Tuesday, September 20, 2011

California locale just south of Camp Pendleton / WED 9-21-11 / Morlock's counterpart science fiction / Part of rock's CSNY / Pringles alternative

Constructor: Peter A. Collins

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: INNER CITIES (60A: Urban areas (as hinted at by the circled letters in this puzzle's grid)) — theme answers are California cities (why California? I don't know). Circles inside those cities spell out the names of other cities (*not* California cities)

Word of the Day: Graham NASH (51A: Part of rock's CSNY) —
Graham William Nash, OBE (born 2 February 1942) is an English singer-songwriter known for his light tenor vocals and for his songwriting contributions with the British pop group The Hollies, and with the folk-rock band Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Nash is a photography collector and a published photographer. Nash was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Crosby, Stills & Nash and as a member of The Hollies in 2010. (wikipedia)
• • •

This is a mess. Why are the cities California cities? Moreover, why are three of them not-at-all-well-known California cities. I grew up in California, lived there til I was 21, and I've barely heard of three of these—certainly couldn't locate them with any confidence on a map (BAKERSFIELD, I know, though there's no way in hell I'd say its Cal State campus is a salient, identifying feature—there are a ton of Cal State campuses). And the circles?! They aren't consecutive, they contain random city names ... why does this puzzle exist? Even the revealer doesn't make any sense. The circled letters form cities *within* cities. INNER CITIES tells only half the story. If RENO were inside some random word or familiar phrase, then you could say it's an INNER CITY. But you have forced us to come up with these marginal California cities ... why? Why, when the revealer doesn't even require it? They're INNER no matter what they're *in*side. RENO inside PREMONITION would be an INNER CITY. RENO inside GARDEN GROVE is just torture. If you're going to force me to accept spaced-out circles (one of the ugliest things in all of crossworld), then there better be a damned good reason.

RENO can be found inside at least one other California city—one that's better known than all these so-called cities. One that is also a California State University campus site.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: California home of the Crystal Cathedral (GARDEN GROVE) (RENO)
  • 26A: California locale just south of Camp Pendleton (OCEANSIDE) (ENID)
  • 38A: California State University campus site (BAKERSFIELD) (ERIE)
  • 52A: California's Sonoma County seat (SANTA ROSA) (TAOS)

Got thrown by many clues today—California cities were the primary obstacles, but other things also provided resistance. The second "D" in MID-SIZED CAR, for instance (11D: Toyota Camry, e.g.). I was sure the adjective was "MID-SIZE" and so wrote in MID-SIZE AUTO. Grammar aside, it looks like my instincts were justified. Industry standard seems to be D-less "MID-SIZE." So that sucks. LUNETTES?? I don't know what these [Ornamental crescents] are—can't picture them—but crescents are moon-shaped, so OK. RENIN? (54D: Kidney secretion) Forgot. ENUF? (god that's ugly) (28D: Sufficient, informally) Misread clue and wrote in ENOW (also ugly, also commonish in xwords). Stared at [Part of rock's CSNY] and thought "?????????" I know very well who Crosby, Stills, NASH & Young are, but I've never heard them given the university-like initialism before. Absolutely baffling to me. RAMROD and "flintlock" are familiar terms in retrospect, but I couldn't get from one to the other easily at all today (50D: Flintlock accessory). I'd say RUBBER-NECKING or RUBBER-NECKERS caused a traffic jam way, way before I'd say RUBBER-NECKS (which I just wouldn't say) (25D: Causes of some traffic slowdowns). RUBBERNECKS is a verb to me.

  • 20A: Morlock's counterpart in science fiction (ELOI) — more crosswordese (see also every circled city). Nice to see the Morlock out and about.
  • 71A: Pringles alternative (STAX) — never heard of them. STAX is a record label.
  • 1A: Humped ox (ZEBU) — strangely, knew this instantly. I don't know many *kinds* of ox, but I know this one, primarily because it was once on "The Simpsons," as a vocabulary word that Lisa was trying to teach Maggie.
  • 42D: One who deals in rags? (PIANIST) — very tough, but clever. I was thinking rags = tabloids.
  • 35D: The Rolling Stones' "___ You" ("MISS") — could think only of "TATTOO You," which is the name of a Stones album.

  • 13D: Ursula of "The Blue Max" (ANDRESS) — here's the thing about Ms. ANDRESS: If you include her first name in the clue, then no other part of the clue really matters, because there's only one famous Ursula.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. this is so awesome I had to tell you about it right away—Frank Sinatra on how he acquired his crossword habit (personal letter to Eugene T. Maleska, former ed. of the NYT Crossword Puzzle).

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