Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Enterprise captain prior to Kirk / WED 10-5-11 / Macmillan classmate Harry Potter / River across French/German border / City lake in northern Italy

Constructor: Barry Boone

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: DOUBLE A (39A: Pro baseball level ... or a hint to 12 answers in this puzzle) — rebus puzzle with six "AA" squares

Word of the Day: ANA ALICIA (22A: "Falcon Crest" actress) —
Ana Alicia (born December 12, 1956) is an American actress. She is best known for her role as scheming heiress Melissa Agretti on the long-running primetime soap opera Falcon Crest. (wikipedia)
• • •

This one felt easier than your average Wednesday, but I figure the gimmick is apt to slow people down enough that solving times are bound to be about average. Mine was right near average, despite my having the feeling of tearing through this with no problem. I doubt I've ever picked up a rebus puzzle's gimmick faster than I did here. I hit 17A: "The Godfather" actor very early, with the "C" and "N" already in place. Then I made a face and thought, "Well, CAAN, but ... ?" Then I checked the Down cross: 2D: It's said to be salubrious (SEA AIR) and confirmed that the "AA" square to make CAAN was correct. Quickly worked down to BAAED / SAAB and knew that there was nothing else to the gimmick—just find the DOUBLE A squares, which ended up being pretty easy to do. The toughest "AA" answer by far was ANA ALICIA (who nearly ruins the puzzle with her obscurity—I'd take her as a clue for ANA or even ALICIA, but someone that unfamous should not be a theme answer).

  • ANA ALICIA / SALAAM (9D: Low bow)
  • SAAB (38A: Car with the numeral 9 in all its model names) / BAAED 
  • SAAR (41A: River across the French/German border) / IZAAK
  • AFRIKAANS / MAALOX (50D: It has its moments)
  • NAAN (63A: It may be eaten with tikka masala) / TEA ACT (53D: Boston Harbor event precipitator — awkward clue because of the need to avoid the word "TEA" in "TEA Party," presumably)

Besides ANA ALICIA, I had no idea about this Captain PIKE person (45A: Enterprise captain prior to Kirk). How am I supposed to know that? Did he appear in a lot of episodes, or was he just a name? Seems pretty dang obscure. VARESE is probably less obscure, but that didn't keep me from not knowing it (4D: City or lake in northern Italy). Didn't know what Carquest was, so that made NAPA hardish to get (I was going to say that neither of these auto parts stores exists anywhere near me, but turns out there's a NAPA in town; just in a part of town I never go to). I had some hesitation / rewriting at the HONING / HOARSE intersection, in that I had TONING, and considered BONING (up?) and then tried COARSE in the Across, which gave me CONING, which was pretty sure was wrong ... then tried HOARSE and figured that had to be right. I've read every Harry Potter book but I don't remember ERNIE (54D: ___ Macmillan, classmate of Harry Potter). ON LATE feels like a very iffy answer—a random phrase like IN THE HALL or THROUGH MUD. I enjoyed seeing DENIZEN in the grid opposed to the clues, for a change (43D: Inhabitant). I am 1/3 of the way through the fabulous new Ken Burns documentary "Prohibition"—just finished watching the first part about a half hour ago—so REPEAL was a concept very fresh on my mind (18A: The 21st Amendment, e.g.). Also SOUSES (48D: Drunkards).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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