Saturday, December 24, 2011

Onetime Soyuz destination / SAT 12-24-11 / Annual Jalapeno Festival site / Destructive 2008 blaze in LA / Magnate who wrote How to Be Rich / Drainer of most of Switzerland

Constructor: Ned White

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: SKIBOBS (37D: Winter sport vehicles) —
Skibobbing is a winter sport involving a bicycle-type frame attached to skis instead of wheels. Although the original idea for a bicycle with skis was patented as early as 1892, and skibobbing had been a form of transportation in the Alps, it wasn't until 1954 that the first international race was held. Seven years later, the FISB (Fédération Internationale de Skibob) was formed, which since 1967 has held an annual Skibobbing World Championship. Although skibobs are often called Ski Bikes and Snow Bikes, the sport should not be confused with snowbiking, which is the sport or recreation of cycling on snow. // Originally, skibobbing was one of the very few methods by which people without strength in their knees could alpine ski, but it soon became a popular sport amongst the physically able, too. The main attractions are said to be the speeds attained (in some skibob giant slalom races, speeds can be reached of up to 120 mph or more) and the feeling of jet skiing on snow. (wikipedia)
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[FOR MY READERS IN SYNDICATION: It's pledge week here at the Rex Parker site (thru Sat.) —read my pitch for donations in the opening paragraphs of Sunday's write-up, here ... and thanks for your faithful readership (and the many kind messages I've received so far)]

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A very uneven puzzle, difficulty-wise. As I was solving it, I was thinking "I know it's the season of giving, but this is ridiculous—feels like a Wednesday." [What hawks do]? Gimme. [Neurologist]? Come on. Over and over, the grid just filled itself in. Then, in two different spots, bad luck and bad cluing (respectively) stopped me cold. Did not know those names in the middle of the grid (VERAS, SOFIA) (31A: Tennis's Zvonareva and others + 37A: Mrs. Rajiv Gandhi), so when I got -E-UE for 31D: Where the show must go on? I wrote in REVUE and it felt Rock Solid. Only it gave me very weird names (RERA? SOVIA?); and yet my solution to that was not to question REVUE (again, felt Solid), but to question TORTA. I was not at all sure the cake was a TORTA (kept sticking it in, pulling it out ... ! ... etc.). Had it as a TONTA, because at least RENA is a name. Anyway, REVUE for VENUE was a stroke of magnificent bad luck. Lesson—take out the answer that feels Most wrong, even if that answer seems indisputable. Then there was the cluing on BAGS (35D: First, second, and third, but not fourth). There is no first bag, or second bag, or third bag. Those are bases. I wrote in BASE. Now I realize the clue has "and" and not "or" and so the answer "had to be" plural. But with that clue, "BAGS" was just not an option. I can see the seriously attenuated connection by which one gets from "first" to "BAG"—a "BAG" is certainly another word for a "base" in baseball. But yuck. Also yuck: LURED ON (38D: Tempted). That is not a thing. LURED is a thing. LURED = [Tempted]. LURED ON is something you say when you set out to say LURED and then change your mind to LED ON halfway through. Also, SAYRE???? WHAYRE???? (46D: ___ fire (destructive 2008 blaze in Los Angeles)).

  • 15A: What may be visualized via a bumper sticker (WHIRLED PEAS) — cute and Phenomenally easy.
  • 18A: "When 2 ___ Love" (1988 Prince song) ("R IN") — The "2" gave this away. Prince likes to do this letter / number / word swap thing.

  • 26A: 2006 Newbery winner Lynne ___ Perkins (RAE) — no idea, but guessed it off the "R" (was thinking MAE before that).
  • 34A: Magnate who wrote "How to Be Rich" (GETTY) — "Magnate" helped. Couple crosses made it obvious.
  • 27A: It replaced Apple's Quadra line (POWERMAC) — thank god the answer wasn't "Quadra"—never heard of it.  

  • 36A: Shouts in the 'hood (YOS) — these are shouts in lots of places.
  • 48A: Drainer of most of Switzerland (AARE) — sounds exotic. But Swiss river is AARE. It just is.
  • 3D: "My Philosofy" poet (RILEY) — my brain just refuses to remember who this person (James Whitcomb RILEY) is.
  • 24D: Foes of Frodo (ORCS) — as I said, gimme after gimme after gimme. I mean, 22D: Onetime Soyuz destination?? Three letters?? Hmmm....
  • 12D: He "spoke" with horns and whistles (HARPO MARX) — had -POM- right away and thought "... POM POM GUY?"
  • 44D: Modern-day locale of the place where the Santa Maria ran aground in 1492 (HAITI) — long, long way to go for HAITI.
  • 13D: The Seneca Chief was the first to travel its full length (ERIE CANAL) — until just a few seconds ago, I thought the Seneca Chief was a person.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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