Sunday, December 8, 2013

Hug and kisses (XOXO) abound in this puzzle!

Today's Premier Crossword by Frank A Longo is titled "X-Tensions" and as soon as I read it I guessed that we were somehow going to add the letter "x" to words or phrases to create wacky new words or phrases, and I confirmed my guess by reading the clue for the first long theme answer, "Jungle guy who loves high points?" and I knew instantly that "ape" was going to become "apex" and when I discovered that TARZANTHEAPEXMAN fit perfectly I wrote it in the grid with no crosses whatsoever! That was so easy I decided to try the rest of the theme clues before I started the rest of the puzzle and I managed to guess five of the nine answers correctly. I was able to get the others with only a few crosswords filled in, except the last one which totally baffled me even when I had most of the letters in place. I eventually managed to get that one, too, but it took a post-solve google session before I understood the key term in order to get the joke. Here are the "X-Tensions" that occupy the completed grid:

23a - TARZAN THE APEX MAN (Jungle guy who loves high points?)
35a - DON'T BE LATEX (Plea from an allergic person to a pair of gloves?)
41a - FLUX SEASON (Period of constant change?
61a - FUNERAL PYREX (Glassware for a burial urn?)
72a - ROLEX REVERSAL (Luxury watch moving counter-clockwise?)
81a - ANNEX FRANCIS (Take sailor Drake for oneself?)
97a - BITTER ALEX (Writer Haley holding a grudge?)
109a-CHEX GUEVERA (Cuban revolutionary who loves cereal?)
122a-REDOX FROM SCRATCH (Chem lab reaction all over again?)

I have mixed feelings about these as I thinks some work really well while a couple are a real stretch, and one is just plain unfathomable unless you happen to know this definition of "redox", which I did not (from wiki): "Redox (reduction-oxidation) reactions include all chemical reactions in which atoms have their oxidation state changed; redox reactions generally involve the transfer of electrons between species." Even knowing this I don't quite see how the new phrase fits the clue but that quibble probably says more about my ignorance than about a fault with the puzzle.

OK then, here are a few thoughts on some of the other fill:

-KCAR ( 6a - 1980s Chrysler line) is going to be unfamiliar to a lot of solvers who are not old enough to remember the energy crisis of the late '70s that induced auto manufacturers to introduce now down-sized vehicles to replace the full-size fuel hogs that we loved so much. They didn't last long and weren't particularly memorable.

-TEXTAD (48d - Classified notice, e.g.) sounds like a totally made-up term and I was ready to call Frank out on it, but Google uses them so they must be legit (from "A text ad typically includes a link to your website and a description or promotion of your product or service."

-The clue for EWES is "Baa maids?" (22a) - that's classic Longo and I love it.

-AT ONCE (65d - Immediately) adjacent to NOT NOW (66d - "Some other time") is awesome juxtaposition and I'm sure it was no accident.

-I have heard of "interns" but until today I did not know there are also EXTERNS (101d - Nonresident doctor), so I looked it up (from : " a person connected with an institution but not living or boarding in it; specifically: a nonresident doctor or medical student at a hospital."

-Speaking of PAPALISM (32a - System of pontiffs), I'm not Catholic but I really like the new Pope (Frank missed an opportunity to get him in the PUZZLE in the clue to ANNEX FRANCIS.)

-SALAAM (64d - Respectful bow) crossing ACOLYTE ( 86a - Altar boy) is a nice multi-denominational religious pairing.

-I think that I follow the news pretty closely but somehow I missed the announcement that ALBERT II (90d - Belgian king who abdicated in 2013) had stepped down.

-OCTA (1d - Bi- x four) and AGRI (27a - Farming prefix) are words that I always wait for the cossword to provide the last letter because they both can end in "o", too.

-Speaking of ending in "o", the grid contains a lot of words that do just that: ORO, PINTO, SLO, REPO, ASK TO, ATO, SAI, EL PASO, EXO, BRO - I may have missed some, but you get the idea.

-There are also quite a few words in the grid that start with "o"; you can find them yourself. There are even more that contain the letter - what does it mean, I wonder?

-Patsy Cline clues make me happy:

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