1978 Bob Fosse Broadway revue / SUN 1-6-13 / Blond bombshell of 50s TV / Kardashian spouse Lamar / 1942 Bette Davis film / James Bond's childhood home / Ladderlike in arrangement / Remove from mailing list informally / W.W. II marine threat
Sunday, January 6, 2013
Constructor: Dan Feyer and Andrea Carla Michaels
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
THEME: "Puzzle Envy" — theme answers are all two-word phrases where first word begins with "N" and second begins with "V"
Word of the Day: DAGMAR (3D: Blond bombshell of '50s TV) —
Dagmar (born Virginia Ruth Egnor, November 29, 1921 – October 9, 2001) was an American actress, model and television personality of the 1950s. As a statuesque, busty blonde, she became the first major female star of television, receiving much press coverage during that decade.
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Hey, nice to see Dan working at construction again. In case you didn't know, he is the current and gajillion-time champion of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament (coming back to Brooklyn once again this March). He is a pianist, and so I was on the lookout for musical answers—and I was not disappointed. Sadly, some of the musical answers got by me. But more on that later. This is a pretty straightforward theme—I've seen this ("envy" -> NV) pun in different contexts a million times before (OK, more like a handful than a million). The context that most readily comes to mind is the "Scott Pilgrim" comics series, where the title character's ex-girlfriend assumes the name "Envy" because N and V are her first two initials. Anyway, there appear to be a number of "N.V." phrases in the world, many of which are here in this grid. My favorite part of the theme isn't any particular answer—it's the stack of three theme answers at the center of the grid. Nice little feat. With a theme this straightforward, it would've been nice to see a little more sparkle in the fill, though I Really like all the 7- and 8-letters stuff in the SE corner—everything from PLAXICO (94D: The N.F.L.'s ___ Burress) east to DO-GOODER (89D: Well-intentioned activist).
For a number of reasons, I found this puzzle much harder than most Sundays. This is both because of and in spite of the theme. It took me forever to figure out, largely because the second theme answer I came to was completely befuddling. I hate hate hate it when [enemy] is used in a clue and it's just *assumed* to be [enemy of the U.S.]. It's ridiculous. Say what you mean. Anyway, I had no idea what the answer was there because the Downs that could've helped me in the NW and the North were either total mysteries to me ("DANCIN'"??? DAGMAR???) (1D: 1978 Bob Fosse Broadway revue + 3D: Blond bombshell of '50s TV) or were all screwed up. I knew "Les TROYENS" (9D: "Les ___" (Berlioz opera based on the "Aeneid"), but I could not get a spelling down. Started with TROI- but then 28A: ___ minute seemed sure to be IN A, so that's what I went with (it's ANY). [Moonstruck] means INSANE??? I love that movie, but it's about being IN LOVE, so I made no headway there. Strangely, despite having a weakness in the arena of musical answers, I had SPINETS nailed down fast (8D: Downsized uprights), but its neighbors, ugh. No idea what to make of the "Old" part of 32A: Old lad's wear (KNEEPANTS). How old? What is an old lad? You're a lad or you're not. A lad would wear KNEEPANTS, wouldn't he? I thought "old lad" was some technical term, so KNEEPANTS took a while to accept. Whole North was rough. Just couldn't get into it. E BOAT? Yikes (21A: W.W. II marine threat). There is a whole lot of what we call "Scrabblef*cking" going on in this puzzle (this is where you shove high-value scrabble letters into your grid in order to be showy, thereby resulting in drecky, compromised fill—some people have a propensity for this). The Scrabble-f@ickingest corner I've ever seen has to be the NE corner in this puzzle. AZERI??????? That is a tiny little corner that could've been filled any number of lovely ways, and that's the answer we get. This makes yesterday's ADENI seem common as dandelions. I would never have known that a resident of Azerbaijan was called an AZERI (and I'm sure a lot of folks won't even have known that Baku is *in* Azerbaijan (it's the capital)). JEJUNE is also a bit of Scrabble-f&cking (11D: Immature), but even though E BOAT is truly terrible, the other surrounding answers are solid, so no major harm done.
- 23A: What some goggles provide (NIGHT VISION)
- 36A: Onetime enemy (NORTH VIETNAMESE)
- 65A: Wine taster's destination (NAPA VALLEY)
- 70A: Bad sign for a traveler? (NO VACANCY)
- 74A: 1942 Bette Davis film ("NOW, VOYAGER")
- 99A: Home of the world's largest naval base (NORFOLK, VIRGINIA)
- 118A: "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" writer and star (NIA VARDALOS)
- 16D: 3.14159..., for pi (NUMERICAL VALUE)
- 47D: Hit 1944 film starring a 12-year-old actress ("NATIONAL VELVET")
- 38A: Reggae's ___ Kamoze (INI) — er ... yeah. I forgot about this guy. Totally. I might've gone with the pasta suffix, or something else, esp. as this crosses the less-than-lovely and not-universally-known UNSUB (35D: Remove from a mailing list)
- 45D: '60s prez (ABE) — hands up for LBJ ("confirmed" by BIAS) at first! Anyone? Just me? OK.
- 87D: Kardashian spouse Lamar ___ (ODOM) — this is a very harsh way to clue a very accomplished professional basketball player.
- 95D: James Bond's childhood home (SKYFALL) — no idea. That's what I get for waiting to see the film on Blu-Ray, I guess.