Thursday, January 12, 2012

Old name of San Jose Sharks arena / THU 1-12-12 / Pet rat in 1972 #1 song / Popular Italian scooter / Veld flower

Constructor: Gareth Bain

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: CANADIAN PROVINCE (39A: What each of the 10 abbreviations in this puzzle's answer stands for) — rebus puzzle with 10 province abbrevs. arranged symmetrically around the grid

SK = Saskatchewan
MB = Manitoba
ON = Ontario
NB = New Brunswick
AB = Alberta
BC = British Columbia
QC = Québec
PE = Prince Edward Island
NL = Newfoundland and Labrador
NS = Nova Scotia

Word of the Day: La PLATA (1A: La ___ (Argentine city)) —
La Plata (English: The Silver) is the capital city of the Province of Buenos Aires, Argentina, and of La Plata partido. According to the 2001 census [INDEC], the city proper has a population of 574,369 and its metropolitan area has 694,253 inhabitants. // La Plata was planned and developed to serve as the provincial capital after the city of Buenos Aires was federalized in 1880, and it was officially founded by Governor Dardo Rocha on 19 November 1882. Its construction is fully documented in photographs by Tomás Bradley Sutton. La Plata was renamed Eva Perón City (Ciudad Eva Perón) between 1952 and 1955. (wikipedia)
• • •

16 wide, heavily segmented, a jillion (give or take) black squares—these are the things I noticed first. I also knew very quickly (while still in that NW corner) that I was dealing with a rebus. Something just didn't smell right. Sure enough, ON fell into place, but then SK showed up and I had no idea what kind of rebus I was dealing with. It's not clear—are these postal abbrevs.? What kind of abbrevs.? Because I've seen most of these provinces abbreviated differently before (ONT, PEI, etc.). Even with the extra column in the grid, the 9 rebus squares is pretty impressive. I'd say the symmetry of those squares is also impressive (it is), but here's my feeling about symmetry and rebuses—unnecessary. In fact, unwanted. What fun is a rebus if you aren't going to be surprised by where the squares turn up (for half the grid, anyway)? The grid is good, but I can't help wondering if it would've been better if the rebuses hadn't been locked into place. The placement of the rebus square in both MARLO[N B]RANDO and COMPA[Q C]ENTER is gorgeous—right at the place where the first word ends and the second word begins. But ON and PE are just hugging the wall. Rebus square symmetry is nice for people who really struggle with rebuses, but for me it halfway defeats the fun. So I applaud the architecture, but .... give me scattershot rebus squares placed in interesting ways over strict symmetry any day.

The constructor really, really wants you to know he's from South Africa. So, in case you didn't gather that fact from the (at least) three different South Africa-oriented clues—[Windhoek-to-Pretoria dir.], [Andries Pretorius, e.g., who gave his name to a national capital], [Veld flower]—now I'm telling you directly. He's from South Africa. Nice guy.

  • 27D: They're flicked (BICS) — I remember this from an old ad campaign, but I have not heard the expression "flick my BIC" in decades. 

  • 65A: American Shakers founder (AN[NL]EE) — SW corner was threatening to be one of the toughest until I hit this answer. A very crossword-friendly name (in fact, I definitely  learned this bit of trivia from crosswords).
  • 48A: Pet rat in a 1972 #1 song (BEN) — Michael Jackson. I think BEN was also a pet bear from a '60s TV series. He was "Gentle," by which I assume they mean "heavily drugged so as not to kill the actors."
  • 67A: Popular Italian scooter (VESPA) — the epitome of mod-cool when I was in high school. Maybe at other times as well.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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