Sunday, September 18, 2011

Playmate of Tinky Winky Dipsy Po / MON 9-19-11 / Annual celebration on 9/19 / Immature egg cell / California-based oil giant / Onetime money in Spain

Constructor: Julian Lim

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: TALK LIKE A / PIRATE DAY (27A: With 44-Across, annual celebration on 9/19) — pirate-themed bonus answers include:
  • DAVY JONES' LOCKER (17A: Where plank-walkers end up on 27-/44-Across)
  • SHIVER ME TIMBERS (57A: "I don't believe it!," on 27-/44-Across)
  • ARRR (1A: Common interjection on 27-/44-Across)
  • AHOY (65A: Hello, on 27-/44-Across)
  • AVAST (25A: "Hold it!," on 27-/44-Across)
  • BOOTY (46A: Treasure on 27-/44-Across)
Word of the Day: John RHYS-Davies (4D: John ___-Davies of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy) —
John Rhys-Davies (born 5 May 1944) is a Welsh actor and voice actor. He is perhaps best known for playing the charismatic Arab excavator Sallah in the Indiana Jones films and the dwarf Gimli in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, in which he also voiced the Ent, Treebeard. He also played Agent Michael Malone in the 1993 remake of the 1950s television series The Untouchables, Professor Maximillian Arturo in Sliders, King Richard I in Robin of Sherwood, General Leonid Pushkin in the James Bond film The Living Daylights, and Macro in I, Claudius. Additionally, he provided the voices of Cassim in Disney's Aladdin and the King of Thieves, Man Ray in SpongeBob SquarePants, and Tobias in the computer game Freelancer. He is also the narrator for the TV show Wildboyz. (wikipedia)
• • •

Was sure I'd done a "Talk Like a Pirate Day"-themed puzzle before, and sure enough, I was right. Three years ago, Alex Boisvert crossed TALK LIKE A PIRATE and SHIVER ME TIMBERS in the middle of a Friday grid. I consider this one of the stupider "holidays" on record, and don't know anyone who "celebrates" it. The idea was funny the first time anyone heard about it, which, by my watch, was five years ago or so. (wikipedia says this "holiday" was created in mid-90s, but so what? Just 'cause some guys say "this here's a holiday" doesn't make it so). Please, those of you out there thinking of the "Talk Like a Pirate Day"-themed puzzle you'd like to do, I beg you, throw it away. It's done. Done and done.

Grid is a mix of crosswordese (of which my most hated is OMAHAN) and cool longer answers (POKE AROUND, CLOSE IN ON, LOSE NO TIME). Just heard a BASSOONist on my classical music station this morning talking about the BASSOON repertoire. NEC (43A: Asian electronics giant) is one of those initialisms that I simply never remember. AEC, NCR, NEC, bah. Michigan trounced EMU yesterday, just as the Lions trounced the Chiefs today. Good day for southern Michigan, is what I'm saying.

Weirdest word in the grid is OOCYTE (37D: Immature egg cell), but it's one I've seen in puzzles before, so once I saw that initial "OO" sequence, I knew what I was dealing with. I am always a little shaky on the final vowel in PESETA (8D: Onetime money in Spain). For some reason, PESETO sounds right. PAC-MAN figures prominently in the new novel "Ready Player One" by Ernest Cline (as well as on the book's cover design). If that book isn't a movie inside of five years, I'll eat my hat (44D: Dot-chomping character in a classic arcade game). I didn't know ARCO was still a "giant" (55D: California-based oil giant). Once the ARCO Arena in Sacramento was renamed the "Power Balance Pavilion" (ugh), I figured ARCO was on the downslide. They've been a subsidiary of BP since 2000.

If you haven't yet purchased PENGUIN Classics Crossword Puzzles (ed. Ben Tausig), which came out at the end of last month, you really should, not least because I have a puzzle in there (38A: Bird in a "tuxedo"). Many top constructors contribute their work to the collection, including Brendan Emmett Quigley, Tony Orbach, Joon Pahk, Will Nediger, Lynn Lempel, Matt Gaffney, Deb Amlen, Sarah Keller, Andrew Ries, and Patrick Blindauer. Speaking of Mr. Blindauer, I was fortunate enough to attend his wedding to Rebecca Young this past weekend in St. Louis (or very nearby, at any rate). Ceremony was out on a deck at a vineyard just after a rain. Very lovely, and a formation of geese even did a honking fly-by *just* after they said their vows. It was very funny/magical. I'd watched the geese take off a bit earlier and they were headed away into the distance. Apparently they circled back. There was a nice contingent of crossword folk there, including Angela Halsted, Andrea Carla Michaels, Tony Orbach (a groomsman), Steve Salitan, and Peter Gordon. The only down side was that it was Freezing (for St. Louis in the summer, that is). Oh, and we got stuck in Detroit on the way out, which I've gotten over, apparently. Delta held up our flight for a crew that was needed in Detroit (i.e. not our crew; just *a* crew). Why the crew wasn't at the airport on time, why the airline held the plane knowing that nearly everyone on it would not only miss their connections, but (in our case) miss their last plane out, why we weren't given prompt, courteous explanation of all this while we waited, I don't know. But there it is.

One thing Delta, and anyone else who does *business* in the Binghamton, NY area, might want to do is teach their employees how to pronounce "Binghamton." Gate attendant stared right at the name and said "," and then flight attendant later said she hoped we would all enjoy our flight to "Birmingham."

Binghamton (rhymes with "gingham-ton"), as you may know, was devastated by floods last week. "Devastated" is not an exaggeration. Many businesses will not be coming back and many homes have been heavily damaged, if not outright condemned. We drove through an area today that had clearly been under about 7 feet of water (you can see muddy high watermarks on buildings and foliage all over town). Immediately after the worst of the flooding, MacArthur Elementary School looked like this:

The school lost nearly all its equipment and supplies and is now desperately trying to replace what it lost. The school district is now accepting monetary donations in the form of a check or money order payable to: "BCSD / MacArthur Flood Fund" and mailed to: BCSD / MacArthur Flood Fund, Binghamton City School District, 164 Hawley Street, Binghamton, NY 13901. This is not exactly a wealthy area of the country, and schools are generally underfunded even under optimal conditions. Please consider making a small donation if you are at all able. Thank you. (Some teachers have individual wishlists—for more information, please see the Binghamton City School District's website and scroll down just a tiny bit)

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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