Birthplace of Natalie Portman / FRI 12-28-12 / Sabre ou pistolet / Failure of imagination per Graham Greene / Like bars that are often near horses / Hard to block jumper in hoops / Quaker makers / Critter with humanlike fingerprints / Brandy alternative / Pale Blue Dot author / Spitfire landing locale
Friday, December 28, 2012
Constructor: Ashton Anderson
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
Word of the Day: JEJUNE (1D: Dull) —
- Not interesting; dull: "and there pour forth jejune words and useless empty phrases" (Anthony Trollope).
- Lacking maturity; childish: surprised by their jejune responses to our problems.
- Lacking in nutrition: a jejune diet.[From Latin iēiūnus, meager, dry, fasting.]
Read more: http://www.answers.com/topic/jejune#ixzz2GJTWQEBw
• • •I always forget the meaning of JEJUNE. Something about it suggests "morose" to me. Not sure why. Maybe I get there by way of an association with the immature, particularly teens or tweens, who can be mopey and moody and (another "m" word) morose. Or maybe there's another explanation. Or no explanation. Anyway, I did not find this puzzle morose *or* dull, even though it was a pretty FAST ONE (51A: Flimflam). High word count makes for a very fillable grid, and so there's very little to grouse about here, and lots to admire, or at least enjoy. As you know, I'm not a big fan of the expression JUST SAYIN' (1A: Opinion add-on), but I am a big fan of the idea of someone JUST SAYIN' "ENCHILADA"—you know, for no particular reason—so that juxtaposition redeems 1A in my head (and heart) (15A: Taqueria treat). I'm also enjoying the CLUCKing KOALA (16A: Critter with humanlike fingerprints) and the SCHNAPPS-induced PARANOIA (35D: Brandy alternative + 36D: Theme of "The Tell-Tale Heart") that this puzzle is conjuring up. Nothing mind-blowing here, but nothing icky either. All in all, a light tasty snack.
I got into the grid by way of a run of three-letter Downs—namely, THU, SIS, and ALA. Not that the positive effect of this run was immediate. I couldn't see any of the crossing Acrosses at first, and I even yanked SIS at some point, fearing the answer might be BRO. But I was 50% sure of YALIE (7D: Clinton, Bush or Cheney), largely because it gave me IDES, which I knew was right. Then NAME DROP dropped, with very little prompting (just the "E" in IDES, I think), and the whole NW took shape from there. Learned an interesting bit of trivia about [Natalie Portman's birthplace] and moved on. Nothing else in the grid gave me much trouble except 51D: Quaker makers? I had -EARS and still had no idea what was going on. Finally figured out FAST ONE, which gave me FEARS, which still left me shrugging ... for a few seconds. Then I got it. FEARS make you quake, so they make you (or whomever) into a "quaker." Pretty cute. Had a little more trouble in the NE with 31A: Square for a roll (PAT) (think butter). I wrote in DIE very quickly; then, when the Downs wouldn't work, a little, sane voice drifted up from some dungeon in my brain and informed me that a DIE is not a square but a cube. I blew this voice off at first, rationalizing that a DIE is "square" in a very loose, colloquial kind of way ... but in the end, the thing that is handled on the range was just much more likely to be a something-PAN than a somebody-DAN, so: bye bye DIE. The rest is history.
- 30A: Sabre ou pistolet (ARME) — short and uncommon French word (uncommon for non-French speakers to know, that is). Inferrable, though, to be sure.
- 53A: "A failure of imagination," per Graham Greene (HATE) — Cool quote by an excellent writer.
- 63A: Spitfire landing locale (AERODROME) — according to wikipedia, "all airports are AERODROMEs, but not all AERODROMEs are airports." Good to know!
- 64A: "Pale Blue Dot" author (SAGAN) — Oh, right. Earth. Title meant nothing to me, so the answer provided a nice "oh, right" moment.
- 62A: Old car with ignition trouble? (PINTO) — my favorite clue of the day. Made me laugh. I like a clue that forces me to imagine ugly cars bursting into flames.
- 2D: Like bars that are often near horses (UNEVEN) — wow. Nice misdirect. Never saw the gymnastics angle coming.
- 28D: Most Atari-playing kids (GEN X'ERS) — I played Intellivision, but ... yeah, this is pretty much accurate.
- 38D: Hard-to-block jumper, in hoops (FADE-AWAY) — "in hoops" = not needed. I love this answer. Great bit of sports lingo.