Sunday, March 30, 2014

Get Flocked!

"The Artist Within" is the title of this week's Premier Crossword by Frank A. Longo, and it doesn't take much imagination to suspect that the long theme answers are going to contain the names of artists of one ilk or another. My theory was confirmed when I arrived at the first "?"-style clue where I had enough crossword to guess the wacky answer and there, spanning the two words, was an artist's name that I recognized, and so it went through the entire grid. By the time I arrived at the last clue, "Their names are hidden in eight answers in this puzzle" I already had the names of all eight PAINTERS (127a) in place, but still that was a nice finishing touch, I think.

23a - MOCHA GALLERY (Displayed collection of choice coffees?)
33a - DYNAMO NETWORT (Group of connected electric generators?)
42a - CLEMATIS SEASON (Period when some buttercup-family plants are grown?)
62a - OLYMPIC ASSOCIATION (Group overseeing quadrennial games?)
73a - NATIONWIDE GASOLINE (Engine fuel sold all over the country?)
92a - INTERPOL LOCKUP (Slammer used by a global crime-fighting agency?)
101a-PREWAR HOLLAND (The Netherlands before 1939?)
118a-MORENO IRONED (Entertainer Rita did a pressing job?)

That's a pretty impressive list of gallery-worthy artists, and all of them are sufficiently famous that even I, certainly no art connoisseur by any means, have heard of all of them. The clues are mostly literal definitions of the phrases Frank has us insert in the grid, in fact I'd say that the "?" was unnecessary in most cases, but some of the phrases were at least a little wacky so what's the harm? In all but one case I filled in the answer without having to identify the artist first, but I didn't know who "Entertainer Rita" might be so Pierre-Auguste RENOIR was very helpful in suggesting MORENO.

As for the rest of the grid I thought this was a really nice construction with some interesting answers and largely free of crossword dreck that often litters the landscape. The corners all have nice touches with FLAMINGO AEROSOLS and COMEBACK ACADEMIA LEGALITY (which could be the title for an editorial piece, but let's not go there) up top and mirrored by EMISSIVE BESTEVER SNEEZERS (which I can be at times) and INCURRED PAINTERS down below.  The vertical space between them is populated with AMAZONIANS and AESTHETICS (which relates nicely to the artistic theme) both of which are beautiful words to see as down answers. When you add in the old ONE-TWO combo punches and a ball that's IN PLAY heading to the END ZONE there's real action going on to add to the fun. And who doesn't love learning stuff like the fact that there were eleven Pharaohs named RAMSES?! Frank throws some mis-direction at us with a seemingly obvious three-letter word for "Brew for a Brit" - tea, right? Nope, it's ALE (31a) - tricks like that add to the enjoyment, I think.  Dirigonzo approves!

In the miscellania department:

- I didn't know GYRE (76d) was a word, but it is and it means exactly what the clue says.
- There's an anagram cross with AOK/OAK (89d/99a) which is pretty cool looking.
- Does Schick still make SHAVERS, I wonder? (The answer is yes, if the internet is to be believed.)
- I always want another "E" in PLEBS, but apparently that only applies when you are talking about first-year students at a military academy.
- "Generic dog" (112a) really should have been mutt, because that's what I wrote in - if I had bothered to check any of the crosswords I would have know it was FIDO (which I might have clued as "Generic dog name" but that's just me). 
- Cato (I don't know if it's the Younger or the Elder) popped in to administer a Roman numeral quiz (48d)  Either he or his countryman Livy show up with some regularity and it's always nice to see them.
- General TSOS chicken (59d) is an essential ingredient for crossword puzzles, I think.
- Frank could have used a definition other than "Tree knots" for KNARS (67d) if he had consulted the Urban Dictionary (although that's not always a wise thing to do): "Knar is more then just a word, it’s a complete lifestyle. Discovered by earlier shredders of world, these early snow dawgs wanted a word to describe the surreal lifestyle of the mountain. After taking in all the beautiful things that a snow paradise contains, the riders decided to call it “the knar.” "
- I'll quit now so this doesn't become a LITANY (32d - Tedious list) of boring stuff - it's almost time for my SIESTA (45d), anyway.

This seems like an appropriate way to wrap things up for this week:

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