Jumat, 17 Juni 2011

06.17 Fri

June 17, 2011
Gareth Bain

Theme: Back to School — Each theme answer is a familiar phrase in which the last word can be used to describe part of an educational experience.

Theme answers:

  • 18A: Part of an astronomy degree? (LUNAR MODULE).
  • 24A: Part of a surgery degree? (CUTTING CLASS).
  • 36A: Part of a physics degree? (COLLISION COURSE).
  • 47A: Part of an economics degree? (MONETARY UNIT).
  • 55A: Part of a theology degree? (GRACE PERIOD).
Whoa. Tough one today, right? I was a little worried I wouldn't actually be able to finish it, but it all came together. Eventually. I kinda wandered my way through the grid doing what I could do, and I ended up with three sections that I could tell were gonna be trouble. First I tackled that northwest corner. Yikes! I stared at that section for quite a while before anything became clear. OH YOU (2D: Words to a kidder) was the first answer I got up there, then I ran the alphabet to figure out HOE (1A: Tool used for loosening). That H made the tricky HARD C come into focus (1D: Repeated cacophonic sound?) and with AH in the 14-across spot, that last letter had to be an L, right? I actually had it in my head that the Calder Cup was hockey, but then I'm all, "No duh. That's the Stanley Cup." Turns out the Calder Cup is an award in the American Hockey League. What? There's another hockey league? (I know, right?)

Finally, I saw ELECTROLUX (3D: Hoover rival ) and then … DOCS. I mean, that's just cruel. Bugs Bunny calls everyone DOC so [20A: All of us, to Bugs] are DOCS. In case it's not clear from my play-by-play so far, I got RYE (17A: Ergot host) completely through crosses and only just now understand it because I Googled and found that "ergot" is a type of fungus. Ew.

After finishing up there, I headed over to the East Coast where I had all kindsa problems. For [39D: Down-home theater] I first had NABE and then ODEA. Yes, I realize now those are terrible, terrible answers. (Correct answer: OPRY). In addition to that, I had TUNE UP where SUIT UP was supposed to go (35D: Get ready to play), so I basically had to tear everything out and start over before I could tell what the heck was going on over there.

Finally, I made the Southern California area way harder than it had to be when I entered ESP instead of GAB at [55D: Dubious "gift"]. It was really hard for me to erase that one because I was so sure it was right. When I finally made myself do it, though, I slowly began to see the right answers there and, as I said, eventually the puzzle was done. Whew! What a workout!

  • 15A: Take it easy (LOAF). With the L in place, my first two guesses were LOLL and LAZE.
  • 32A: Component of some screwdrivers, briefly (STOLI). This is, of course, a reference to the drink not the tool. But you see how they got us thinking about tools right off the bat at 1-Across so that when we got down here it would be hard for us to think of a screwdriver any other way?
  • 34A: West of Brooklyn (MAE). I did not know she was from Brooklyn.
  • 59A: Rather, once (ANCHOR). I just knew this clue was referring to Dan Rather, but I had that stupid (wrong) S in the first spot and couldn't make any sense out of it.
  • 6D: Conduct (MANAGE). Late in the week, we're going to see tricky clues like this. Not only does the word "conduct" have many meanings, it also has more than one pronunciation. And if you get one of the pronunciations stuck in your head, it's sometimes difficult to shift to another.
  • 19D: Bit of kindness from a bank (RELOAN). Something about the phrasing of this clue rubs me the wrong way. It's that "kindness" thing. Like I want to be indignant about the bank making sure I know it's doing me a favor. Even though, essentially, that's exactly what's going on.
  • 25D: Unusual clock number (IIII). Ouch. That's ugly. Moving on.
  • 31D: 1934 chemistry Nobelist (UREY). Crap. More ugly.
  • 32D: Caber thrower (SCOT). I do not know what a "caber" is. Shall we find out? Hmm. It's a "long, wooden pole." And throwing them is, apparently, a traditional Scottish athletic event. Hard to believe these are the same people responsible for golf.
  • 44D: "Be serious!" ("COME ON!"). You know I love the colloquial phrase. And this one is awesome.
  • 48D: Singer with the 1995 album "Velvet and Brass" (TORMÉ). The Velvet Fog.

Crosswordese 101 Round-up:
  • 63A: Actor Morales (ESAI).
  • 64A: The car in Thurber's 1933 story "The Car We Had to Push" (REO).
  • 51D: Pisa's river (ARNO).
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Everything Else 4A: What some chambers hold (AMMO); 8A: Put down (ABASED); 14A: Calder Cup org. (AHL); 16A: __ threat: performer who can sing, dance and act (TRIPLE); 22A: Like Inverted Jenny stamps (RARE); 23A: As it __ (WERE); 27A: Reward of a kind (RAISE); 28A: "Good move, torero!" (OLÉ); 29A: Shot target (FLU); 35A: Crabby (SOUR); 40A: Responsibility (ONUS); 41A: Gp. for GPs (HMO); 42A: Like mottoes (PITHY); 43A: They're often sold in blocks, for short (TIX); 44A: Bra part (CUP); 45A: Surprise, sometimes (PARTY); 51A: Bit with a nucleus (ATOM); 53A: Act the affectionate grandparent (DOTE); 54A: High-grade cotton (PIMA); 58A: Code word for "N" in the old U.S. Phonetic Alphabet (NAN); 60A: Security concern (MOLE); 61A: __ salad (EGG); 62A: Mendel's field (BOTANY); 4D: Without exception (ALL); 5D: Grieves (MOURNS); 7D: Joan __ (OF ARC); 8D: Gas station convenience (ATM); 9D: Shop for books (BROWSE); 10D: White House staffers (AIDES); 11D: Type of poker? (SPUR); 13D: "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" author Brown (DEE); 21D: Gate divisions, at the track (STALLS); 26D: Smart __ (ALEC); 29D: Clementine's dad, for one (FORTY-NINER); 30D: Verdant (LUSH); 33D: "Unbreak My Heart" singer Braxton (TONI); 34D: Milking murmur (MOO); 37D: Ostracize (SHUN); 38D: Bar (IMPEDE); 45D: Artificial turf sites (PATIOS); 46D: Ring of color (AREOLA); 47D: Eponymous Yemeni seaport (MOCHA); 49D: JPEG file content (IMAGE); 50D: Suggestive dance (TANGO); 52D: Savoir-faire (TACT); 56D: Wield a crowbar (PRY); 57D: Agnus __ (DEI).

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