the world. (wikipedia)

• • •

I didn't even know this puzzle had a "note" attached until I saw a constructor friend's Facebook status update, which read: "Shouldn't have read the Sunday puzzle notepad." I assume he "shouldn't have read it" because it makes a very easy puzzle even easier. Ah look, another constructor has chimed in on Facebook: "I agree. I read it [the note], knew what the theme was, and decided I didn't need to bother solving the puzzle." So I'm happy to have been ignorant today. There wasn't too much pleasure in this solve, but at least part of whatever pleasure there was (for me) came from having to piece together what the nature of the theme was. It didn't take long, and it didn't provide much of an "aha" moment, but it was something. The "note" seems like over-explaining. You could've put the "hint to this puzzle's theme" direction in the clue for FINDING NEMO and left it at that, though even that seems like overkill. All you have to do is look at all the long answers and figure out what they have in common. Letter string? No, not exactly. Letter grouping? Yes—either NEMO or OMEN. Realize that the reversal must mean that there's something word-searchy going on. See other NEMOs. The end.

There was one sticky part in this puzzle for me: EASEMENTS (92A: Rights of passage) over LATE DATE (99A: Back end of a time estimate), neither of which I understood from their clues. I'm still kind of fuzzy on the LATE DATE clue. If it's the "back end of a time estimate," wouldn't that be "at the latest" or the "the latest date?" I can't figure out how to use LATE DATE in a sentence in a way that fits the clue. Clue on EASEMENTS is clever. Didn't see that "Rights" in the clue wasn't spelled the way it's supposed to be spelled in the familiar phrase "rites of passage." Clever. MEET, which traverses both these answers, was the very last thing I put in the grid (93D: It often has dashes).

There was quite a bit of strange fill. I'll start with ASMARA (103D: Capital of Eritrea), which is totally valid, as it's a world capital, but still—not your most familiar of capitals. Then there's OULU. I'm actually shocked at how big it is, population-wise. Since I've never heard of it, or seen it (much?) in crosswords, I figured it would be about the size of, oh, let's say TRURO (my go-to example for "town that is way too small to be in a damned crossword"). KECK was from outer space, as far as I was concerned (115D: Sergeant in "The Thin Red Line"). I know that title from the 1998 movie, which was based (it turns out) on a 1962 James Jones novel. There was also a 1964 film. And of course, there was the 1986 debut album from Glass Tiger, and the title cut therefrom:

Theme answers:
  • ONEMORETIME (23A: Again)
  • MNEMONICS (25A: "I before E except after C" and others)
  • ENGINEMOUNTS (38A: Attachment points under the hood)
  • NOTTOMENTION (57A: Also)
  • DIVINE MOTHER (83A: Part of the Hindu Godhead)
  • NOMENCLATURE (101A: Terminology)
  • ONEMOMENT (119A: "Just a sec") — nice double-NEMO

  • STATESWOMEN (121A: Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi) — never heard this term before. "Statesman," yes. "Spokeswoman," "Chairwoman," "Congresswoman," seen 'em all. But not STATESWOMEN. Threw me.

  • UNEMOTIONAL (43D: Stoic)

  • "FINDING NEMO" (37D: 2003 Pixar film)
[Please stop emailing me to tell me there are 17 NEMOs. I know there are 17 NEMOs. I say so up front, in reproducing the "note." I just don't *care* that there are 17, and figure you, or your (small) children, can work a word search. Thank you. P.S. remember to count *two* in "ONEMOMENT"—i.e. outside theme answers, there are only 6 to find]

  • 33A: Old turkish V.I.P.'s (AGAS) — one of a slew of answers from the Constant Solver's Bag of Tricks, including OCAS (107A: Edible Andean tubers), ARN, ENOL, ENIAC, -OTE, IRMA, SASE, "USE ME," ULAN, IT I, NO OIL, ELON, TRA LA, ROO, ESAU, ITT, SRTA, INRI, ROEG, and GRO.

  • 94A: 1936 Loretta Young title role (RAMONA) — The only RAMONA I know is Beasley. No idea who Loretta Young is or what type of production "RAMONA" even is. Hmm, seems it's a movie adaptation (the third one, first talkie) of Helen Hunt Jackson's 1884 novel of the same name. Yeah, I'm gonna forget that right away.

  • 116A: Suffix with planet (-OID) — I had -EER.

  • 24D: French island WSW of Mauritius (REUNION) — no idea.

  • 40D: U.S.A. or U.K. (INITS.) — old trick that still got me.

  • 54D: Lower layer of the earth's crust (SIMA) — frowny face. I've seen this once before, but still think it a pretty weak four-letter word, esp. in a grid with So Many weak four-letter words. But the Word Search God must be fed, I guess.

  • 78D: Will of the Bible (FERRELL)

  • 120D: Annual b-ball event (N.I.T.) — as I've said before, I'm very familiar with this tournament, as my home town University (Fresno State) won it in 1983.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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