THURSDAY, Jan. 31, 2008 - Paula Gamache (_____ HUGO, 1975 ISABELLE ADJANI ROLE BASED ON A REAL-LIFE STORY)
Thursday, January 31, 2008
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: "Break [Blank]" - circled squares within 7 theme answers spell out a word that can complete the phrase "Break _____"; circles appear at beginning and end of their respective words with a "break" (get it?) in between
Odd to have a long "Note" explaining what the theme of the puzzle is. Usually the theme is implicit, or is indicated in a clue or answer somewhere in the puzzle. This particular theme made the puzzle much easier to solve than it would have been otherwise (that is, had it been themeless). I got 1D: Cellist Casals (Pablo) and 2D: "That's _____!" ("a wrap") instantly and filled in the rest of the circles in 16A and 22A immediately thereafter. Very very handy to have a way of getting the last letters in a clue when you have only the first, and vice versa. This puzzle made up for this solving crutch by adding some very odd, cool, exotic fill. My one quibble with the theme itself, as it's expressed in the grid, is that 23D: Music download source has a circle at the beginning and the end, but is Not a theme answer. Annoying anomaly. Further, NAPSTER? Way to build a bridge to the 20th century. Though it still exists, its very name feels supremely dated, like it comes from some pre-iPodic time.
- 16A: *Not just stupid (BR aind EAD)
- 22A: * Setting in Sherlock Holmes's "The Man with the Twisted Lip" (OP iumd EN) - BRAIN DEAD and OPIUM DEN are a Great opening thematic pair.
- 10D: *Orchard part (FR uittr EE)
- 59A: *Dessert made from a product of a 10-Down (AP plet ART) - clever.
- 37A: *Perplexed state (WI tse ND) - breakfast table! come on!
- 49A: *Informers (RA tfi NKS) - another great answer. You could build an entire pulp fiction narrative out of these theme words.
- 33D: *Fairy tale meanie (EV ilque EN) - interesting; the "meanie" in this clue is almost Always an OGRE. Nice change of pace.
As for today's exotica, I was particularly fond of KIRIN (52D: Popular Japanese beer), YAO MING (20A: N.B.A. center who has pitched for McDonald's, Pepsi and Visa), POMPEII (57A: Major Italian tourist site) and (once again) IBIZA (38D: Resort island ESE of Valencia) - one of the three Balearic islands off the coast of the Iberian peninsula. Two more vivid bits of exotica - WAHINES (37D: Some luau dancers) and LIEBE (58A: "Ich _____ dich" (German words of endearment)) excited me slightly less because they intersected at an innocuous vowel and so I had to guess (though I suppose it wasn't much of a guess, in that I didn't have much doubt that LIEBE was right). Good stuff all around.
Other puzzle elements of note:
- 18A: Where William the Conqueror died (Rouen) - I think this city gets clued this way repeatedly. I could be wrong. It's up there in French city frequency with CAEN and NANTES, though nowhere near as popular as weekly favorite ST. LO.
- 14A: Score just before winning (ad in) - really wish this were AD OUT, because that would be BREAK POINT.
- 13A: Object of a manhunt, maybe (AWOL) - Here's a riddle: What do you get when you cross an EWOK with an ASOK?
- 15A: Skylit courts (atria) - crossword vocabulary 101 - also parts of hearts, along with the similar-looking AORTA. Ditto 27D: They replaced C rations (MREs) - Meals Ready-to-Eat.
- 17D: 1890s gold rush city (Nome) - more crossword commonness hiding behind interesting-sounding clues.
- 26A: Les Trois Mousquetaires, e.g. (amis) - a French fable about three mosquitoes, if I'm translating correctly...
- 64A: "Finnegans Wake" wife (Anna) - not in my memory bank, but supremely easy to get from crosses. Same with ANDY (8D: Granatelli of auto racing).
- 6D: _____ Hugo, 1975 Isabelle Adjani role based on a real-life story (Adele) - this answer made me laugh out loud, as I just said - earlier this week - that the only grid-worthy ADELE in existence was Fred Astaire's sister. Rather than contradicting my assertion, this clue would seem to prove my point. Emphatically.
- 42D: Cigarette box feature (flip top) - took me a little while to get. I quit 16 years ago, so I haven't really looked at a pack of cigarettes in a good long while.
- 48D: Planetary shadow (umbra) - beautiful word. Inherently poetical. I also enjoy the word PENUMBRA.
- 51D: Author Zora _____ Hurston (Neale) - one of the most important middle names in all of crosswordville. Look at all those juicy "Wheel of Fortune" letters. There are a couple of other ways to get NEALE - [Football great Greasy] and [Wimbledon champ Fraser] - but neither is as popular.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld