Saturday, September 10, 2011

Ancient kingdom Asia Minor / SUN 9-11-11 / Death in Dresden / L'shanah Rosh Hashana greeting / Ad-filled weekly / Alabama speedway locale

Constructor: Kay Anderson

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: "Cornered" — theme answers bend at ninety degree angle. First part of the answer (before the bend) looks like a self-standing word, and the second part (after the bend) is clued as its own, self-standing word.

Word of the Day: RENIN (47D: Enzyme regulating blood fluid and pressure) —
Renin [...] also known as an angiotensinogenase, is an enzyme that participates in the body's renin-angiotensin system (RAS) -- also known as the Renin-Angiotensin-Aldosterone Axis -- that mediates extracellular volume (i.e., that of the blood plasma, lymph and interstitial fluid), and arterial vasoconstriction. Thus, it regulates the body's mean arterial blood pressure. (wikipedia)
• • •

Took me a little bit to catch on—saw that BRASS was in the "corner" of the puzzle and thought that was relevant (it wasn't). Then noticed that STRAW was missing its HAT just as BRASS was missing its TACKS (or KNUCKLE) — closer. Somehow I noticed that STRAW + WHAT = STRAWHAT, and that was that. I knew the theme. Rest of the grid just involved figuring out the others. I found the theme a little dull—I've seen stuff like this before, and nothing really held this together besides the turns (and the bonus "each side of the angle forms a separate word" thingie). There's some very creative fill in here — DEWY-EYED, JOHN GALT (95A: Ayn Rand protagonist), SKETCH OUT, PAN GRAVY (13D: Roast go-with), and "HERE WE GO" all stand out. There's also some "holy CRAP!" fill (IODIC, CETUS, RENIN, TOVAH) and then some "... Really?" fill (STAYER? ROSTERED? TROUPER?). I found the northern center — the whole HUNCH OVER section — really hard. CETUS, no. RENIN, no. Had D blank TEN and had no idea what that next letter was (53D: Classic McDonnell Douglas aircraft). Clue on NINE is absurdly hard (68D: "The ___ Tailors," Dorothy L. Sayers mystery). Very, very rough going through there. Mostly, though, I thought this was a fine, mildly entertaining work-out.

Theme answers:
  • 1A: *Nitty-gritty, as of negotiations (BRASSTACKS)
  • 6A: *Boater (STRAWHAT)
  • 14A: *Title figure in an Aesop fable (GRASSHOPPER)
  • 58A: *Work on at a desk, say (HUNCHOVER)
  • 77A: *Bracket shape (RIGHTANGLE)
  • 107D: *It's pitched for a large audience (CIRCUSTENT)
  • 35D: *Ernest and Julio Gallo product (MERLOTWINE) — wow, didn't notice this was theme until just now. Who is going to notice that MERLOT isn't a complete answer UNTO itself??
  • 57D: *Usual amount to pay (GOINGRATE)
  • 95D: *Part of a boxer's training (JUMPINGROPE)
  • 117D: *Common secret (PASSWORD)
I know RABAT as an African capital, but not a "royal African capital." I guess if it's a kingdom, then its capital is royal. Strangely, I wrote in CAIRO there. ACCRA also fits. Neither of those are "royal," but hey, look at me, I know 5-letter African capitals. Thought Susan was a SANDBERG at first. That's Ryne. Ryne is a Sandberg. Susan is a STAMBERG (55A: Susan of NPR). I know about Death in Dresden (or any other Germanic place) because of R. Strauss's "TOD und Verklärung," which is the work of classical music of which I own the most copies.

It was a great day for Asia Minor today, with both ANATOLIA (38D: Asia Minor) and LYDIA (104A: Ancient kingdom in Asia Minor) making the grid (know the latter only because of having read the "Iliad" several times ... or Herodotus ... dang, I forget how I know LYDIA). NYT applet continues to cut off parts of words in some of the clues, which made WATER DROP (118A: The dot on the "i" in the Culligan logo) hard to get. Had never heard of "Culliga" ... I saw "TALLADEGA Nights" and really enjoyed it (124A: Alabama speedway locale). TED Baxter is one of the ten greatest characters in television history (somewhere ahead of Frank Burns on "M*A*S*H" but behind Ron Swanson on "Parks and Recreation") (108A: Newsman Baxter on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show"). The greatest character is, of course, Homer Simpson. The only reason I know the term SHOPPER (18D: Ad-filled weekly) is because the main newspaper on "The Simpsons" is the Springfield SHOPPER. Makes its first appearance in the very first episode, almost the very first frame—sign outside Springfield Elementary shows that the Springfield SHOPPER has given the children's Christmas pageant "3.5 stars"!

Lastly, OLD LATIN probably sounds redundant to you (91D: Source of many English words that come to us via French). It refers to the period before classical Latin; so, pre-75 B.C. I bet you didn't know that. Hell, I didn't know that. Not the exact date, anyway. Oh, and MERIDIA? (112A: Onetime weight-loss drug)—completely forgot it ever existed. Phen Phen ... that was something, right? Fen Fen? Whatever, it's all shit you shouldn't take, so I never bothered to keep the names straight (or even learn how to spell them properly, as you can see).

Thanks to those of you who have asked after my family. We are just fine. Boiling water to survive! But otherwise, just fine. Many thousands of our neighbors have it much, much worse. The story that has made me most irate—in fact, the only story that has made me irate since the flooding started—is the one about Petco not evacuating its store, leaving its animals so that some of them could die slow, miserable deaths, trapped and unattended (if not drowned) from Wednesday to Saturday. Here's the link to the (developing) story. The community is, understandably, livid. I threw away my Petco card earlier in the day (to be fair, here is the corporate statement from Petco—they are blaming a "communication lapse" by the city). My Humane Society, on the other hand, evacuated all its animals safely and is doing great work trying to care for them in severely trying situations. Not surprisingly, they need help.

We took toys and toothpaste and cookies baked by my daughter to shelters yesterday. Probably going out to try to be useful tomorrow. September 11—seems like as good a reason as any to try to do something for someone else. I know it's a big day for NYC. Here's a 9/11 story for you: guess who showed up to assist in the rescue / recovery effort today? FDNY. They'll be spending the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 200 miles upstate, doing what they do best. And everyone here is really, really grateful.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go watch "Breakin'" (1984). God bless America.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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