Saturday, October 8, 2011

World Factbook publisher / SUN 10-9-11 / Title character in love with Elvira / Duke Rocky's manager/trainer / Cartoon character last name Hoek / Setting of castle Rocca Maggiore

Constructor: Brendan Emmett Quigley

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: "Grin and Parrot" — "B" -to- "P" sound changes in familiar phrases (with attendant spelling changes), creating wacky phrases, clued "?"-style

Word of the Day: LUTSK (59D: Ukrainian city) —
Lutsk (Ukrainian: Луцьк, translit. Luts'k, Polish: Łuck, Belarusian: Луцак or Луцк, transliterated Lutchak or Lutsk) is a city located by the Styr River in northwestern Ukraine. It is the administrative center of the Volyn Oblast (province) and the administrative center of the surrounding Lutskyi Raion (district) within the oblast. The city is also designated as a separate raion of its own within the oblast. // The estimated population was around 206,000 (as of 2007). (wikipedia)
• • •
Noticeably more challenging than your average Sunday puzzle, but with very little payoff for the effort. You get these weird phrases like DEFENSIVE PAX—awkward stuff that can't even be clued in a funny manner. SECRET PALATE ... they just don't quite make sense much of the time. I'm used to BEQ puzzles that make me laugh or say 'wow' or both. This didn't quite do either. Biggest struggle by far was the far NE corner, which I just couldn't solve for a while. The base phrase is ... some kind of bower? DARK? Chattering bird = DAW? Raised hand ... ? World Factbook publisher? WTF? I ended up with an error. CIS (!?!?!) and YES instead of CIA (publisher????) (26A: World Factbook publisher, in brief) and YEA (18D: What a raised hand may mean). Grievous. Only got as far as I did because I eventually remembered Jack Bauer from TV's "24." That corner's gonna mess at least a few people up.

Theme answers:
  • 24A: Détente as a means of self-preservation? (DEFENSIVE PAX)
  • 40A: Make a homie's turf unfit for habitation? (POISON THE 'HOOD)
  • 67A: Lay out some newspaper copy the old-fashioned way? (PASTE ON A TRUE STORY)
  • 95A: Rhombus on an award? (PLAQUE DIAMOND)
  • 112A: What a mysterious restaurant critic has? (SECRET PALATE)
  • 4D: Getaway where Italian pies are consumed? (PIZZA RETREAT)
  • 66D: Awards won by shrimps? (PRAWNS' MEDALS)
  • 16D: Strength required to lift a car? (JACK POWER)
  • 77D: Where your opinion on "One lump or two?" counts? (SUGAR POLL)    

Lots of "how the bleep am I supposed to know?"-type clues. LUTSK? Pfft. Duke EVERS!? (28D: Duke ___, Rocky's manager/trainer)! Nuh uh. NED Jarrett (81D: Nascar Hall-of-Famer Jarrett), ERNANI (51D: Title character in love with Elvira), the fact that some castle is in ASSISI (10D: Setting of the castle Rocca Maggiore), all big WTFs. I object to U OF A (78A: Tucson sch.). Maybe locals call it that, but I've never heard University of Arizona called that in the wider (sports) population. U OF M is way way way more plausible to me, and I've never seen that in the grid either. IT HELP is something I've never seen in a crossword before (39D: What PC gurus provide). Feels reasonably in-the-language. I like. Why was there a concert for DIANA 10 years *after* her death? (101A: Concert for ___ (2007 event))? This made no sense to me. No idea what Patch Media is—just guessed AOL from crosses (117A: Company with Patch Media). No idea about REN's last name (106A: Cartoon character whose last name is Höek). Talk about obscure. Still, not hard—cartoon character, three letters ... REN is going to be near the top of my list of potentials. Too many things like CUE WORD (?) (64D: Last thing a fellow actor says, maybe) and NA NA NA (?) (98D: Refrain bit) —probably real things, but only barely. Overall, this one gave me a decent workout, but not much in the way of happiness.

  • 33A: "The ___ Bride" (Rimsky-Korsakov opera) ("TSAR'S") — "ALEXI from LUTSK, you're on the air." "Uh, yeah, hi Casey—could you play "The TSAR'S Bride" for my girlfriend YVETTE in IONIA? Thanks.
  • 88A: Shiny, hollow paperweight (GEODE) — a common crossword word, and a gimme that helped a lot with the thorny middle of the grid.
  • 116A: 1968 live folk record ("ARLO") — I knew this before I even looked to see how many letters it was. Crosswordese dressed up as arcana.
  • 122A: Court nobleman in "Hamlet" (OSRIC) — not the most prominent character, but I had to rely on him once for building a grid, so I'm mildly fond of him.
  • 87D: Berry in some energy boosters (AÇAI) — faddish South American berry now found in everything. Health benefit claims are hyperbolic (as are most health benefit claims, I guess). There are these seeds being marketed under the name SaviSeeds. "The richest source of Omega-3 on the planet." They taste great, but I think they're probably just super-expensive snacks for the excessively health-conscious. I keep wondering if they are going to be the new AÇAI
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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