Saturday, November 26, 2011

Kuomintang co-founder / SUN 11-27-11 / Italian automaker since 1906 / Dogpatch yokel / Sci-fi zapper / Villainous role for Montalban

Constructor: Jeff Chen

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: "YIN/YANG" — grid is half black (gray) / half white, with Yin/Yang symbol in the middle. Symmetrical theme answers contain words that are opposites / counterparts of one another.

Word of the Day: INIGO Jones (120A: Architect Jones) —
Inigo Jones (or Iñigo Jones) (July 15, 1573 – June 21, 1652) is the first significant British architect of the modern period, and the first to bring Italianate Renaissance architecture to England. He left his mark on London by single buildings, such as the Banqueting House, Whitehall, and in area design for Covent Garden square which became a model for future developments in the West End. He also made major contributions to stage design by his work as theatrical designer for several dozen masques, most by royal command and many in collaboration with Ben Jonson. (wikipedia)
• • •

Big thumbs up for this one. I vaguely admired it even before I realized that the dark and light parts of the grid contained opposites—cool shape, interesting fill, that was enough for me. The SUMMER/WINTER, HOT/COLD etc. thing just puts it over the top. Most Sundays are just oversized Wednesdays, and get a bit tedious about half way through. Not this one. Perhaps because the grid shape creates so many short answers, this puzzle felt quite easy. I was actually surprised I didn't come in under 10 minutes, as I hardly hesitated at all while filling it in. The theme answers in the yang (white) part of the symbol did not come easily, so there was some struggle there, and I wasn't sure what followed SUMMER at first, and I wrote in EJECT for 108D: Boot, in baseball, e.g. (ERROR), so that took a bit of undoing. But the longest theme answers (in west and east) went in almost instantaneously, and most of the short fill was not tough at all. Overall, it was a delightful solving experience. Imaginative. Lively. Good stuff.

A couple of weird / off things, though: first, the yin (black) part should have a white dot (square) inside it, technically. Obviously, this isn't really possible in a crossword puzzle. Or maybe it is, with some imagination. Also, LIGHT in LIGHT AS A FEATHER pairs with DARK in AFRAID OF THE DARK ... but it also pairs perfectly with a totally asymmetrical theme answer: HOT AND HEAVY. I find this very mildly distracting.

Theme answers:
  • 24A: Full of strong feelings (HOT AND HEAVY)
  • 31A: Something to enjoy on a beach (SUMMER BREEZE)

  • 42D: Weighing hardly anything (LIGHT AS A FEATHER)
  • 37D: Walter Mitty, e.g. (DAYDREAMER)
  • 48D: Kuomintang co-founder (SUN YAT-SEN) — Kuomintang being an early form of Yahtzee, which is itself a corruption of the original triumphant shout: "YAT-SEN!"
  • 116A: Started sneezing and sniffling, say (CAUGHT A COLD)
  • 102A: He might put chills up your spine (OLD MAN WINTER)
  • 16D: Suffering from nyctophobia (AFRAID OF THE DARK)
  • 43D: Time in Hawaii, say (HONEYMOON)
  • 45D: Question asked to one with a hangover ("ROUGH NIGHT?")     
Some things I did not know: that there were nine Thai kings named RAMA; That Emerson, Lake & Palmer (ELP) was the Grp. with the 1973 gold album "Brain Salad Surgery"; that the SAHARA was the Bygone Las Vegas hotel/casino with a roller coaster; that LANCIA was the name of an Italian automaker since 1906. Many of the other proper nouns were right up my alley, however. HOMER didn't write "By their own follies they perished, the fools," but one of his translators surely did. L'il ABNER is a comics legend (20A: Dogpatch yokel), just as KHAN is an '80s scifi legend (27A: Villainous role for Montalban) (don't think he had a RAY GUN, though—14D: Sci-fi zapper). I only wish that Andy GIBB were in the white part of the grid, to counterbalance Marilyn MCCOO in the black (104D: Marilyn who hosted 1980s TV's "Solid Gold").

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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