Thursday, September 29, 2011

Sondheim's Mrs Lovett / THU 9-29-11 / Baritone piece sung by Renato / Best selling PC game released in 2000 / Curie Kelvin Fermi

Constructor: Ben Fish

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: PLUS — Puzzle note: "Two hints for 17- and 57-Across and 11- and 26-Down appear somewhere in this puzzle"—P, L, U, and S appear in circles in the corners, and black squares make a "+" sign in the middle of the grid.

Word of the Day: Princess IRENE of the Netherlands (14A: Dutch princess who's the daughter of Queen Juliana) —
Princess Irene of the Netherlands (born 5 August 1939) is the second child of the late Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands. [...] Because of the invasion of the Netherlands by Nazi Germany during World War II the Dutch Royal family chose to live in exile in Canada, where Irene attended Rockcliffe Park Public School, in Ottawa. As a teenager, she was dubbed by the Dutch press as "the glamorous Princess of the Netherlands." During the war, the Royal Dutch Brigade (the formation of Free Dutch soldiers that fought alongside the Allies) was named for Princess Irene. This was continued after the war as the Regiment Prinses Irene. (wikipedia)
• • •

Decided to solve this without stopping to check the [blurb] and still finished in regular Thursday time, so I'd say this was pretty easy. I am pretty sure I've seen this gimmick before—in that I've seen the "black squares form a symbol" gimmick several times, and the "+ is the easiest of those to make in a crossword grid. It was an entertaining puzzle almost in spite of the theme, which didn't thrill me, mainly because the theme answers seemed a bit wonky. A "+" is not a GRADE BONUS. It's merely another available grade. Part of the normal grading spectrum. No BONUS involved. "NICE" is a pretty weak adjective, and END wants to know what it's the END of. But still, we get a nice varied array of PLUS types, and unlike some recent puzzles, the fill on this one is really quite good. I went "Ugh" precisely one time, and that was at the RRN (Random Roman Numeral) (19A: Year St. Augustine of Canterbury died=>DCIV). I really like those thick stacks of answers through the middle (all the 7s PLUS the two 5s). It's very clear that Mr. Fish took good care to make the puzzle smooth, and that deserves acknowledgment and praise.

The PLUSes:

Had slight trouble getting going when it turned out I didn't know either of the women in the NW corner (IRENE, Mrs. Lovett the BAKER18D: Sondheim's Mrs. Lovett, e.g.). Otherwise, the only tricky part was inferring the theme answers (again, I didn't see the note, so didn't know for a little while that I was dealing with PLUSes). Made some wrong turns along the way, including going with SRS. over SEM (21A: School yr. section) (SRS. is a yearbook section...); PROFFER over PROFESS (6D: Claim); and SPA over MAT (59D: Bath ___). This last error resulted in a stray wrong (uncorrected) square that I had to track down at the end—specifically, I ended up with SAABS as the answer to 68A: Tries. Always bad when your mistakes look like real words. I would've gone with GAOL for 56D: Shakespearean stir (ADO), but a. there weren't enough letters, and b. I never actually saw the clue while I was solving.

I thought a Ming Jar was some kind of science thing, like a Leyden jar, so I was surprised to find out that I was dealing with the Ming of Ming vase fame, i.e. the dynasty. Had a little trouble coming up with THE SIMS (43A: Best-selling PC game released in 2000), but once the definite article was in place, the answer was obvious (which is good, because I was *not* getting SIMON despite having SI-ON) (34D: One who says a lot in a game). The "table" of 9D: #33 on a table (ARSENIC) is of course the periodic table. "Te reo" means simply "the language" (65A: Language known to native speakers as "te reo"=>MAORI). Didn't know GINSU was a "type" of knife. Thought it was a brand. Love the triad of Curie, Kelvin and Fermi for EPONYMS, though for some reason all I can picture (or hear!) when I look at this clue is Alvin, Simon and Theodore:

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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