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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Jah worshiper / SUN 11-13-11 / Long Island county west of Suffolk / Candy company first flavor Pfefferminz / Roxy Music co-founder / New Sensation band 1988 / Former NBA star Spud

Constructor: Jeremy Newton and Tony Orbach

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "Either Way" — long palindromes

Word of the Day: YESLETS (95A: "We totally should!") —
Very small affirmatives.
• • •


 What a strange little (big) puzzle. I was about 10 seconds in, got the first palindrome, and thought "Well, this is going to be tedious." I mean, I had the gimmick, and I knew that I really only had to get half the crosses on the theme answers. They're palindromes, so every letter revealed actually buys you two. So I was facing what I assumed would be a giant chore, made somewhat less giant by the fact that it would be easy. But the puzzle surprised me a bit. First, the cluing was thorny in a way that made up for the easiness of the palindromic theme. Second, some of the theme answers were tough to see even knowing that they were palindromes (the last three in particular took some thought). Lastly, those (relatively) giant corners in the NE and SW allow for some pretty cool fill, like "SO LAST YEAR" and "WHAT A SHAME!" and (above all) "SUPER BAD" (8D: 1970 #1 R*B hit for James Brown).



In fact, the grid shape really makes this a tale of two puzzles. Lots of white space in the NE and SW (and, to a lesser extent, in the other corners) — making it hard to blow through those areas, and allowing for some very interesting fill — and then a heavily segmented grid in the middle. Nearly every answer in the middle third of the grid is 3-5 letters, making for a less interesting experience (though my favorite theme answer, SUP-PAR RAP BUS, is in there, which somewhat alleviated the tedium). DEROGATIVE is pretty out-of-the-language, especially to work well in these sprightly, humorous answers, so that was a downer, but otherwise, I ended up enjoying myself much more than I thought I would 10 seconds in.

Slow clap for DO PR (30D: Send out press releases, e.g.). I have huge admiration for this kind of make-#%@!-up-as-long-as-it-ends-up-sounding-right attitude. I just made up my own perfectly legitimate phrase in a puzzle I'm working on, and it completely transformed an icky corner into something verging on competent. It was possibly the most cool constructory move I've ever made—completely without the aid of software or references or anything. I just looked at the empty squares and started free-styling possible answers. Most terrible. And then—bam.

Theme answers:
  • 22A: Students err? (PUPILS SLIP UP)
  • 31A: Medusa killer takes his agent to court? (PERSEUS SUES REP)
  • 46A: Reinforced ice cream container? (BUTTRESSED DESSERT TUB)
  • 58A: Inferior tour vehicle for Snoop Dogg? (SUB-PAR RAP BUS)
  • 68A: Recollection from a winter tourist in Poland? (WARSAW WAS RAW)
  • 79A: Disparaging Argentine leader badly injured? (DEROGATIVE EVITA GORED)
  • 97A: One-on-one job for a ladies' man? (GIGOLO'S SOLO GIG)
  • 110A: "Son of Darius, please confirm my dog is male"? ("XERXES, SEX REX") — completely ridiculous, which, I suppose, is the point of ending with it.
Bullets:
  • 1A: Followers of William the Conqueror (NORMANS) — I botched a Norman Invasion clue very recently. Wasn't about to make the same embarrassing mistake twice.
  • 21A: Who said "Learn from the masses, and then teach them" (MAO) — this helped me change SERAPH (?) to JOSEPH (16D: Nativity figure).
  • 28A: "10" in a bikini (BEACH BABE) — this phrase sounds kind of made up, though familiar enough that I'll buy it. BEACH BUNNY sounds righter. I kept wanting BO DEREK to somehow fit here.
  • 52A: Kay of "Rich Man, Poor Man" (LENZ) — having seen her name somewhere in crosswords before allowed me not to get spooked when that "Z" dropped in there. 
  • 6D: Long Island county west of Suffolk (NASSAU) — which is also the name of the capital of the Bahamas.
  • 33D: Former N.B.A. star Spud (WEBB) — legendary short man. 5'7" Slam Dunk Contest champion.
  • 43D: Candy company whose first flavor was Pfefferminz (PEZ) — I guess you can't spell "Pfefferminz" without PEZ, so that makes sense.
  • 100D: "New Sensation" band, 1988 (INXS) — I took some band quiz on Sporcle just a couple days ago, and they were on it, so this one came quickly. It probably would've come quickly anyway. This album, "Kick," was ubiquitous during my freshman year of college. Kind of like UB40's "Labour of Love." Oh my god. Out of every damn dorm room. Including my own.
  • 111D: Roxy Music co-founder (ENO) — he was on Colbert just a couple days ago. Really interesting guy.


The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Brian Eno
www.colbertnation.com
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  • 112D: A street drug, for short (XTC) — I'd heard it called E and X, but not XTC, which, like INXS and UB40, was a band that was popular when I was in college. Apparently, in the '80s, you just had to throw some letters and/or numbers together and you were in business, musically speaking.



Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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