Saturday, December 24, 2011

Tunisian seaport / SUN 12-25-11 / Journalist Joseph / Japanese stringed instrument / Video game island / Eponymic town of Cambridgeshire / Honey in Horn trumpeter

Constructor: Elizabeth C. Gorski

Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: "Ain't He Sweet" — circles form a GINGERBREAD MAN (91A: With 100-Across, image revealed by connecting the circle letters alphabetically); assorted other answers relate to the theme

Word of the Day: Max REGER (67D: Composer Max) —
Johann Baptist Joseph Maximilian Reger (19 March 1873 – 11 May 1916) was a German composer, conductor, pianist, organist, and academic teacher. [...] Reger produced an enormous output over little more than 25 years, nearly always in abstract forms. Few of his compositions are well known in the 21st century. (wikipedia)
• • •

An impressive construction that left me a little cold, mostly because of how much the quality of the fill was strained. Also, the theme answers weren't very coherent. All over the map. ELIZABETH? Random. "SHREK" has no symmetrical counterpart. Look, the A to Z thing is very cool, no doubt. But once you get the revealer then the whole thing is ... uh ... revealed. Theme itself is pretty thin, so there's nothing more to do but deal with the fill, and That was the problem. SFAX (102D: Tunisian seaport)!? REGER (67D: Composer Max)!? SIXTE (44A: Fencing position)!? I ended up with an error and it took Forever to find, first because the grid is enormous (oversized 23x23) and second because I had So many places to look (i.e. lots and lots of words I'd never heard of before that I thought could be wrong). Of course the error was in the last place I looked: at the intersection of the nonword AGAZE (8A: Staring intently) and the never-seen-before "mineral" ZINCITE (11D: Mineral in healing crystals). What the hell is a "healing crystal?" I had AGAPE (a word). PINCITE is, of course, ridiculous, but not much more ridiculous than AGAZE. And who the hell is GRIMSBY? (9D: "The Little Mermaid" fellow) I've heard of drinking *warm* milk, but HOT MILK (117D: Relaxer for Santa)!? Ouch / gross. I had the front end and thought "HOT ... MAMA? That *would* be relaxing, but ..."

Theme answers:
  • 76A: Decoration on a 91-/100-Across (ICING)
  • 102A: 2001 film in which 91-/100-Across is a character ("SHREK")
  • 4D: 91-/100-Across, often (TREE ORNAMENT)  
  • 16D: Aid for making a 91-/100-Across (COOKIE CUTTER)
  • 105D: 16th-century monarch credited with presenting 91-/100-Acrosses to guests (ELIZABETH)
  • 110D: "The 91-/100-Across," for one (FAIRY TALE) — I thought for sure this was going to refer to that movie I never saw ... based on a Grisham novel, maybe ... hang on ... oh, I'm sorry: "based on a discarded John Grisham manuscript" (!).

  • 33A: Japanese stringed instrument (KOTO) — another relatively obscure answer, though this one I remembered from crosswords gone by.
  • 112A: "Honey in the Horn" trumpeter (HIRT) — Al HIRT. Here's something of his I didn't know existed:

  • 136A: Fictional planet in "Flash Gordon" (MONGO) — no idea why I know this. Is that Ming the Merciless's planet? Hey, it is. My memory is strangely accurate today. 
  • 141A: Crudités platter centerpiece (CHEESE DIP) — I went with the more traditional CHEESE LOG (not sure what "tradition" I'm referring to, but ...).
  • 154A: Eponymic town of Cambridgeshire (STILTON) — this was oddly easy. My first thought was "how should I know?" Then I took one look at the answer, with a couple crosses in place, and I knew: cheese!
  • 13D: Video game island (MYST) — a very big game from a time right when I was starting to not pay attention to video games any more.
  • 41D: Mao contemporary (CHIANG) — as in Kai-Shek. This took some thought.
  • 47D: Bulbous plant part (CORM) — one of those supremely ugly words I "know" only from crosswords.
Merry Merry,

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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