Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Young migratory fish / WED 9-14-11 / 2004 movie featuring clash of sci-fi species / Discovery Channel survival show / Chewbacca kin

Constructor: Jeff Chen

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: VS. — four different versions "___ VS. ___" plus one such phrase (1A) with an implied "VS."

Word of the Day: NEVIS (40A: Neighbor of St. Kitts) —

Nevis [...] is an island in the Caribbean Sea, located near the northern end of the Lesser Antilles archipelago, about 350 km east-southeast of Puerto Rico and 80 km west of Antigua. The 93 km² island is part of the inner arc of the Leeward Islands chain of the West Indies. The capital of Nevis is Charlestown. // Nevis, along with Saint Kitts, forms the Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis. The two islands are separated by a shallow two-mile (3.22 km) channel, known as "The Narrows". Nevis is conical in shape, with a volcanic peak, Nevis Peak, at its centre. The island is fringed on its western and northern quadrants by sandy beaches that are composed of a mixture of white coral sand with brown and black sand, eroded and washed down from the volcanic rocks that make up the island. The gently-sloping coastal plain (0.6 miles/1 km wide) has natural fresh-water springs, as well as non-potable volcanic hot springs, especially along the western coast. (wikipedia)

• • •

RENT VS. BUY feels awfully weak, but I see that there are plenty of sites out there that bear witness to its common usage, so I can't complain too much. I've heard people ponder whether to rent or buy, but I've never heard the phrase "RENT VS. BUY," the way I've often heard "NATURE VS. NURTURE." The other three theme answers are titles / names, so they're solid. I don't really get why VS. is allowed to disappear in the SPY [VS.] SPY answer, but I sort of like its weirdness. Something about the missing "VS." is kind of cute. I'm quite sure there are many solvers who will never have heard of "MAN VS. WILD," just as there are some who will not have heard of "ALIEN VS. PREDATOR," but both are popular, so aside from the fact that they both come from the vague realm of popular (as does "SPY [VS.] SPY"), I don't think there's much to criticize there.

Theme answers:
  • 1A: Foe of 71-Across in Mad magazine (SPY) / 71A: Foe of 1-Across in Mad magazine (SPY)
  • 17A: Genetics-or-environment debate (NATURE VS. NURTURE)
  • 35A: Discovery Channel survival show ("MAN VS. WILD")
  • 45A: Home-seeker's decision (RENT VS. BUY)
  • 64A: 2004 movie featuring a clash of sci-fi species ("ALIEN VS. PREDATOR") — speaking of sci-fi species ... WOOKIEES! (55A: Chewbacca and kin)
Felt like I blew through this very quickly, but ended up with a pretty normal Wednesday time. I guess I had enough trouble in the NEVIS / STRATEGY / HAND (53A: Standing O, say) / INCOG (67A: Wearing a disguise, informally) region of the grid to keep my time in check. I think I don't know what Generalship means. I have never used the word, and certainly didn't know it could mean STRATEGY. Not knowing NEVIS or understanding HAND and thinking INCOG was IN COS (as in "In Costume" ... not so weird if you know the term COSPLAY) made it Very difficult for me to see STRATEGY. Found BONES (7D: Our 206) and SKULKS (8D: Moves furtively) a little devilish as well. Mistakes included ORAL B instead of PLAN B, ELVIN for ELFIN, and SLYER for SLIER. Somehow, I was able to pull ELVER out of my crossword hat no problem (29D: Young migratory fish).

  • 25A: "And ___ Was," 1985 Talking Heads song ("SHE") — along with "Please, Please Me," "Little Creatures" by Talking Heads was one of the very first CDs I owned. This is when CDs were still sort of a novelty. I got a CD player for Christmas, I think. Anyway, CDs weren't that common, and I didn't own many, so I completely wore out the ones I had. I know this Talking Heads album like the back of my hand. Better, probably.

  • 48D: Austin Powers foe (DR. EVIL) — there are at least a handful of people across the country right now going, "... DREVIL? What kind of a name is DREVIL!?")
  • 55D: Like moiré patterns (WAVY) — never saw this clue, which is good, as I could pick "moiré" out of a line-up.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. Whoops, forgot to mention that there's an interesting article on Will's editorial process up at You get to see him work on a nice Liz Gorski puzzle. Enjoy.

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