Friday, September 2, 2011

Brewmaster's science / SAT 9-3-11 / German fantasy writer Michael / Photographer who once collaborated with Capote / Term for some morning deejays

Constructor: Peter Wentz

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: none

Word of the Day: ERIC DANE (39D: "Grey's Anatomy" actor) —

Eric Dane (born November 9, 1972) is an American actor. After appearing in television roles throughout the 1990s and 2000s, he became known for playing Dr. Mark "McSteamy" Sloan on the series Grey's Anatomy, and has recently branched into film, co-starring in Marley & Me, Valentine's Day, and Burlesque. [...] Dane made headlines when he participated in a nude tape with his wife and Kari Ann Peniche. [???] // Eric Dane checked himself into rehab in June 2011 and will soon be finished with his 30 day therapy, "He reports back to work next week," said his rep. "Business as usual." Dane entered a California treatment center to rectify his problem with dependency on prescription drugs after suffering a sports injury. (wikipedia)

• • •

Very hard and also very annoying. Nothing worse than having majority of the difficulty in a puzzle come from the names of 3rd-rate celebrities. I had some very vague familiarity with J.C. CHASEZ (1D: Former 'N Sync vocalist and judge on "America's Best Dance Crew"), but ERIC DANE is brand new to me. "Grey's Anatomy" is ... nothing I would ever watch. Zero appeal. None. But I think Sandra Oh is or was in it. Also what's her name ... Katherine Heigl. Those people are actual well-known actors; hence, I know their names. I have no idea what an ERIC DANE is. But at least his crosses were fair, which is more than I can say for those of J.C. I'm sure I've seen the word ZYMURGY sometime in my life (35A: Brewmaster's science), but it's not exactly everyday (also, ZYZZYVA and SYZYGY are running interference). That "Z" will surely rough up at least a handful of people. Also, SKOPJE!?!? (27A: Birth city of Mother Teresa) Like ZYMURGY, I'm sure I've seen it, but I couldn't even tell you what country it's in. Poland? Nope. The Republic of Macedonia. The point isn't that any one of these shouldn't be in a puzzle—the point is that J.C. CHASEZ is kind of not that famous and his name is nuts and Crosses Of Nutso Proper Names (Esp. Those of Not Universally Famous People) Require Gettable Crosses. Also, if you've got Mr. CHASEZ in your puzzle, your minor celebrity quotient has been reached (sorry, ERIC DANE).

Most of the puzzle didn't trouble me that much. Well, let me rephrase that. I made headway everywhere, but only the NE went down without any trouble at all. Guessed VOLTA (23A: Inventor of the battery in 1800) and was able to spread N and E from there pretty effectively. Eventually worked down and dropped in KINFOLK and LANES (50D: They're added in some infrastructure upgrades) more on gut feeling than certainty. Was sure one or both were wrong because they gave me FAP- as start of answer for 55A: Ninnies. This is because I had the infinitely reasonable SOP for 47D: Sponge. Not the stupid slang-no-one-uses SOT (actually, I mean that no one uses "sponge" to mean SOT ... and also no one uses SOT unless one does a lot of crosswords and is being facetious). I don't mind misleading clues, but that one rankled because "sponge" is such a reach for SOT. Probably rankled more because it was another glitch in the damned ERIC DANE corner. Somehow managed to get MORITA (46D: Actor Pat), which instantly clued MR. MIYAGI (which took effort to spell). And then I just crawled toward the end, piecing together the west (CHASEZ and its environs) block by block. Once I went with my gut on some of those little answers in the SW (the ugly ENDE (57D: German fantasy writer Michael), the ugly ADENO), then I finished that corner. Noticed FAPHEADS wasn't a word. Changed it. Last letter into the grid was either the "E" or the "Z" in CHASEZ. It's a shame the celeb names sucked the joy right out of this puzzle, because it had its moments. Loved ZOO CREW, VITAMIN D, TIZZY, and "SEZ WHO?" in particular.

  • 6A: Broken thing in "Gimme a break" (KIT KAT BAR) — If that ad jingle weren't seared in my brain, this clue would make no sense. No reference to ads, or jingles. Looks like "Gimme a break" is a song or movie or something.

  • 3D: Bibliolater (BOOKWORM) — at least I knew what "biblio" meant ...

  • 26A: Extinct wingless bird (MOA) — Yay, N.Z. I know a little something about extinct birds from N.Z.

  • 21A: Nobel-winning economist James (MEADE) — nope, never heard of him. Also, HARUM? Never heard of him either, which is not surprising, as I've never (or almost never) heard of David Noyes Westcott (52A: "David ___," Edward Noyes Westcott novel). I assume that if I have heard of him, it was bec. of a crossword that thought NOYES would be a good entry. And then there's Azerbaijani president Heydar Aliyev. Thumbs down to overreliance on names.

  • 12D: Cleanser with the logo of a chick emerging from an egg (BON AMI) — gimme. Part of the reason the NE was so easy (comparatively).

  • 13D: Photographer who once collaborated with Capote (AVEDON) — with -ON in place, easy to get.

  • 34D: "The Tinker's Wedding" playwright (SYNGE) — yet another name I know *only* from crosswords.

  • 28D: Ninth successor of St. Peter (PIUS I) — of course I don't have my popes memorized, but what's weird is—this is the name I wanted from the get go. I didn't write it in, of course, because how would I know the 10th pope? Also, I didn't write it in because I was convinced for a time that Mother Teresa was born in SKOKIE.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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