first: the meta puzzle from two weeks ago! we’re looking for a british prime minister. three theme entries are indicated by stars:
[*Steel magnate and library namesake (born 1835)] – ANDREW CARNEGIE
[*Reverend and father to children named Anne, Charlotte, and Emily (born 1861)] – PATRICK BRONTE
[*”Something” musician (born 1943)] – GEORGE HARRISON (if you didn’t know this answer, you could just do a Something search)
so what do these three gents have in common? it was the combination of PATRICK plus the title (“Don’t Patronize Me!”) that loosened the lid for me. each of their first names is the name of a saint – st. andrew, st. patrick, and st. george. so, we’re looking for a british PM with a saintly name. should be easy enough…
too easy, in fact: i googled the list of PMs and it turned up several people with plausible saint names. stuck again. so i desperation-googled the three names together, and it took me to this site, which kindly explained the super elegant layer of this meta: each of those names corresponds to one of the parts of the UK, and so does each of the themers: andrew carnegie scottish, patrick bronte irish, george harrison english. so we’re looking for a WELSH british PM named david. can’t be too many of those.
i immediately submitted david cameron (part welsh, mom’s side). mr. king quickly wrote back saying there was a better answer, and indeed there is: david lloyd-george, much older british PM and legit welsh dude. and that’s why you always read the whole list before submitting.
this was a fun meta to unravel and a fun bit of trivia to learn. also, the grid was lovely: you’ve got the burnikel-esque pairs of adjacent long downs, not a bad answer among them; plus, some lively sixes in AD PAGE, TOP DOG, CASABA, and O’DOULS; besides abbr LTCOL and crosswordese AGAR, nothing at all to complain about. clue-wise, i liked the subtly snarky [Like a roulette number that hasn’t come up in a while, right?] for DUE, and the striking [Dali’s “Dematerialization Near the Nose of ___”] for NERO. a pleasure to solve in every respect.
second: this most recent offering, where the lion king meets the chris king. themers:
[*#1 hit for Debbie Gibson] – PUMBAA BEAT
[*Optical phenomenon seen in the desert and hot roads] – SARABI EFFECT
[Language of the first words of the starred entries, and if you don’t speak this language fluently, then hak…I mean, no worries] – SWAHILI (love this clue!)
[*Very brave, like Richard I] – SIMBA HEARTED
[*Tough spot for someone with a secret crush] – RAFIKI ZONE (hate this base phrase!)
i don’t speak swahili fluently and i have no memory of the lion king (in which pumbaa, sarabi, simba, and rafiki are all characters), so this one played tough for me. from context, i gleaned that “simba” means “lion” and “rafiki” means “friend.” google filled me in on the rest: “pumbaa” is “foolish” and “sarabi” is “mirage.” cool.
this was a mixed bag for me because, the theme aside, i wasn’t on mr. king’s wavelength for a lot of the clues. HAIR is [“Good Morning Baltimore” musical (wait…that’s not right…it’s actually the “Aquarius” musical)]; haven’t seen either. LOAN is [“Merry Christmas, you wonderful old Building and ___!”]; haven’t seen it. BANG is [Sound of Maxwell’s silver hammer]; well, at least i know what a hammer is. there was also a little suboptimal fill: mainly, didn’t relish seeing ARMOF or ENATE.
on the plus side, the longish fill was pretty solid (PEN NAME, HABITUE, BIZARRE, and IV TUBES being the standouts), and, as always, we got some great clues: OVALS = [Scantron shapes] (don’t remember seeing that before), BURN = [Sick insult] (fresh and economical!), TORTE = [German often-chocolate cake] (love a quirky wording), and CRAM = [Word I don’t want to think about as it’s almost finals week] (#relatable).
thanks to mr. king putting in the work to bring us both of these free and high quality puzzles! and thanks to you for solving and reading along. bye