Just last week, I had a moment similar to that whilst walking from our hotel in Paris to Notre Dame. Sure, all the years of strictly C- French classwork I've accrued since those halcyon days of high school came back to me (somewhat). -- Look, it's a boulangerie! Over there's a Citroen!
Now seeing Notre Dame was pretty boss, but the constructor in me was psyched not only to stand on the Île de la Cité, but also to cross the Seine to get there. I mean, seriously. This was like the geographical meccaof overused fill entries: (ILE, DE LA, CITE, NOTRE, DAME and SEINE). Suddenly, all these years of cluing the same vowel-heavy entries left the realm of "the strictly academic" into "the tangible."
Does anybody have any idea how many fucking times I've clued ILE? In the past year alone? And the Seine? And I guarantee in those French classes I butchered some essay or two about that river. But my God, from a puzzlemaker's standpoint, that entry's bailed my sorry ass out of miracle wide-open corners for years! That river's contribution to my puzzlemaking can never be repaid!
Even when I was in Italy (or Italia, your pick), as psyched as I was to be in Rome (or Roma), I was equally pleased to see the Tiber. Ditto for the Arno in Pisa (both entries). Hell, even in my wife's hometown of York, England, I saw the rare but occasionally used Ouse.
Rivers and cities of the world: geography students hate you, but puzzlemakers worship at your altar.
Bizarre tangent/question for all you grammar and foreign language nuts out there. In the languages that assign genders to nouns, is there a rule for neologisms? Like, when new technologies are introduced, is there some Bilderberg group who decides whether iPods are feminine or masculine? Inquiring minds want to know.
Second side tangent: the French language allows for some pretty out there mots croisés grids. I guess because they're so vowel-heavy, it's not uncommon to see a 4x8 section intersecting a 4x12 section. Like I've said, my French is pretty shit aside from butchering some restaurant orders, so I couldn't tell you any of the characteristics of those puzzles.
Well, anyway. Enjoy the puzzle. New one on Wednesday.