Friday, October 27, 2006
Solving time: 22:00
Switched to Firefox browser yesterday and the whole Blogger interface is Bizarro to me right now - looks Sorta right, but is clearly new, different, off, probably better, but as yet partially inscrutable to me. The automated coding is a million times bulkier for some reason, but everything seems to be better integrated and working more smoothly. Oh Yeah, I just noticed these tabs at the top of this window where I can instantly flick over from this HTML page and see what this entry will look like when it's published. Hot. And this interface has a built-in spell check that red-underlines all my typos, woo hoo! That's what I'm talking about!
Really liked today's puzzle, but I always like it when my opening gambit is hugely successful on a Friday or Saturday puzzle. Today (last night, actually), I made a quick late-night snack of the NW corner (thanks to memories of TV ads for King Kong, a movie I never saw), drifted down to the SW and then stopped short, even with my heroic and correct initial guess of USTINOV for 36D: "Memed My Hawk" director and star, 1984, which makes me laugh just looking at it. Is "Memed" a name? A past participle? What was Ustinov smoking? [actually, the movie was based on a book by Kurdish writer Yashar Kemal (1955)]. I then assayed the NE (or "Bangor") corner and got very, very stuck. In fact, I have two mis-entered squares. Ugh. It's all explained below. I was like Hector in the "Bangor" portion of the puzzle. Valiant struggle, ultimate defeat. Unlike Hector, I was done in by a fishing vessel and a unit of currency.
1A: "King Kong" co-star, 2005 (Jack Black)
9 squares filled in right off the bat. Nice. I don't have anything snarky to say about Mr. Black, except if I have to see one more clip of Nacho Libre (what am I watching that I'm seeing promos for the DVD release All The Time?), I'm going to do something drastic. Nobody wanted to see that movie when it came out. Take a hint and quit desperately inflicting its memory on those of us who were kind enough initially to express our distaste merely by politely staying out of the theater. If you try an audience's patience enough, there will be B(l)acklash. Mr. Black was one of a bevy of actors featured in today's puzzle, including the aforementioned USTINOV, SHARON TATE (43A: "The Fearless Vampire Killers" actress, awesome), and the super-obscure (to me) Pola NEGRI ("Passion" actress, 1919). Oh, and NELLY (54A: "Dilemma" rapper), if you consider his breakout performance in the recent remake of The Longest Yard.
17A: Fictional king with an enormous appetite (Gargantua)
I had to read Rabelais as a kid learning French in high school and college, and Gargantua and Pantagruel were among my favorite works, mainly because it was the first time I realized that over-indulgence and gluttony and bodily-function comedy might be considered a part of Real Literature. I was All About Real Literature when I was a kid - weirdly highbrow for a teenager, and for someone who played so many video games. In later life my brows have lowered considerably. For instance, I'm currently surrounded by stacks of comic books, many of them featuring superheroes with ridiculous muscles and / or bosoms.
49A: Turkish province or its capital (Adana)
I channeled this answer from somewhere I don't know. I had Nothing here, and ... maybe I was just thinking ANKARA and fudged it a little, but for some reason I Knew (without Knowing) the right answer here. Second Turkish answer of the day - Memed, My Hawk author Yashar Kemal is from Anatolia. There were many pairs in this puzzle, both at the clue and answer level: two clues written as "Bakery gizmos" (nice), a beautiful little symmetrical arboreal dyad with 30A: Buttonwood (sycamore) and 39A: Arboriculturist (forester), and a pair of similarly-phrased clues in succession: 38A: "What a toddler might pull" followed immediately by 39A: What a scammer might pull (PANT LEG and FAST ONE, respectively - both of which are Great Fill). Speaking of FAST ONE, here is one of the most fabulous paperbacks in my collection: Paul Cain's Fast One (Avon, ca. 1952):
5D: Chutzpah (brass)
I had the B from JACK BLACK. And so, of course, I had the much better BALLS written here initially. But since the Times would never deign to go so, er, low, I had to revise my thinking. Actually, the Perfect answer here would have been a happy marriage: BRASS BALLS.
9D: African livestock pens (kraals)
Obscuritatus! And yet, when I looked it, I instantly knew it to be true. Looks like Afrikaans to me. I would make a horrible joke about what (white) South Africans used to keep in KRAALS, but instead I'll err on the side of Truth and Reconciliation.
I was SO proud of the fact that I hacked, struggled, huffed, puffed, and clawed my way to the triple stack of 10A: Magazine subtitled "The Horse Owner's Resource (Equus), 16A: Aachen appetizer (zuppe), and "Passion" actress, 1919 (Negri). Only the problem was that I didn't have NEGRI. [late addendum: that was NOT the only problem; the correct answer to 16A: Aachen appetizer is SUPPE - my ZUPPE is Italian plural, not, as it should be (I think) German singular - this puzzle now officially represents the Wrongest I've been about a puzzle since I began This Blog! Now back to the original post...] I had NEGRA (an absolute guess). So that Wrong "A" rendered 14D: Some fishing boats as SEA_ERS. Then, my cross at the missing letter was 22A: Thousandth of a yen, which I'm sure long-time solvers knew instantly, but not I. I had RI_. And though I could think of no word in my limited Japanese lexicon that had an "L" in it, I put it there thinking that the Only possible answer to 14D was a morbid SEALERS (as in, boats for catching SEALS). Of course that would have been the right answer to "Some clubbing boats," not "some fishing boats." So a thousandth of a yen is a RIN and the fishing boats are SEINERS. OK. Yuck. I'm taking points off for crossing arcana at multiple points in a word.
34D: Contributions to them are not tax-deductible (ROTH IRAs)
An eight-letter gimme, sweet! We just opened a couple of these and got our first statements in the mail this week, so this clue was fortuitous. It's also just great fill.
51D: 1944 Pulitzer correspondent (Pyle)
Here is an answer I would not have gotten so quickly had I not been a collector of old paperbacks. I think I have one called "This is Your War," which is a collection of Pyle war correspondence published in the 50s by Lion Books. I'll check... I'm completely wrong. The book I was thinking of isn't by Pyle at all, and has a very unsexy cover. So here, instead, I will leave you with something that has nothing to do with war or (as you can probably tell) a Pulitzer prize:
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld