1997 voice role for Meg Ryan / SAT 12-1-12 / 1234 singer 2007 / Dutch financial giant / Belladonna lily / Desert gullies / Emulated Tiresias / Eponymous container / Dutch financial giant / Decahedron-shaped die to gamer
Saturday, December 1, 2012
Constructor: Joon Pahk
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
Word of the Day: MONOTREME (31D: Egg-laying mammal) —
Monotremes (from the Greek μονός monos "single" + τρῆμα trema "hole", referring to the cloaca) are mammals that lay eggs (Prototheria) instead of giving birth to live young like marsupials (Metatheria) and placental mammals (Eutheria). The only surviving examples of monotremes are all indigenous toAustralia and New Guinea, although there is evidence that they were once more widespread. Among living mammals they include the platypus and four species of echidnas (or spiny anteaters); there is debate regarding monotreme taxonomy. (wikipedia)
• • •This started out easy, but it didn't stay there. NW was a piece of cake, SW a bit more thorny, the NE tougher still (I was thwarted by the unlovely combo of APPL and ARBOL) (10D: Washer, e.g.: Abbr. + 10A: Part of a Spanish forest), and SE very tough (if I'd ever heard of a WIDOW'S walk (41D: ___ walk (old house feature)), it probably would've been much easier). That tough SE quadrant is actually the nicest part of the grid—I just couldn't get anything except ZEBRA (45D: "I finally got around to reading the dictionary. Turns out the ___ did it": Steven Wright), MTM, and a tentative TREES at first. Well, I just figured out one of the reasons that corner stumped me—tiny speck on my screen was positioned to look exactly like a "." after clue at 56D: Direct. I figured "Direct." must thus be an abbrev. for something. Me: "That's a stupid abbrev. Isn't the abbrev. DIR." Ugh. That's some bad luck right there. Oh well, corner would still have been hard, as I don't know what kind of container a DEWAR is (I'm guessing it holds scotch?) (52A: Eponymous container), and I didn't know the official name of the OBAMACARE case (55A: Virginia v. Sebelius subject, in headlines) and I know SAM MENDES but forgot he ever won an Oscar ("American Beauty," I think).
Had AIG for ING. LOST for GONE. SEE and then GET for NET. These mistakes all made the center of the grid ... interesting. No idea what I would've done if I hadn't known FEIST (as I know many solver today won't have) (29D: "1234" singer, 2007). Took forever to figure out what came after GOES at 39A: Poses a bomb threat? (GOES DEEP). It's a football term. I thought "bomb" meant "failure." GOES DOWN? GOES DEAD? Don't know what GST is (it's Greenwich Sidereal Time ... yeah). Didn't know PAPA followed Oscar in any alphabet. So that explains the trouble in the NE. Only real trouble in SW was MONOTREME, which I've never seen or heard of or anything (31D: Egg-laying mammal). Every single letter came from crosses. NW, as I say, no sweat.
I have never seen a production of "The Iceman Cometh." I think it's the play that Dustin Hoffman fails to get a role in before he becomes Dorothy in "Tootsie." PIPE DREAM is the name of my college's student newspaper (1A: What many a character in "The Iceman Cometh" expresses). I have also never seen "ANASTASIA," but for whatever reason, I got that answer with just a couple of crosses (15A: 1997 voice role for Meg Ryan). I managed to tame that NW corner by going PACTS to STAY and TITAN and then ESSAY. Clue on D-TEN is kind of obscure, though the TEN part of the answer is inferrable from the clue (5D: Decahedron-shaped die, to a gamer). RIO was a gimme (11D: 2014 World Cup locale, for short), but BANGALORE took some thought (12D: India's so-called "Garden City"). My favorite answers in the grid form an interesting symmetrical pattern stretching from NE corner to SW corner: LOST A STEP / SOMETHING FIERCE / AS IF TO SAY ...
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld