Monday, December 16, 2013

A Puzzle Plentifully Populated with Prolific Proper Personages

There are many, many areas of knowledge in which I am woefully deficient, and geography proper-name personages are among them. So if you combine those two fields of knowledge to make a theme for a crossword puzzle you can be pretty much assured that I am going to have trouble with it, and that is exactly what the Premier Crossword by Frank A. Longo, titled "City Folks", does. At least the theme answers were limited to U.S. geography so I have some basic familiarity with the topic and thus stood a chance of finishing the grid without help.

All of the long theme answers combine cities whose full name includes a person's first name, which are identified in the clues by their location in their state, with the last names of more or less well-known individuals who share a first name with the city so we wind up with a list of "City Folks", clued wackily like this:

23a - LAKE CHARLES DARWIN (Naturalist from southern Louisiana?)
32a - YORBA LINDA HUNT (Actress from southern California?)
40a - FORT WAYNE GRETZKY (Hockey player from northern Indiana?)
64a - WEST JORDAN KNIGHT (Singer from northern Utah?)
75a - SAINT PAUL GAUGUIN (Painter from southern Minnesota?)
97a - LITTLE ROCK HUDSON (Actor from central Arkansas?)
108a-EAU CLAIRE DANES (Actress from western Wisconsin?)
121a-MOUNT VERNON CASTLE (Dancer from southern New York?)

As I said, geography is not my forte but I have at least heard most of the cities although I certainly could not have named all of them from the information in the clues. As for the "famous" people I have heard of only four out of the eight names (the naturalist, hockey player, painter and actor) so I was at a handicap from the outset, but that's what the crosswords are for, right?

In the end I managed to mostly figure things out but there was one crossing of two proper names that forced me to rely on a guess to finish the puzzle, and I never like that. I did not know that there is a city in northeastern Orange County, California named YORBA but the crosses were all fair enough and I was sure I had the name right.  I did not know that LINDA HUNT "is an American film, stage and television actress best known for her role as Henrietta Lange in the CBS series NCIS: Los Angeles (from wiki), so when getting her name depended on knowing "Israel's Barak" (30d) I knew that I was in trouble. EHUD is not a name that jumps to mind and I call foul on that crossing of the two names since ElUD/LINDAlUNT is equally plausible. I now see that EHUD also crosses "Pulitzer winner Alison" LURIE (39a) and "Häagen DAZS" (47a) so there was all kinds of room for mischief in that area - that kind of proper name mash-up is not a good thing, I think.

Enough about the theme answers. The rest of the grid was pretty unremarkable but as always Frank sprinkled in some nice touches to appreciate:

-YOKE ( 43d - Oxen holder) appears symmetrically opposite YOLK (46d - Egg part) - that was not an accident.
-The upper right corner of the grid seems like a shout-out to the fairer sex with EPIDURAL (16d - Childbirth anesthetic), FEMINIZE (17d - Make girlish) and GIANTESS (18d - 50-foot woman, say) occupying the long down answers.
-ATEAT (20a - Rankled) and TIT (122d - Trade for tat) might have been cross-referenced, but they weren't.
-Does a MCRIB (103a - Golden Arches pork sandwich) contain any actual meat, I wonder?
-ECLAT (114 - Conspicuous success) is also the name of a Lotus automobile model - that seems strangely appropriate.
-You don't roll ONES (118d 0 Low dice roll) - you roll "Snake-eyes".
-I'm glad Franks specified "Colored ring of the iris" for AREOLA (21a) because I always think of this definition (from Areola definition, a ring of color, as around the human nipple.
-Hmm, do you think that last bullet combined with the ATEAT/TIT comment above might suggest I have a fetish?
-BLAMMO (104d - "Kapow!")?
-"CAN'T WE all just get along?" (24d) - really, CAN'T WE?
-"Singer from northern Utah":

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