Saturday, February 18, 2012

Eucharist plate / SUN 2-19-12 / O Henry bad guy who became Hollywood/TV hero / First letter of tsar in Cyrillic / Mexican shout of elation / 1991 book subtitled When Lion Roars / Ottoman officer

Constructor: James F. C. Burns

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: "Core O'Nations" — theme answers have the names of countries buried in them

Word of the Day: MONTY Hall (109A: Hall of fame) —
Monte Halperin, OC, OM (born August 25, 1921), better known by the stage name Monty Hall, is a Canadian-born MC, producer, actor, singer and sportscaster, best known as host of the television game show Let's Make a Deal. (wikipedia)
• • •

A rare Sunday where I completely finished the puzzle (in 10-something) without having any idea what the theme was. I looked at the puzzle title a couple times, but nothing clicked, and nothing tricky seemed to be going on with the theme answers, so I just never gave the theme a second thought. Generally, I'd think you want your Sunday puzzle theme to be more ... foregroundy. Announce itself a little harder. This played like a giant mediocre themeless. Seems like the type of theme that would've been done before, a lot. Maybe I'm wrong. Do the countries have anything in common? Is there some pattern? I don't see anything. Just random countries. Countries don't touch every word in the theme answer, but embedded words almost never do any more, so I've given up hoping for that level of perfectionism. Theme answers were OK, except for SUNKEN YACHT (Treasure, Gold, Ship, etc. ... all actual phrases. YACHT?) and GARDEN MARKET. Is this some regional variant of "Farmer's Market?" One interesting feature of this puzzle—an inversion of the normal Across-to-Down theme answer ratio.

My only significant screw-up, and the only memorable moment of the whole solve, really, was when I confidently dropped in LATTE for 3D: Drink with foam on top (LAGER). That reeks of intentional trap. Well, it worked. Kept me tangled up for many seconds.

Theme answers:
  • 21A: Show of affection (A HUG AND A KISS)
  • 102A: Place for produce stands (GARDEN MARKET)
  • 50D: On the level (FAIR AND SQUARE)
  • 15D: Unofficial discussions (INFORMAL TALKS)
  • 26D: Trip up, perhaps (CATCH IN A LIE)
  • 44D: Sea salvager's quest, maybe (SUNKEN YACHT)
  • 30D: Makes an extra effort (TAKES PAINS)
  • 46D: Like always (AS PER USUAL)   

I made a puzzle once that could've gone MARIANO or MARIANA, so that word I remember (here, with the "S" on the end) (19A: Island group that includes Guam). Couple of alphabet clues I knew nothing about, but both were reasonably inferrable (well, TSE wasn't inferrable, exactly, but after TS- I felt strongly that the clue was just an attempt to give shopworn TSE a new outfit) (27A: The first letter of "tsar," in Cyrillic) (44A: Like "vav" in the Hebrew alphabet = SIXTH). Among the answers I got by dint of my Crossword Muscle were PASHA and PATEN. I have heard the name "CISCO KID" a lot over the years, but I realize now that I have absolutely no idea who he is, in any context (38A: O. Henry bad guy who became a Hollywood/TV hero). I saw a Gene Wilder movie called "The Frisco Kid" once. Any allusion / parody was lost on me. I wanted A GAS GAS GAS at 4D: "Jumpin' Jack Flash, it's ___" and (at first) DADA at 33D: "Swans Reflecting Elephants," e.g. (DALI). I know the exclamation "ARRIBA!" exclusively from Speedy Gonzales cartoons (49D: Mexican shout of elation). Despite liking cartoons, I never saw "The Lion King." Everything I know about that movie, I learned from crosswords. Sadly, until today, everything I know did not include either TIMON (63D: The 82-Down in "The Lion King") or MEERKAT (82D: African mongoose). Speaking of lions, that was a semi-tough clue on MGM (103D: 1991 book subtitled "When the Lion Roars").

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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