Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Violinist Leopold / THU 12-8-11 / Old Apple product marketed to schools / Roundish with irregular border / Jason who sang I'm Yours 2008

Constructor: Daniel A. Finan

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: Say it! — theme answers have two consecutive circled squares inside them. The letters in those squares, when read out loud, provide the clue for the whole answer, e.g. "M" and "T" are circled, so when you say "M T" you essentially say "Empty," which is the clue for the entire answer: ITEM TO RECYCLE

Word of the Day: Renée ADORÉE (16A: Renée of silent films) —
Renée Adorée (September 30, 1898 – October 5, 1933) was a French actress who had appeared in Hollywood silent movies during the 1920s. [...] By the end of 1930, she had appeared in forty-five films, the last four of them talkies. That year she was diagnosed with tuberculosis, Adorée lived only a few years longer. Adorée went against her physician's advice by finishing her final film, Call of the Flesh, with Ramon Novarro. At its completion, she was rushed to a sanitarium in Prescott, Arizona, where she lay flat on her back for two years in an effort to regain her physical health. In April of 1933, she left the sanitarium. At this point it was thought she had recovered sufficiently to resume her screen career, but she swiftly weakened and her health declined day by day. She was moved from her modest home in the Tujunga Hills to the Sunland health resort in September 1933. // She died there, a few days after her 35th birthday, on October 5, 1933 in Tujunga, California. She is interred in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Hollywood, California. (wikipedia)
• • •
I've seen variations on this theme before—where circled letters are meant to be read aloud—so this theme wasn't terribly difficult to pick up, though I was all the way down the western seaboard at ABREEZE before I figured it out. I just didn't waste too much time pondering the theme until that point. MT and NV are states, and I had those first, but the state thing didn't make sense, so I just kept moving along I hit EZ. After that, the puzzle was.

While this idea is clever, the theme answers are (by necessity) a bit forced. Well, the three longer ones are, anyway—EVEN ONE and A BREEZE feel pretty natural. GREEN VICE, on the other hand, feels yucky. Yes, "envy" is a VICE, and one can be GREEN with "envy," but "envy" itself is not a GREEN VICE. When I google ["GREEN VICE"], I get all kinds of people with the last name of GREEN who are VICE presidents of something or other. Still, despite awkward definition-type answers, this puzzle was reasonably pleasurable. The grid is pretty solid, with only the bygone and barely remembered EMAC making me cringe (even though I remembered it this time). This puzzle has some interesting features, such as a set of German anagrams (NIE, EIN), and a PROSTATE. The longer non-theme fill is all wonderful, and the grid is nicely Scrabbly and still smooth. 

Theme answers:
  • 7A: EVEN ONE
  • 62A: A BREEZE

Despite a clunky start (CAVORT for PRANCE—1A: Gambol about), I finished fairly quickly, even though I lost about 30 seconds trying to track down an error. Two errors, actually. First one was stupid spelling error: SLILY and GUIANA instead of SLYLY and GUYANA (59A: Neighbor of Suriname). The second one was also a spelling error, but one that was not so easily fixed. I could not get my head around 21A: It comes in a chicken variety, even with PO- in place, and I thought the narrator of "A Clockwork Orange" was ALEC. But POC was obviously nonsense, so ... I was stuck for a bit, until I plugged in the only other letter that could plausibly complete a man's name that starts ALE-. Interesting to see AMOEBIC in the grid (3D: Roundish with an irregular border), given that various spellings of AMOEBA and its plurals show up all the time. You rarely (if ever) see the adjectival form. I mostly remembered AUER this time—I learned him a long time ago when his son (an actor) was mistakenly clued as a violinist. I remembered that he ended -ER ... but needed help with the "U." How I know Jason MRAZ is less clear to me (54D: Jason who sang "I'm Yours," 2008). Someone must have sung one of his songs on "Idol" once (or twice or thrice). That's a last name you don't forget.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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