Friday, December 7, 2007
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
Flew through this in under 10 but had a Mistake. A painful, horrible, stupid mistake. Just blanked on a square, and then failed to bother to run every possible letter in the alphabet to figure it out. If I'd persisted all the way to "W," all would have been well.
- 11D: TV host who told viewers "Look that up in your Funk & Wagnalls!" (Dan Rowan)
- 26A: Big tier? (twine)
Of course TWINE is the only English word besides THINE that goes there, but because I was entertaining only ROMAN and ROGAN as plausible last names for TV host guy, my brain never even picked up TWINE, despite the fact that I figured out the the "tier" part of that clue must refer to tying something up with something. In the end I went with what, in retrospect, seems like one of the least plausible letters of the alphabet to go there: "L!" "Perhaps you tie something up with a T-LINE," I reasoned. And ROLAN is almost a last name... Now I know very well that ROWAN AND MARTIN were the "hosts" of "Laugh-In," but I had no idea that guy's name was DAN, and ... well, I'm out of excuses as to why I crashed and burned here. I just did.
I'm surprised by how easy I found this puzzle, now that I look back at it and see how many answers were unknown to me. Lots and lots of names that I either didn't know, or that I couldn't get readily from their clues. The NW alone has a host of them:
- 1D: Radar's radio contact on "M*A*S*H" (Sparky) - thankfully, I had the "K" from KNEE (21A: "Oh! Susanna" closer). SPARKY just came to me, and I honestly don't know why. Maybe I watched a lot more "M*A*S*H" than I remember. This seems a particularly brutal clue. I love it, but ... it's in my pop cultural sweet spot, so of course I love it.
- 2D: Longtime "What's My Line?" name (Arlene) - had a huge exchange many months ago on this blog about the two ARLENEs who appeared on this show (Dahl and, much much more often, Francis) so this one was easy.
- 3D: Brando's "On the Waterfront" co-star (Malden) - how have I never seen this movie?? Thankfully, I saw many American Express commercials in the 70s, so I know who Karl MALDEN is.
- 7D: Noted English portraitist (Reynolds) - nope, not ringing a bell. My favorite portraitist = John Singer Sargent, who is responsible for the single most mesmerizing painting I've ever seen close up.
Impossibly soft, beautiful, and alive. Never in a million years would have thought a portrait painting could have arrested me for a full 20 minutes or so while paintings by Dégas and Cézanne were so close by, perhaps in the same room. Another reason to love Edinburgh.
Other, more mysterious (or otherwise surprising) names in the puzzle include:
- 9D: Playwright Ayckbourn (Alan) - I'm almost certain I've blogged about not knowing him before. Yet here I am, not knowing him again. For shame.
- 36A: Frequent Styne collaborator (Cahn) - no idea who either Styne or CAHN is. Apparently they collaborated on many mid-century Broadway songs.
- 47D: Celebrity who testified at the 2005 Michael Jackson trial (Leno) - Got this off the "L" - why do I know this?
I had many false starts today. Here are some of them:
- 8A: Affecting the heart (cardiac) - I wrote in CORDIAL (!?), which must be related etymologically to the Latin word for heart ("cor"), but why I passed by the much more readily available CARDIAC, I don't know.
- 18A: Matching accessory for a slicker (rain hat) - I had RUBBERS ... that's a British word for "rain boots," right? Please tell me I'm right.
- 23A: Podiatric problem, for some (odor) - gross. I had CORN.
- 55A: They hold at least two cups each (tea sets) - I had TEA POTS.
- 16A: Two-character Mamet play (Oleanna) - I believe I knew of this play at one point, perhaps because (I think) it was made into a movie some time in the 90s. But so badly had I lost it in my memory that for a while I had it as OLEONNA (back when I had DON RO-AN as the TV host of 11D - see above).
- 19A: Traditional Monday meal in Creole cuisine (red beans and rice) - no idea about the Creoleness of it all, but got it with just a few crosses in place.
- 13D: Montana county seat named for a nonnative creature (Anaconda) - that's just ... weird.
- 42D: Palais Garnier offerings (operas) - No idea what that Palais is, but the answer here was pretty easy to get with just a crossing or two in place.
- 50A: Underground nesters (hornets) - had the -ETS and kept thinking birds. Why wouldn't OWLETS fit!?
Finally, on to the good stuff:
- 1A: Confectioner's offering (sampler)
- 15A: Item in a 1-Across (praline)
- 17A: Cause of overreactions? (allergy) - I like the three of these together, one atop the other atop the other. You know, because if someone offered you a SAMPLER you might take a PRALINE, unless you had an ALLERGY to, let's say, nuts.
- 29A: First major-league team to sign Satchel Paige (Indians) - love the Olde Tymey baseball. Didn't know this straight off, but got it off the -ANS.
- 46A: He said "How can anyone govern a nation that has 246 kinds of cheese?" (Charles de Gaulle) - too easy, but I do love the quote.
- 51A: Required reading for 007 (dossier) - great clue, got it easily. It's timely, too, in that Bond was the subject of the weekly Thursday quiz at this site I like - I haven't looked yet, but I'm pretty sure I got the best score on that quiz, in that I'm pretty sure I answered it perfectly.
- 52A: Offering just the right amount of resistance (al dente) - "Resistance!?" I want to groan, but this was pretty clever.
- 53A: Wire, at times (antenna) - if you are watching TV in the 70's, or at Homer Simpson's house, then yes, this makes sense.
- 26D: 1982 film and arcade game ("Tron") - a surprisingly popular crossword answer. I'm going to get early 80's arcade game clues almost every time, fyi.
- 32D: Site site (internet) - nice-ish clue.
- 34D: 1976 Hall & Oates hit ("She's Gone") - this will be the song I can't get out of my head all day. I may as well just put it on iTunes now and succumb to the inevitable ... ah, there it is.
- 38D: Dog breed whose name literally means "rather low" (Basset) - in French? Must be related in some way to French "bas" ("low").
- 40D: Ocelot, for one (feline) - In a battle of BASSET vs. Ocelot, my money is on the FELINE.
- 49D: Four-legged Hammett character (Asta) - Former President of the Crossword Pantheon. [Four-legged] is a bit lazy here, and, Asta would have you know, at least slightly undignified. At least he got "character" status, and wasn't clued as, say, "creature."
PS I almost forgot. Two weird things happened yesterday. One, an article about me appeared in my University's "Inside" magazine - actually, I'm not sure it's actually a magazine. Appears to be more E-ZINE. Anyway, it's the least painful interview of myself that I've ever read, though that is not saying much. The second weird thing to happen was a Full-Scale response to said article at another academic's blog, posted not more than a handful of hours after the article on me first appeared. The webiverse sometimes moves so quickly that it makes me a bit queasy. In the end, the blog response was friendly enough, and it's worth reading, if only for the Comments section, in which you can watch Orange freak out that she wasn't the one getting recognition. Still, scrutiny is weird - and slightly discomfiting - to me. There's a reason I've written this thing under a pseudonym for so long.