Longtime Syrian strongman / MON 11-30-15 / Stereotypical parrot's name / Body of water between France Switzerland / Tibetan watchdogs
Monday, November 30, 2015
Constructor: Ian Livengood
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: MID-As TOUCH (64A: Moneymaking skill ... or, when read as three words, what happens in 17-, 21-, 35-, 45- and 54-Across) —five 10-letter themers, each made of two 5-letter words where first word ends in "A" and second word begins with "A" ... thus, the "A"s "touch" "mid-"answer:
- OPERA ARIAS (17A: Songs for divas)
- FIONA APPLE (21A: 1997 Grammy-winning artist whose last name is a fruit)
- LHASA APSOS (35A: Tibetan watchdogs)
- PAULA ABDUL (45A: Former "American Idol" judge)
- SANTA ANITA (54A: Noted California horse-racing venue)
MIDAS TOUCH but didn't stop to read the clue that closely and could only think, as I was speeding off to finish the rest of the grid, "Uh ... where's the gold in these answers? How does 'AA' represent gold?" But it doesn't. Instead "A"s touch in the "mid"dle of the answers. The exact middle—a nice "touch." I'm not sure I like OPERA ARIAS that much as an answer, since it seems almost redundant—where the hell else am I going to hear ARIAS? And you have to cheat a little bit with the pluralizing to get LHASA APSOS to come off. But let's just call that "creativity," not "cheating." Why can't I learn how to spell LHASA. It always comes out LLASA on first try. Like ... I confuse LLAMA and LHASA. And yet I would never ever spell the animal LHAMA. Maybe writing about this will help settle this issue in my brain. And yet, somehow, I feel I have written these exact words before, to no avail.
I was down near my record time on this one. Where were the hiccups. Well, LHASA, obviously, though that was easily fixed. Honestly, the only other issues I had involved my clumsy fingers, which will apparently never obey me well enough to allow me to break the 2:20 mark. I was right at 2:30 today. I got lucky at a couple turns. I had LAKE and threw down GENEVA more as a hope than a certainty. That worked out. Also, I was able to make the turn into the center of the grid via the *back* end of PAULA ABDUL without any trouble (she's a gimme for me ... I had a ... let's call it a "phase" ... in college; an ABDUL phase ...). Fill here is pretty clean, with some pretty exciting longer answers (yes, I am someone who finds CLIPBOARDS exciting, for real) (11D: Ones providing backing for writers?). Nice Monday work, for sure.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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