Sunday, September 4, 2011

Swedish liquor with memorable ads / MON 9-5-11 / First part of ski run / Chicago columnist Kupcinet / Trumpets saliva draining key / Fat chance laddie

Constructor: Patrick Merrell

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (*for a Monday*)

THEME: TVS (63D: Appliances hidden in seven answers in this puzzle)— Six two-word phrases with "TV" embedded in them ... plus ATV (13D: Off-road transport, briefly), which ruins everything by not following this two-word pattern; thus, I refuse to acknowledge that ATV is part of the theme. Thus, I still really like the puzzle.

Word of the Day: IN-RUN (24A: First part of a ski jump) —
The ski jump is divided into four separate sections; 1) In-run, 2) Take-off (jump), 3) Flight and 4) Landing. In each part the athlete is required to pay attention to and practice a particular technique in order to maximise the outcome of ultimate length and style marks. (wikipedia)

• • •

I really like this grid. Lots of zing, not a lot of junk. This is a good example of how a simple, common theme concept (the embedded letter string) can yield wonderful results. The fact that "V" is one of the embedded letters does wonders for the grid's overall complexion—I love a theme that adds color to rather than sucks color from the grid. All theme phrases are lively and interesting — an ideal everyone should strive for. If you have a neat idea for a theme but can only come up with dull (or forced) phrases to execute it, maybe don't do it ... or put it away til you can think of better answers. Given that the embedded letter string is only two letters long, puzzle could sneak in a couple Down theme answers without straining the grid too much. Six good, long "V"-containing phrases = thumbs up.

Theme answers:
  • 20A: Charleston is its capital (WEST VIRGINIA)

  • 31A: Trumpet's saliva-draining key (SPIT VALVE)

  • 48A: Not a unanimous ruling (SPLIT VOTE)

  • 60A: Swedish liquor with memorable ads (ABSOLUT VODKA)

  • 5D: Venomous snake (PIT VIPER)

  • 42D: Permit for leaving a country (EXIT VISA)

Did this is 3:14 (on the NYT applet—not my favorite solving interface, but I like to mix it up now and then). That's a bit slower than my avg. Monday time, but only a bit. Several little stumbles held me back. IRA instead of IRV was the first (22D: Chicago columnist Kupcinet). RHINE for RHEIN was the next (and in the same section!) (25A: Longest river in Deutschland). Note that the German "Deutschland" is what is supposed to cue you to use the German spelling of RHINE, i.e. "RHEIN." Wrote in HADST for DIDST (56A: Biblical word with "thou"). IN-RUN was, to me, the most obscure thing in the grid by a country mile, though I'm sure I've heard it. Every four years or so.

I blanked on I SPY at first (38D: Look-for-it children's game), and hesitated at SKAT ("isn't the singing spelled differently from the card game?...") (4D: 32-card game). But other than that, no real problems. MERV (19A: Griffin who created "Wheel of Fortune") and MARV (34D: Sportscaster Albert) are interesting gridmates. Clue on YODA is very cute (10A: Talks like this in "Star Wars" films he does).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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