(1993 rap hit with the repeated lyric "Bow wow wow yippy yo yippy yay") SATURDAY, Jan. 19, 2008 - David J. Kahn
Saturday, January 19, 2008
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: Agatha Christie (or, none)
I have very little time to write this morning, so please pardon this brief entry. I'll be back with a much fuller write-up tomorrow.
When I saw David J. Kahn's name, I braced myself for toughness. He is creative and clever (I highly recommend his Baseball Crosswords), and I thought him + Saturday might = deadly pit of asps. But this one opened up very quickly, primarily because the two long, related answers that cross in the middle were so easy to uncover. Gave me a giant cross of solved letters (thank you, Jesus) right in the middle of my puzzle before I'd entered letter one in any of the four corners. How did I do it? Glad you asked.
I started, as I always do, with the poppiest of the pop culture clues - today, this was 23D: Actress Mazar and others (Debis). Not sure how I know her, but her name and face are very familiar to me. This gave me the "S" for SIT UP (40A: Rise partly), which gave me the "U" for TUGS (37D: Water towers?), which gave me the second "G" in GOGOL (46A: "Dead Souls" novelist), which gave me the "L" in LAY (47D: Romantic narrative), which gave me the "A" in SIAM (51A: Gulf of _____, body of water next to Viet Nam - I already had the "S" from TUGS). Thus by the time I looked at 15D: Noted 36-Across passenger, I already had the -POI- sequence in place. HERCULE POIROT's name was the first that came to my mind, and I had ORIENT EXPRESS in my mind (36A: See 15-Down) before I'd ever even looked at the clue. Nice discovery: that HERCULE POIROT and ORIENT EXPRESS share a central letter. Good concept to build a puzzle around.
There were no other problems in this puzzle until I got to the NE. I was genuinely surprised at how easily words were falling before me. Maybe doing a handful of Th/F NY Sun puzzles and Frank Longo Cranium-Crushing puzzles every day is starting to pay off. At any rate, I had to make an educated guess in the NE. That guess: PAVED (10D: Hard-top). It took some time for me to convince myself that "Hard-top" and PAVED were both adjectival. I had to say "a hard-top road, a paved road" to myself a few times. The problem here was that I had never heard of the "P" crossing: SAMPANS (7A: Mekong River sights); and had only very faint recollections of "D" crossing: ODILE (26A: Role in a Tchaikovsky ballet). When I finished, I asked my wife what a SAMPAN was. She said, "isn't that a kind of boat?" This question made me so happy.
Dashing off the rest:
- 1A: Mesoamericans of old (Aztecs) - fancy clue turns Monday fill into Saturday fill. Magic!
- 16A: Small cavity, as around a cactus spine (areole) - I kind of guessed here, but this word is familiar enough to me from other contexts, so no problem.
- 21A: 1993 rap hit with the repeated lyric "Bow wow wow yippy yo yippy yay" ("Dre Day") - this clue couldn't have made me happier if it tried. I love it so much. I also love the thought of millions of non-rap-loving crossword solvers trying to wrap their head around it. This was the song (and video) that introduced Snoop Dogg to the world, for the record - off of Dr. DRE's album "The Chronic," one of the best-selling and most influential rap records of all time.
- 24A: Concordat (pact) - never heard of the clue, but I just took off the "-at" and was left with a word meaning "agreement," so PACT was simple.
- 27A: Battlers, at times (sexes) - I've seen this enough to know it, but that "X" ... doesn't come easily. I had SE-ES and ran through the alphabet. Quickly.
- 31A: Part of many cultural venue names: Abbr. (ctr.) - the clue is so oddly phrased that I didn't know what to expect. CTR is apt, if anti-climactic.
- 64A: Sportscaster with the catchphrase "Oh, my!" (Enberg) - Dick ENBERG. He's been in the puzzle fairly recently. I was not aware that "Oh, my!" was a "catchphase," although I can totally hear him saying it in my head now.
- 3D: Simon & Garfunkel hit after "Mrs. Robinson" ("The Boxer") - maybe my favorite song of theirs. Certainly the most ... moving? Touching? I remember Paul Simon's singing it on SNL immediately after 9/11.
- 6D: Acclivitous (steep) - SAT word! Cool to know, but you will never use it.
- 7D: Adolphe with an instrument named after him (Sax) - this was just in some other puzzle I was doing. Good to know.
- 9D: New York City transportation (Metro North) - I'll take your word for it. It fit, that's all I can say.
- 25D: Rabbit food? (Trix) - "Silly rabbit, TRIX are for kids." So, really, not rabbit food.
- 28D: Christmas song favorite since 1949 ("Sleigh Ride") - nope, it's not coming to me. I've got "Winter Wonderland," "Frosty the Snowman," "Little Drummer Boy," "White Christmas" ... drawing a blank on this one. Thankfully the answer was Christmas-y and highly inferrable.
- 33D: Prefix with parasite (ento-) - OK. Sounds right.
- 39D: Father-and-son comedic actors (Stillers) - That's one talented family.
- 52D: Title role for Maria Callas in her only film (Medea) - did not know. I was missing only the "D," which was obvious.
- 55D: Mercury-Atlas 5 rider (Enos) - hurray! Guessed this off the "S" and was so happy to be right. Space Chimp!
- 62D: _____ Lyman & His California Orchestra, popular 1920s-'40s band (Abe) - Nice to go to someone new, besides President Lincoln and Grandpa Simpson.
See you tomorrow,
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld