Thursday, December 22, 2011

Chief of medicine on Scrubs / 12-22-11 / Red-haired ogress of film / 1951 historical role for Peter Ustinov / Sponsor of ads famous for nudity

Constructor: Kristian House

Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: SHAPE SHIFTER (55A: Werewolf, e.g. ... or the one responsible for 20-, 34- and 41-Across— shape names are changed to other shape names inside familiar phrases

Word of the Day: ALY Khan (33A: Khan married to Rita Hayworth) —
Prince Ali Solomone Aga Khan (June 13, 1911 – May 12, 1960), known as Aly Khan was a son of Aga Khan III, the head of the Ismaili Muslims, and the father of Aga Khan IV. A socialite, racehorse owner and jockey, he was the third husband of actress Rita Hayworth. After being passed over for succession as Aga Khan, he served as Pakistan's representative to the United Nations, where he became a vice president of the General Assembly. // His first name was typically spelled Aly in the press. The titles of prince and princess, which are claimed by children of the Aga Khan by virtue of their descent from Shah Fath Ali Shah of the Persian Qajar dynasty, were recognized as courtesy titles by the British government in 1938. (wikipedia)
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Simple theme with a nice revealer. Very tidy, in that all the shapes are kept in the family—that is, they just shift (as in move) around the grid. Nobody morphs into a RHOMBUS or anything. Grid is mostly very nice—smooth and Scrabbly. But why didn't you go for the pangram, Kristian!? Why!?!? Just a Z and a J away. So close. Sarcasm.

The strangest thing about this puzzle was that for most of the time it played like a Tuesday. Started with DODD-Frank and was down at FIONA (64A: Red-haired ogress of film) before I knew it. Of course getting to the back ends of those theme answers was a little tougher than getting at their front ends, but it didn't take much. My main area of struggle was in the Great Lakes-to-Northeast part of the grid. Could Not retrieve SEAM as [31A: Part of a baseball] and then (the killer), after getting the -VIN part of 25A: Title cartoon boy (CALVIN), I wrote in ... MARVIN! Talk about missing wide. The quality gap there is tremendous. I don't think I'd have even remembered that "Marvin" was a comic if I hadn't run across this comic strip while reading "The Comics Curmudgeon" a couple weeks ago:

Hilarious, I know. Anyway, MARVIN really $&^%ed me. Also slowed down by NO WAY, which I had in the space that was supposed to be filled by IXNAY (16A: "Nope!"). Also puzzled by 11D: The Wildcats of the America East Conf. (UNH) (my university is in this same conference; didn't help) and the clue on ILLS (27D: Drugs and crime), e.g. I had VICE. So that whole region was noticeably harder than the rest, and yet "hard" is a relative term. When I finish a Thursday under 5, nothing can really be said to be "hard."

Theme answers:
  • 20A: Uncool Eskimo? (ARCTIC SQUARE)
  • 34A: Percussion instrument owned by a New York newspaper? (TIMES TRIANGLE)
  • 41A: Close-knit group at a popular island destination? (BERMUDA CIRCLE
  • 15A: 1951 historical role for Peter Ustinov (NERO) — I didn't Know this, exactly, but with even one cross, or perhaps none, it's a pretty easy guess.
  • 23A: Original Beatles bassist Sutcliffe (STU) — I like the Beatles but I'm no aficionado, so I learned STU from crosswords. He comes up so often that you should commit him to memory if he isn't there already. The other STU is Disco.

  • 52D: Hit TV series starring Gary Sinise ("CSI: NY") — this helped me change LOWFAT to LOWCAL (51A: Lite). To my knowledge, I have never in my life seen a single episode of any flavor of "CSI". I've watched the opening, but as soon as that non-descript guy utters his stupid, cutesy / portentous tagline, right before The Who or whoever start playing, I'm out of there.
  • 56D: Sponsor of ads famous for nudity (PETA) — here you go—a crossword twofer: a PETA ad featuring EVA Mendes. 

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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