Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Singer Green with multiple Grammys / THU 9-1-11 / Auto slogan beginning in 2000 / Negotiations of 1977-79 / Never finished only abandoned Paul Valery

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: Double Double — Five answers are phrases wherein a word is doubled (e.g. "Pizza Pizza!"). Instead of being written out completely, the phrase doubles up on itself, such that each square contains pairs of every letter in the repeated word. These double-letters work for all the Down crosses.

Word of the Day: POMONA College (46A: Southern California college) —

Pomona College is a private, residential, liberal arts college in Claremont, California. Founded in 1887 in Pomona, California by a group of Congregationalists, the college moved to Claremont in 1889 to the site of a hotel, retaining its name. The school enrolls 1,548 students. // The founding member of the Claremont Colleges, Pomona is a non-sectarian, coeducational school. Its founders strove to create "a college of the New England type". In order to reach this goal, the board of trustees included graduates of Williams, Dartmouth, Colby and Yale. Since 1925, the Claremont Colleges, which have grown to include five undergraduate and two graduate institutions, have provided Pomona's student body with the resources of a larger university while preserving the closeness of a small college. (wikipedia)

• • •

Nice way to start the new month. There are very few things about this puzzle that I did not like. At the outset, I had that creepy feeling you sometimes get when you're able to solve chunks of the grid but completely unable to make sense of others. The "something's going on and I don't know what it is, dammit" feeling. The NW, in particular, was killing me. Solved stuff to the east and south of it, but couldn't do anything with that tiny little corner. S---PMINES meant nothing to me at first (17A: Eco-unfriendly coal sources). SWAMP MINES??? Had to abandon it and wander off. Ran into the theme the way a pedestrian smart-phone user might run into street sign or telephone pole or other human being. Out of frustration, I just went with BASH (10A: Blowout) (could've been, I don't know, FETE or GALA or something) and then tried SNOB and then got ULNA and somewhere in here I figured out how [Auto slogan beginning in 2000] could be "ZOOM ZOOM," which I'd wanted from the moment I first read the clue. SNOB became SNOOT and then in went ALOOF and I was off. Puzzle was much easier thereafter. Finally figured out STRIP MINES and then (for once!) knowing the theme helped me get POOHx2 and the NW went out like a lamb.

EEXXCCUUSSEESS across the middle is really incredible, especially considering all the crosses work so well, and two of them are quite long. Also wonderful that there are so many interesting longer answers: STRIP MINES, THIS END UP, FALSE GODS. Even REGIFTS made me happy—that's a nice clue: 21A: Acts frugally around the holidays, say. The criticisms I have are minor. A REACH — that indef. article just hurts me. It really does. That's a partial trying to pretend it's not a partial. Also, BABY DIAPER? No possessive? Is this in contradistinction to ADULT DIAPER? Because BABY DIAPER (62A: It may be hard to change) feels like BABY MAMA, which is slang (as well as a Tina Fey / Amy Pohler movie). Feels awkward to me. But otherwise, I got nothing. I love this puzzle. Really inventive.

Theme answers:
  • 14A: Deprecate (POOH POOH)

  • 19A: Auto slogan beginning in 2000 ("ZOOM ZOOM")

  • 41A: "Stop avoiding responsibility!" ("EXCUSES, EXCUSES!")

  • 61A: Looney Tunes sound (BEEP BEEP)

  • 70A: Pacific capital (PAGO PAGO)

Except for figuring out the theme, the only trouble I had involved names, and it didn't last long. At first I thought the HAMMS (13D: Twin gymnasts Paul and Morgan) were the HAHNS. I knew they had the same name as a famous woman, but I went with violinist Hilary HAHN over soccer star Mia HAMM. I also didn't know ACHESON (56A: Secretary of State between Marshall and Dulles). But then I did. It was weird. Had the -SON and thought, "ugh, bygone Secretaries of State." But then the God of Crosswords Gone By smote me upside the head, and ACHESON came to me as if out of nowhere. Probably didn't need him, since I got BEEP BEEP pretty easily and could work out all the Downs in that section from there, but it was nice to know my brain has mysterious hidden powers that occasionally turn on.

  • 45A: It's never finished, only abandoned, per Paul Valéry (POEM) — notice: not A POEM. Just: POEM. I studied French POEMs at a southern California college, once upon a time. Then I switched to English because my French, even after 7 years, just sucked.

  • 23A: Deep Blue's opponent in chess (KASPAROV) — one name that did not confound me. Got it off the "-AR-," mostly because KASPAROV is one of the quite small number of chess players I can name, and he fit.

  • 25D: Negotiations of 1977-79 (SALT II) — another answer (again, like ACHESON, from American history) that just wasn't there ... and then was. It's not uncommon in crosswords because of it convenient / unusual "II" ending combined with other, common letters.

  • 26D: Ad Council output, for short (PSA) — Public Service Announcement. These generally involve the sanctimonious pointing out of the obvious. "Thanks, David Schwimmer! I *will* read to my kids!"

  • 65D: Onetime name in late-night TV (PAAR) — Oh man, just realized I *really* misread this. Somehow the clue registered as "One-named name in late-night TV." After CONAN, I was at a loss. Considered JIMMY because of the two "M"s ... Still didn't fit.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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