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Friday, January 20, 2012

Fiddlehead sources / SAT 1-21-12 / Dodgem feature / Oberhausen opera highlight / Golden Pavilion setting / 1976 Rodgers Harnick musical about Henry VIII / Supporter of Yoda / Opera's Obraztsova

Constructor: Martin Ashwood-Smith

Relative difficulty: Medium 

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: LENOS (63A: Soft, meshed fabrics) —
n. pl. le·nos
1. Weaving in which the warp yarns are paired and twisted.
2. A fabric having such a weave. (freedictionary.com)
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[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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I did this puzzle in pencil, untimed, so I'm not exactly sure of how tough it was. Felt suitably Saturdayish. Why do people continue to pursue the 4x15 stack? It just doesn't yield very good answers. SEEDLESS RAISINS is essentially an excuse to cram a lot of RLTNE letters in there (40A: Sultanas, say), and PRIME is about the only interesting part of PRIME REAL ESTATE (though I do like the clue—38A: Great parking spot, slangily) (note the doubling of STATE near bottom of the grid). Unsurprisingly, the non-central areas of the grid are more interesting, particularly the spooky pairing of "ARE YOU ALONE?" and "COME INTO THE OPEN" (no thanks, I'm gonna stay hidden til you go away, k? K) (14A: Phone query before a private conversation + 17A: Emerge). When I first saw the clue at 5D: Somme silk, I said, out loud, "ugh, fabrics," an exclamation I was to repeat. Twice. Fabrics tend to have short, foreign, terrible, and (to me) unmemorable names. SOIE I got just because it's a French word and I had some French. CIRÉ I managed to remember because of some prior experience, and some sense that it's etymologically related to the (again) French word for "wax" (31D: Highly glazed fabric). LENOS, on the other (other) hand, I had noooo shot at. So strange was that word to me that I really felt like the "N" was a total guess (later, I ran the alphabet and realized "N" was the only viable option)—which brings me to the A PLAN clue (47D: "But not without ___": Pope). What the hell? It's *Alexander* Pope, in case you were wondering, and the quotation is from "An Essay on Man." That's a major literary work, but ... well, it's hardly "Othello" or "Moby-Dick" or some other quotable literary classic. Feels like a very "screw you" kind of clue.




PAL UP is not an expression I know (6A: Get chummy). PAL AROUND (with), sure. But I PAIR UP. PAL AROUND, PAIR UP. I also don't remember Yoda using a CANE (20A: Supporter of Yoda). My little Yoda figurine must have lost his CANE somewhere along the way. George TAKEI's name looks like a "free offer" only if the offerer is prone to using Roman numerals. He's well known, and a major gay activist, so surely there's a reasonable way to clue him.  I thought for sure that [Match game?] was ARSON (nope, LOTTO), so it was interesting to see fire-language misdirection later on in the grid with the clue for PYROMANIA (54A: Lighting problem?), which I would've clued as a Def Leppard album, but that's just me.




Really loved the clues on SEX (21A: Masters focus) and ZONED (13D: Like a lot, maybe). Both of them stumped me, especially the latter.

Bullets:
  • 1A: Fiddlehead sources (FERNS) — one of the symbols of NZ, so I should know this. A "fiddlehead" is the "furled frond of a young fern" (wiki).
  • 25A: Dodgem feature (CAR) — I learned "dodgem" from a crossword puzzle long ago. I think it was a Word of the Day. So some things actually do stick.
  • 53A: "Mickey" singer Basil (TONI) — huge gimme. On heavy rotation I was an MTV-addicted youngster.



  • 60A: Roquefort source (EWE) — took me longer than it should have. Went looking for a French word (EAU? No). 
  • 62A: 1976 Rodgers and Harnick musical about Henry VIII ("REX") — saw the clue and thought "Damn, I know this. I wrote about it a few months back ... it's something short and weird ..."
  • 12D: Opera's Obraztsova (ELENA) — suitably Saturday. Better than the already-tired [Justice Kagan].
  • 25D: Roosevelt established it as Shangri-La (CAMP DAVID) — nice bit of trivia. Guessed it off the -VID.
  • 30D: Oberhausen opera highlight (ARIE) — German word for "ARIA?" Pretty terrible, though I gotta give some credit for trying to invent a new clue for this answer. OK, not *new* new, but certainly not common, i.e. not R&B singer India.___, not Racer Luyendyk.
  • 48D: Golden Pavilion setting (KYOTO) — My first thought was "isn't that a supermarket chain in southern California?" (it's just "Pavilions"). On geographical ignorance, see also [Seti river setting] = NEPAL.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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