Dickens' scheming clerk / WED 9-17-14 / Original Veronica Mars airer / Literary hybrid / Drink made with Jameson / Gender-bending role for Barbra Streisand

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Constructor: Zhouqin Burnikel and Don Gagliardo

Relative difficulty: Easy



THEME: POLLINATION (62: Job done by the insects seen above the circled words in 17-, 26- and 50-Across) — grid features three flowers (IRIS, ASTER, ROSE) and a "BEE" atop each one:

Theme answers:
  • IRISH COFFEE (17A: Drink made with Jameson, maybe)
  • YES, MASTER (26A: Genie's reply)
  • PROSE POEM (50A: Literary hybrid)
Word of the Day: POGO (42D: Okefenokee possum) —
Pogo is the title and central character of a long-running daily American comic strip, created by cartoonist Walt Kelly (1913–1973) and distributed by the Post-Hall Syndicate. Set in theOkefenokee Swamp of the southeastern United States, the strip often engaged in social and political satire through the adventures of its anthropomorphic funny animal characters.
Pogo combined both sophisticated wit and slapstick physical comedy in a heady mix ofallegory, Irish poetry, literary whimsy, puns and wordplay, lushly detailed artwork and broadburlesque humor. The same series of strips can be enjoyed on different levels by both young children and savvy adults. The strip earned Kelly a Reuben Award in 1951. (wikipedia)
• • •

Good morning. Late post today (7:15 am-ish). Poor night's sleep on Monday + full day teaching Tuesday + long walk in the woods with the dogs + first night of Binghamton Restaurant Week last night (which involved a Little alcohol) = me walking in the door last night and almost instantly falling asleep for ten hours. These things happen. The puzzle was cute. I didn't notice the theme at all until I'd finished, and then I had a nice little moment of "oh, look at that: BEEs." You usually see "hidden" (in this case "circled") words straddling the two words of a theme answer, but they're pushed off to one edge here for a reason—in order to more easily accommodate the BEEs. So that seems fine. Grid isn't crowded with theme answers, so the fill has a little room to breathe and as a result is not terrible. If I could send one answer back, it would probably be REDOSE. Maybe ROLEO or EDA, neither of whom I have ever seen outside a grid. But like I say, the rest seems pretty solid, particularly the long Downs. SWEET TALK wins Best Answer (11D: Cajole).


SWEET TALK was also the hardest thing for me to see. I did most of this puzzle at a Monday pace, but that NE corner held me up a bit because I couldn't see either of those long Downs for a bit. Had AMS (?) for 16A: Like early morning hours (WEE(pro tip: when the clue clearly calls for an adjective, try an adjective). Never heard of Fort Donelson National Battlefield, so TENNESSEE had to come from crosses. Forgot there was a PETER Farrelly. And worst of all, had Mountain DEW *and* had never (ever) heard of "mountain ASH." I assume it's a … tree? Yes! "Mountain ash is a name used for several trees, none of immediate relation" (wikipedia). Useful! So there was a little struggle up there. The rest of the puzzle put up no resistance, except Miss ELLIE (51D: "Dallas" matriarch). She was a little ornery. Got her confused with a cow there for a bit (ELSIE).


Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Resin used in incense / TUE 9-16-14 / 1990s R B group with repetitive sounding name / early mets manager Hodges / Family in 2009 best seller This Family of Mine / City midway between Detroit Toronto

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Constructor: Gary Cee

Relative difficulty: Medium (with lots of variation likely)



THEME: ON and ON and ON (52A: How a motormouth talks … or what 20-, 29- and 43-Across literally have in common) — theme answers feature the letter pairing "ON" three times

Theme answers:
  • TONY TONI TONÉ (20A: 1990s R&B group with a repetitive-sounding name)
  • LONDONONTARIO (29A: City midway between Detroit and Toronto)
  • MONSOON SEASON (43A: June to September, in India)
Word of the Day: ELEMI (33D: Resin used in incense) —
Canarium luzonicum, commonly known as elemi, is a tree native to the Philippines, and anoleoresin harvested from it. // Elemi resin is a pale yellow substance, of honey-like consistency. Aromatic elemi oil is steam distilledfrom the resin. It is a fragrant resin with a sharp pine and lemon-like scent. One of the resin components is called amyrin.
Elemi resin is chiefly used commercially in varnishes and lacquers, and certain printing inks. It is used as a herbal medicine to treat bronchitiscatarrh, extreme coughing, mature skin, scars, stress, and wounds. The constituents include phellandrenelimoneneelemolelemicinterpineolcarvone, and terpinolene. (wikipedia) (not to be confused with the 1985 John Malkovich film "ELENI" or the 1983 book it's based on)
• • •

This theme is slightly kooky and fairly entertaining. Must be pretty difficult to come up with a symmetrical set of these 3xON phrases, because LONDON, ONTARIO is a pretty deep cut. I've been there … well, I drove past on my way to McMaster University in Hamilton. Anyway, I have first-hand experience of the place, is what I'm saying, and I don't know how commonly known LONDON, ONTARIO is in the States. TONY TONI TONÉ was very well known at one point, but I have a feeling that answer is going to be the primarily stumbling block for a good chunk of solvers today. They had a string of #1 R&B hits in the late '80s / early '90s. Raphael Saadiq (whose name is crying out to be in crosswords) has a pretty successful solo career now. Even if you had heard of them, it's quite possible you didn't know exactly how to spell their name. For that, you can certainly be forgiven.


ELEMI is pretty horrid, but most of the rest of the fill is pretty good. I thought the pedal was a "WAH WAH" pedal. Just one WAH? Wha? Puzzle played very easy for me, generally. One answer that gave me a little trouble was the one with perhaps the best (in the sense of craziest-sounding) clue—3D: Like sheer fabric or sautéed onions (TRANSLUCENT). Very nice (despite the duped ENT, which is also duped in TENTS and CENT, and which is anagrammed in TEN). Also, RAINS ON crossing MONSOON SEASON—hat tip to that. My only real mistake came at 52D: Choice on a gambling line (OVER). I had ODDS.

That is all.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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