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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Suckler of Romulus Remus / THU 2-9-12 / Island birthplace of Epicurus / Spartan king who fought Pyrrhus / Salty orange square

Constructor: Kevin G. Der

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: SAILS (62A: Travels over what's hidden in the answers to the seven starred clues) — "SEA" appears "hidden" in the answers to the starred clues, starting at the front of the answer and moving one square to the right w/ each successive theme answer

Word of the Day: PALSY (9D: Tight) —
[Honestly, I have no idea how [Tight] works ... I'm asking people right now ... only guess I have is that these are synonyms for "drunk" ... OK, it turns out PALSY is slangly for chummy; "PAL" + "SY" i.e. in the manner of a pal. I think I've only heard this expression as part of the rhyming, sing-songy "palsy-walsy." Thanks so much to C. Eutsler for the comprehension assist.]
• • •

I enjoyed this as a vaguely thorny puzzle, and the forward movement of SEA is, in retrospect, a nice touch. But (and it's a big but) the final theme answer absolutely, positively kills the puzzle for me. You cannot have "SEA" in your answer. Not in a puzzle where your revealer clue explicitly states that "SEA" is "hidden." It's not even a metaphorical SEA. It's an actual, honest-to-god, made-of-water SEA. The kind one SAILS over. I hesitated So Long before entering CELTIC SEA because I couldn't accept that "SEA" would appear literally, nakedly, like that. I still can't accept it.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: *Look for (SEARCH OUT)
  • 21A: *Entice with (USE AS BAIT) — not at all crazy about this "answer." Hardly a coherent phrase. See also the next theme answer...
  • 28A: *Drop one, say (LOSE A GAME)
  • 34A: *July, for Major League Baseball (MIDSEASON)
  • 44A: *Doesn't worry (RESTS EASY)
  • 51A: *It may bear a coat of arms (ROYAL SEAL)
  • 57A: *View from Land's End (CELTIC SEA)  


Unusually, I went searching for the revealer before stumbling upon it naturally in the course of solving. Normally I don't like to do this. Too much extra movement. But today, I was semi-stuck and thought maybe if I could find the rationale, I could move more quickly. And it worked. First I wondered what it would mean to travel over an ARCH (see first theme answer), but then I looked at a couple more theme answers and SAILS became obvious. Other strange aspect of my solve—it felt reasonably tough throughout, except in the SW, which I solved in about 10 seconds. Weirdly uneven (for me). Otherwise, nothing too flummoxy (except PALSY, obviously). Didn't know JOSEPH I at all (33D: Holy Roman emperor during the War of the Spanish Succession), but he was easy enough to piece together. What's a BETACAM? (11D: Sony recorder) That doesn't have anything to do with the defunct "Betamax" video format, does it? Well, sort of. Here's more than you'd ever want to know.


Bullets:
  • 33A: Most common first name among U.S. presidents (six) (JAMES) — this came pretty quickly, without any actual counting.
  • 46A: TV's onetime ___ Club (PTL) — tough clue; luckily all the longish Downs came super easy, so I barely saw this clue. 
  • 1D: "___ his kiss" (repeated 1964 lyric) ("IT'S IN") — Seems like a call an announcer might make in ... some sport. Golf? Soccer?
  • 2D: Suckler of Romulus and Remus (SHE-WOLF) — I just (re-)read Book VIII of the Aeneid earlier today, so, yeah, I knew this. She's on Aeneas's shield, I think; the one Vulcan agrees to make for him in exchange for hot sex with Venus (is there any other kind?). See, Venus is Aeneas's mom and ... etc. I did less well on the other classical clues. Forgot SAMOS even existed (29D: Island birthplace of Epicurus). Ditto AREUS (30D: Spartan king who fought Pyrrhus).
  • 18D: Salty orange square (CHEEZ-IT) — Nice. I haven't eaten these since my childhood, but I used to shovel them into my face by the fistful.
  • 42D: Ophthalmologist's procedure (DYE TEST) — wow. That's *really* close to EYE TEST, isn't it?
  • 52D: "The Land of Painted Caves" novelist (AUEL) — got it off the "L." Never heard of the book, but a four-letter novelist who writes about (what sounds like) prehistoric times? Not a hard guess. 
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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