Sunday, December 4, 2011

Designer Schiaparelli / MON 12-5-11 / TV newsman Roger / Mock rock band in 1984 film

Constructor: Kenneth J. Berniker

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: N-T — your standard vowel progression puzzle

Word of the Day: CYRUS (22A: Founder of the Persian Empire) —
Cyrus II of Persia (Kuruš (c. 600 BC or 576 BC–530 BC), commonly known as Cyrus the Great, also known as Cyrus the Elder, was the founder of the Achaemenid Empire. Under his rule, the empire embraced all the previous civilized states of the ancient Near East, expanded vastly and eventually conquered most of Southwest Asia and much of Central Asia, parts of Europe and Caucasus. From the Mediterranean sea and Hellespont in the west to the Indus River in the east, Cyrus the Great created the largest empire the world had yet seen. (wikipedia)
• • •

Felt very easy, but my time was only just a bit under my average for Monday. The theme is completely unremarkable, but the grid manages to get some spice in there with LOOSE BALL (timely—if you're doing the puzzle on football Sunday, as I am), "SPINAL TAP," and "I'LL WAIT" (nicely clued—26D: Sarcastic "Go ahead, keep talking"). Biggest complaint is the clue on "NOT ON A DARE" (49A: "Fuhgeddaboudit!"). It doesn't substitute well at all (i.e. I can't imagine anyone saying the one saying the other), plus I tend to think of "Fuhgeddaboudit!" as an exclamation suggesting either that something is no big deal *or* that something is amazing / to die for. I also didn't really care for the clue on NUTCRACKERS—if by "productions" the clue means "performances," then that seems weak, especially given that a nutcracker is a concrete, practical thing that comes in a handy, natural plural form. Oh well. At least it's timely(ish).

Theme answers:
  • 18A: "Rambin' Rose" singer, 1962 (NAT KING COLE)
  • 23A: Earnings after expenses (NET PROFITS)
  • 38A: Knuckleheads (NITWITS)
  • 49A: "Fuhgeddaboudit!" ("NOT ON A DARE!")
  • 56A: Christmastime productions (NUTCRACKERS)
I have been trying to memorize all the world capitals (on account of the beautiful new ATLAS I got from Oxford UP), so I was a little surprised to see that the puzzle thinks Pago Pago is in SAMOA. Actually, Pago Pago is the capital of *American* SAMOA, a completely different country, and also a completely different (albeit nearby) island. The capital of SAMOA is, of course, as all constant solvers know, APIA. It's true that the island group is sometimes known as the "Samoan Islands," but SAMOA has specific national meaning, and thus this clue is terrible.

  • 24D: TV newsman Roger (O'NEIL) — no idea who this guy is. I thought the answer would be AILES.
  • 32A: Designer Schiaparelli (ELSA) — never can remember her name. She's the xword alternative to the lioness from "Born Free"
  • 59D: U.K. record label (EMI) — constantly get it confused with the music licensing organization, BMI
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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