Sunday, December 25, 2011

Albino rocker with 1973 #1 hit / MON 12-26-11 / Furrowed fruit / Letters before xis / Physician with daily talk show

Constructor: Gary Cee

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: SEASON FINALE (39A: With 41-Across, good time for a cliffhanger ... or what each of 17-, 24-, 50- and 63-Across) — theme answers are two-word phrases where second word is a season

Word of the Day: EDGAR WINTER (50A: Albino rocker with a 1973 #1 hit) —
Edgar Holland Winter (born December 28, 1946) is an American musician. He is famous for being a multi-instrumentalist. He is a highly skilled keyboardist, saxophonist and percussionist. He often plays an instrument while singing. He was most successful in the 1970s with his band, The Edgar Winter Group, notably with their popular song, "Free Ride". He has albinism. (wikipedia)
• • •

A very tired theme with a very cool revealer—actually, I'm not sure I've seen this theme done quite this way; typically the seasons are in the plural, largely because JONATHAN WINTERS is a grid-spanning 15 letters long and far more famous than EDGAR WINTER. Once I saw the theme (after getting FALL, then SUMMER), I physically deflated a little, but after hitting the nice little revealer, I recovered a bit. Grid is very interesting—it's got the maximum 78 answers, but doesn't feel segmented and choppy the way some high word-count puzzles can. This is largely because of two lovely long Downs (IN NAME ONLY, MOSEY ALONG), and two pairs of 7s (also Downs) in the N and S, respectively. Seasons aren't in order, but that's a small matter. I like the seasonal YEAR END directly over WINTER in the grid. Nice work.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: What a slippery sidewalk might cause (NASTY FALL)
  • 24A: "Last Dance" singer, 1978 (DONNA SUMMER)
  • 50A: Albino rocker with a 1973 #1 hit (EDGAR WINTER) — I have no idea why the clue doesn't tell you the name of the song; if "Albino" didn't give the answer away, then sure "Frankenstein" wouldn't have either:

  • 63A: Spa locale (HOT SPRING)
Found this puzzle remarkably easy. Fumbled around a bit with the typos, but still managed to come in well under 3 (which I hadn't done in a while). For some reason, I seem to be a good deal faster solving a downloaded puzzle on my desktop than I am solving on the NYT applet itself. Perhaps the navigation system is more intuitive for me, or perhaps the software's slightly more responsive than the web-based applet, or perhaps knowing that I'm not being timed by Big Brother loosens me up a bit. Anyway, none of this will matter come tournament time (just under 3 months away now), when all solving is done with pencil and paper. Nothing slowed me down much today besides my own typing clumsiness. Didn't know NUS, but crosses took care of that (26D: Letters before xis). Didn't know an UGLI was "furrowed" (27D: Furrowed fruit). I was just looking at the DR. OZ logo the other day and wondering why I hadn't seen that answer in puzzles more often (57D: Physician with a daily talk show). Other than that, my only tiny struggle was figuring out 2D: Wheedle (COAX). Ironic, given that I'd been watching "Downton Abbey" earlier in the evening, and one of the characters had suggested that another was "flanneling" her. This sent me to my dictionary to look up the verb "flannel"; from
Collins' Dictionary of Slang says that the noun "flannel" has been used to mean "rubbish, albeit plausible rubbish" since the 1920s, and the verb "to flannel" has meant "to talk nonsense in a soothing, plausible manner, esp for the purposes of charming a woman one wishes to seduce" since the 1940s. I imagine the original metaphor was flannel's function as wrapping, padding or muffling material.
 So, yes, wheedle, indeed.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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