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Monday, September 26, 2011

Creator of GOP elephant / TUE 9-27-11 / Larklike bird / Noted 1964 convert to Islam / When repeated noted panda


Constructor: Peter A. Collins

Relative difficulty: Challenging (for a Tuesday)

THEME: COUNTRIES (34D: Sovereign lands ... or what are hidden in the answers to the six starred clues) — loose assortment of country names are buried inside familiar (or at least vaguely familiar) phrases

Word of the Day: PIPIT (44A: Larklike bird) —
The pipits are a cosmopolitan genus, Anthus, of small passerine birds with medium to long tails. Along with the wagtails and longclaws, the pipits make up the family Motacillidae. The genus is widespread, occurring across most of the world, except the driest deserts, rainforests and the mainland of Antarctica.
• • •

This is a Wednesday puzzle. It's not even close to a Tuesday. How do I know. It took me 4:42, a full minute longer than my typical Tuesday. Also, when I finished, I was in *2nd* place on the NYT applet—that has literally never happened. As we speak, I'm in 4th, and falling, but even A Division solvers are taking over 4. This is not a complaint—it's just to say that the puzzle was clearly misplaced. Mis-slotted. The theme is kind of blah—random COUNTRIES, so what?—and the theme answers are often painfully unsnappy. I don't think I've ever seen the phrase CHICKEN YARD, though I can at least imagine what it is. Never seen a DIGITAL YEARBOOK, but I assume it's a thing. ROPERUG? Again, I can imagine it, but I've never heard the term. But you can't deny those answer have COUNTRIES in them, which is really all that's required. Central middle was the toughest for me. My farm was TWO ACRE rather than TEN ACRE (it's not as if either is some kind of standard—again, a non-snappy phrase) (42D: Like a small farm, perhaps), and so HEINZ (47A: Ore-Ida parent company) and ZION (48D: The Jewish people) and even ANIMAL INSTINCTS were all hard to see. Never heard of a PIPIT (or I have, and then forgot). Most of the rest of the fill was mediocre, except for THE WALRUS (5D: Character in a Beatles song), which is great. Too bad it doesn't have a country name inside it—it really should, for symmetry's sake. So let's all pretend there's a country called HEWAL. OK? Done.


Theme answers:
  • 17A: *Area in front of a coop (CHICKENYARD)
  • 23A: *Modern school memento (DIGITALYEARBOOK)
  • 35A: *Braided floor covering (ROPERUG)
  • 37A: *More than enough (TOO MANY)
  • 50A: *Elemental parts of human nature (ANIMALINSTINCTS)
  • 57A: *Discover to be fibbing (CATCHINALIE) 
Short stuff is pretty junky all around, but that's what you'd expect in most people's theme-dense puzzles. I was proud to remember the 39D: Creator of the G.O.P. elephant, and then sad to find out that I'd misremembered his name as NASH (it's NAST). Tried CAUGHT IN A LIE first even though it's obviously the wrong verb tense. Thought the wine bar request was the TAB (really didn't read the clue well enough I guess—57D: Request inside (or outside?) a wine bar (CAB). I always botch relative adjectives when the adjective ends in "Y"—SLYER looks just fine, but I guess not (29A: More clever=>SLIER). Good thing I couldn't buy LYNG LYNG as a panda name (26D: When repeated, a noted panda=>LING). Lots of Beatles in this puzzle today, but I'm gonna go out with some PIXIES instead (46D: Fairies)—it's my 8-year wedding anniversary, so (like every other day of the year) I'll do what I want. I love you, honey. xoxo


Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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