Friday, March 16, 2007
Solving time: fast for a Friday, but untimed
This puzzle seemed quite easy until I hit the SE - from about Mississippi to Florida - where I had a little trouble. Still, all in all, the puzzle was a relative breeze, with only a few mysterious words, and lots of lively interesting fill.
The NW came together quickly, as soon as I changed ME TOO to AS AM I (1A: "Same here"), a change necessitated by my deciding that 1D: Exile of note had to be ADAM. I know SIMI as a Valley but not as a 2D: Winery in Sonoma county, and yet just knowing the word SIMI made the answer inferrable here (for more wine action, see 16A: Martini & Rossi product (Asti)) I know squat about birds but 4D: Variety of swallow (martin) was also inferrable with just a few crosses. My first exposure to the word MARTIN (as something avian and not just a guy's name) came from the name of the band The HouseMARTINS, whose albums I absolutely wore out in college. I particularly recommend London 0 Hull 4.
6D: World Series team manager of 1977, 1978, 1981 and 1988 (Lasorda)
Total gimme for me and any baseball fan alive during those years (and a much easier sports clue than 51A: It was on the 37-Down [JERSEYS] of Johnny Unitas and Lenny Wilkens (nineteen)). I grew up a huge fan of the Dodgers, who famously lost the first two of the World Series listed above. Thus began my lifelong hatred of the New York Yankees. The first major league game I saw was a Dodgers/Phillies match-up in 1978 - after the game, I got Lee Lacy's and Rick Monday's autographs; wish I still had them. Sometime during the 80's I would become a Red Sox fan, largely on the strength of Clemens and Boggs (who, ironically, would both go on to win World Series rings with ... the Yankees). Cruel, cruel world. O well, Sox still have more World Series rings this century than the Yankees.
20A: Longtime TV host with a 1997 Lifetime Achievement Emmy (Mister Rogers)
God I loved that man. He genuinely loved and respected kids. He's easy to make fun of, but compared to most of what passes for kids' TV today, his show seems like the work of a benevolent genius. Most kids TV today is hateful, not just in terms of content, but in terms of all the mentally and physically unhealthy and soul-crushing crap that it helps to foist on kids via advertisements and product tie-ins - kids are valuable insofar as they are consumers. While contemporary TV shakes kids down for money, Mister Rogers asked only for kids to use their imaginations (where's the profit in that!?). I remember being quite devastated by his death - Nina Simone's death two months later (just as the War in Iraq was getting underway) made it seem as if all the world's decency was bleeding out.
17A: Punish arbitrarily (amerce)
34A: Treason (lèse-majesté)
I didn't know that AMERCE meant to "'punish arbitrarily." Somehow I thought it was just a synonym for taxation. And I think I know the phrase LÉSE-MAJESTÉ only by sight; further, I believe I unconsciously associated it with LAISSEZ-FAIRE (I'll take "Political Terms Borrowed from the French" for $1000, Alex).
BURN for BUNT (33A: Make a sacrifice, perhaps)
ROO and LOO and god knows what else for RYN (56A: Rembrandt van _____) - please don't ask me to explain, as I honestly can't
SOIR for NUIT (49D: Jour's opposite)
AZUL and AZUR (!?) for AQUA (55A: Like the ocean)
ABUSERS for ABASERS (36D: Bullies, often) - try [Bullies, always]
ERNESTO for ERNESTS (41D: Poet Thayer and others) - "Oh, 'and others,' gotcha"
Well, there's ERNEST Thayer (above), whom clearly I didn't know. Then there's ETIENNE Gilson (38D: French philosopher Gilson) - I'm pretty sure I have a book by him somewhere about Abelard and Heloise; beyond that, I know nothing about him. Had a long conversation about the genius of Jane Austen last night at my daughter's school Art Show, and yet could not for the life of me remember 46A: "Sense and Sensibility" sister (Marianne). Another fictional character whose name totally slipped my mind: 48D: Reporter Skeeter of Harry Potter novels (Rita). A very hip way to clue RITA (just as [Meter maid of note] would have been hip in the late 60's). ERTE is an art deco artist whose name you Must know if you are going to be a constant solver of puzzles - I did not know he sculpted, but because I'd seen his name a half billion times in the grid before, I could figure out 19D: The sculptures "Rigoletto" and "La Tosca," e.g. (Ertes) with little problem. David MAMET (35D: "American Buffalo" playwright) is a fine playwright whose name came up recently at this site in a discussion of Rebecca Pidgeon (his wife). Lastly, as far as people of note in the puzzle, we have ELIZABETH ARDEN (43A: Producer of many fragrances). I have nothing to say about her.
Didn't know 39D: Tien _____ mountains in central Asia (Shan); I may have briefly written in SHAH because at least that's a word I associate with Asia (or the near east, anyway). Also did not know the Freak Word of the Day: OSMIUM (54A: Heavy metal), apparently named after heavy metal overlord Ozzy Osbourne (not to be confused with the much softer, puppydog-like OSMOND-IUM). I don't like SERTAS as the answer to 14D: Some dormitory purchases when FUTONS is so much more apt, but since it intersects another piece of furniture, DIVANS (13A: Backless furniture), I'm less perturbed. I do like when related words cross. I'll give SINE WAVE (18A: It has its highs and lows in math) a shout-out, just for my math friend(s) out there. 44A: Skinny? is a brilliant but also somehow very gross clue for DERMAL (I knew it wasn't about thinness, so I figured it must be about dirt, information, the lowdown ... but no, it's really about skin. Nice / ick). Lastly, let's all agree that Pi Day was fine while it lasted, but today is the third day in a row we've had PIE (12D: Quiche, e.g.), and I am full.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld