Monday, February 13, 2012

Marquis de Sade delivered his eulogy / TUE 2-14-12 / Coal-rich region of Germany / Cocktails made with Southern Comfort sloe gin amaretto orange juice / Anti-bullfighting org

Constructor: Paula Gamache

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: AMO, AMAS, AMAT (64A: Classical trio found inside 18-, 28- and 49-Across) —those three words are "hidden" inside three theme answers

Word of the Day: JITNEY (60A: Small bus) —
A dollar van (also known as a commuter van, jitney) is a privately owned type of bus service used to carry passengers in the United States of America. Dollar vans typically operate in neighborhoods within urban areas that are under-served by public mass transit or taxis. Some of the dollar vans are licensed and regulated, while others operate illegally. Passengers may board them at designated stops along their route or hail them as share taxis (although the latter practice may be technically illegal). The name comes from the fact that it would only cost about one dollar or so to ride with such transit. Dollar vans are primarily owned and used by inner-city African/Caribbean American, Latino, and Asian American populations. The vehicles used range from 15-seat Ford Econolines to 29-seat minibuses. Travelers cite cost and greater frequency as factors in choosing jitneys over larger bus service, whereas safety and comfort are cited for choosing buses. (wikipedia)
• • •

I did this puzzle under unusual circumstances (with two TV cameras trained on me), so my estimation of its quality might be off, but I generally liked it. Seemed slightly harder than a normal Tuesday, but that may be because I was talking and commenting while solving. That SANTA MONICA clue was a stumper (for a Tuesday). I kept scrolling my mind for Italian place names beginning SANTA and eventually got SANTA MONICA almost entirely from crosses. Also, getting to DECI- from [Prefix with bel] proved nearly impossible, for some reason. Also, I continue not to know the word JITNEY, despite having encountered it now several times. Also, the SW was oddly tricky: had SOIL for ROIL (56D: Make muddy) so couldn't see the FARM and certainly couldn't get FAST [Partner of hard]. I wouldn't have put hard and FAST together except in certain contexts which I'm *sure* the NYT wasn't intending. Theme answers aren't exactly scintillating, but the Latin-hiders are all 15 (nice), and LATIN LOVER is an interesting bonus. I wonder if Paula didn't have a number of AMAS- and AMAT-containing answers at the ready; I say this mainly because I know how hard it can be to cross *three* theme answers *six* times (all the Downs in the far west and far east, essentially). Seems like it might take you several organizational attempts to get that section of the grid to work out so smoothly.

Theme answers:
  • 18A: Neighbor of Venice (SANTA MONICA)
  • 28A: Cocktails made with Southern Comfort, sloe gin, amaretto and orange juice (ALABAMA SLAMMERS)
  • 49A: Perfect Sleeper and others (SERTA MATTRESSES)
  • 39A: With 42-Across, one who might memorize 64-Across [i.e. AMO, AMAS, AMAT] (LATIN LOVER)
I do like a puzzle that repurposes crosswordese. Take the tired, stale fill (AMO, AMAS, AMAT) and make something new and pretty out of it. It only just now occurred to me that today (which is to say, tomorrow) is Valentine's Day, and that this puzzle's Latin loveyness ties right in. Cool. Much nicer than that pseudo-heart-shaped grid we got on Saturday.

  • 9A: Cathode's counterpart (ANODE) — pretty easy. Just notice that both of these sound like girls' names. The Ode sisters: Cath and Ann.
  • 16A: Examiner of sunken ships, perhaps (DIVER) — this also took a little thinking. I'm telling you—ever-so-slightly thornier than your avg. Tuesday. 

  • 36A: Anti-bullfighting org. (PETA) — not how I usually think of them, but that makes sense.
  • 4D: Old Spanish coin (PESETA) — doesn't sound "old" to me. Is that because it's simply the pre-Euro denomination?Yes. Well that explains that.
  • 19D: The Marquis de Sade delivered his eulogy (MARAT) — I did not know that. I was pleased to get MARAT off just the "R."
  • 47D: Paris and Hector, e.g. (TROJANS) — helps that I'm teaching the Aeneid. I'll have cameras trained on me tomorrow while I do that, too.
  • 63D: Fad item of 1962 (YO-YO) — It's not really a fad if it never goes away, is it? Or did the YO-YO really have its hula hoop moment in 1962? I wasn't there.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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