Recurring Stephen King antagonist Randall / SUN 3-31-13 / Device Professor X wears over his head in X-men / 1983 film debut of Bill Maher / One-named R&B singer / Noted American writer in Yiddish / Ones who wrote in Ogham alphabet / Mythological figure kithara / Computer used to predict 1952 election / Aconcagua setting
Sunday, March 31, 2013
Constructor: Caleb Madison
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: "Special Features" — An Easter puzzle with the revealer EASTER EGGS (115A: Hidden DVD feature ... which can be found, literally, in the answers to the starred clues) — each letter of "EASTER EGGS" (in order) has been added to the first word of movie titles, creating wacky movie titles, clued "?"-style.
- 23A: *Movie about ... an intense blinking context? ("STARE WARS")
- 28A: *... a housecleaner? ("NEAT WORK")
- 30A: *... a sled racer? ("SNOW VOYAGER")
- 44A: *... a bee during a downpour? ("STINGIN' IN THE RAIN")
- 56A: *... actor Jason's fan club? ("BATEMAN FOREVER")
- 80A: *... Jerry Garcia's band's portraits? ("DRAWN OF THE DEAD") — trying to figure out how grammar on this works ...
- 88A: *... a parent's edicts? ("TEEN COMMANDMENTS")
- 100A: *... a king's brilliance? ("REGAL GENIUS")
- 108A: *... a harvester? ("GRAIN MAN")
Word of the Day: CEREBRO (72A: Device Professor X wears over his head in "X-Men") —
In the Marvel Universe, Cerebro (Portuguese and Spanish for "brain") is a device that the X-Men (in particular, their leader, Professor Charles Xavier) use to detect humans, specifically mutants. It was created by Xavier and Magneto, and was later enhanced by Dr. Hank McCoy. The current version of Cerebro is called Cerebra, to be distinguished from the character of the same name. Cerebro first appeared in X-Men (vol 1) #7 (1964). (wikipedia)
Well this was a lot of fun. There were some weird moments—I don't know how "DRAWN" (or maybe "OF") is being used in "DRAWN OF THE DEAD"; I loved / was mystified by CEREBRO, which seems nerdily arcane; and though the puzzle overall felt *very* easy, the tiny patch in the NNW was absurdly hard. I spent about a quarter of my time on this puzzle trying to figure out what amounts to little more than a 3x5 patch of land. But none of these things (except the "DRAWN" thing) is knock on the puzzle. Just strange moments that stand out in an overall fast and fluid solve. Having worked with Caleb, I know and value how much care he puts into non-theme fill. Many Sundays, what you get is All Theme, and at best the fill is mediocre, at worst it's been compromised to make the theme work. Here, not only is the fill mostly smooth, but there are these great bonuses in the Downs, CAROL KANE and DEATH METAL (13D: Music genre of Possessed and Deicide), CUT CORNERS and CHEWBACCA (such a good clue—78D: Solo companion). LADIES' NIGHT! The only one I didn't like was "LOST WEEKEND," and the only reason I didn't like it was that it felt mildly distracting to have a long movie title in the puzzle that fell *outside* the whole EASTER EGG theme. Also, I don't like when "THE"s and "A"s are omitted on titles, esp. long ones (4D: 1945 Best Picture winner, with "The"). But again, these are minor quibbles. There are a lot of very good constructors under 30 at this moment, and Caleb (who is Way under 30) might just be the best of them. If he's not, he's close.
Now about that patch of trouble up top. I got "STARE WARS" easily enough, but hadn't yet clearly grasped the theme, so "SNOWV-" did not trigger the movie "NOW, VOYAGER" the way it was supposed to. So I didn't have the back end of that answer, and I didn't know HENRY I (20D: English king who was a son of William the Conqueror) (I had HENGST in there... which is wrong on so many levels—five centuries to early, misspelled, legendary ...). I had ROE but absolute didn't know FLAGG (8D: Recurring Stephen King antagonist Randall ___) or ARGONS (27A: Atoms in some light bulbs) and, most importantly, thought SEL was EAU (19A: It's found in la mer). So ... I was just stopped. For I don't know how long. Once I (finally) ditched EAU, ASSAY and TETRA went in pretty quickly, and then I pieced it all together. Wrong answers are The Worst. Lately, all of my disastrous time losses have been due not to ignorance, but to a wrong answer I am sure is right (so sure that I don't even question it).
There was a good deal of pop culture in the grid, beyond the theme itself (not atypical for a Madison grid). I never saw "D.C. CAB," but I do know it exists, so the odd combination of letters in that answer didn't throw me off (13A: 1983 film debut of Bill Maher). I never listened to MYA, but I know her name (this is true for me of almost all pop singers who got famous after 1996) (95A: One-named R&B singer). I know NATASHA Bedingfield from ... something. "Torn?" Nope, that's Natalie Imbruglia. Hmmm ... It's a name I know from people mentioning it on "Idol" (way back when, when I watched "Idol"). Oh, right, "Unwritten." Some girl sang it and promptly got sent home. Anyway, her name has stuck for some reason (74A: Pop singer Bedingfield).
- 3D: Mythological figure often depicted holding a kithara (ERATO) — looks forbidding. Isn't. Just good ol' ERATO. A "kithara" is a lyre-like instrument.
- 29D: Noted American writer in Yiddish (ASCH) — Sholem. Never read him. Just know him.
- 35D: Computer used to predict the 1952 presidential election (UNIVAC) — ENIAC wouldn't fit. I have heard of UNIVAC (which always sounds like a vacuum brand to me), but had no idea it predicted anything, let alone the '52 election.
- 102D: Ones who wrote in the Ogham alphabet (GAELS) — got it off the "G"; I don't know ... just sounded Gaelic. And that's how I solved that.