Friday, February 15, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium
Patrick Berry, the ACCA Constructor of the Year for 2007, favors us with a twisty little themeless puzzle on this frigid February Friday (actually, it's not so bad out right now - just took Sahra to school, didn't even need gloves). As is typical with my Friday puzzles, I solved it in the morning over breakfast. I am a sad aging man who goes to bed around 10pm, and while my brain can handle pre-bedtime puzzles on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, Fridays are another story. Tiredness might ruin my enjoyment, so I generally put them off til the morning. Saturdays I can do at night because I don't have to be concerned with getting up at a reasonable hour the next morning. More about my solving routine than you need to know, I realize.
ARTURO TOSCANINI is officially played out as a 15-letter answer for the remainder of 2008 (15A: He conducted the premiere performances of "Pagliacci" and "La Boheme"). I'm making that declaration right now. He has been a giant, grid-spanning answer At Least once, if not more, in the past year. You know something is wrong when you read only part of the clue ("He conducted...") and your guess the answer instantly. I didn't write it in at first, because I thought, "No Way." And then, when I had WHITE KEY instead of the correct PIANO KEY at 12D: One that gets depressed during recitals, it seemed something would replace TOSCANINI as the correct answer ... but no. Side note: I am teaching Watchmen right now in my Comics course, and there is at least one "Pagliacci" reference in there. But then there are references to Everything in there. Nothing captures the feel of the end of the 20th century like Watchmen. I'm reading it for the fifth time now, and every time, there are new things to notice and love. I keep calling it "the Paradise Lost of the 20th century," despite the ridicule that such bold statements are likely to earn me. It is a comic book about costumed crime-fighters, after all.
I started this daunting puzzle (look at all the white squares!) in the far east, where the highly inferrable CUTEST (27A: _____ Couple (yearbook voting category)) got me the "U" in NUDES (25D: Some Degas paintings), which then got me NIKON (25A: Maker of Coolpix cameras), DOMED (33A: Like St. Basil's) and CAMUS (27D: First African-born Literature Nobelist), 1-2-3. Very, very frustrating not to be able to unearth "SAD EYES" from -ADEY-- for a little while, given that I can sing every word of that song. Mmm, falsetto. No, wait, this clip is better. Just be patient ... takes about 15 seconds for the song in question to begin.
- 17A: Bands of holy men (clerical collars) - grrr ... had COLLARS and could not fathom the first word. VATICAN? PUBLICAN!?
- 2D: Photographer/children's author Alda (Arlene) - some part of the back of my brain screamed "ARLENE" as soon as I saw this, but I couldn't really hear it, and I certainly didn't trust it. Then I entered UNITE instead of the correct MERGE at 18A: Become one, which kept me from ARLENE a little longer. Ms. Alda was a crossword answer from way back in 2007.
- 3D: Jelly seen on buffet tables (sterno) - STERNO is ... a jelly? Wow. You learn something new every day.
- 19A: Newspaper column separators (hairlines) - mine is slowly receding.
- 20A: _____ Elliot, heroine of Jane Austen's "Persuasion" (Anne) - just watched a (fairly crappy) BBC version of this, and still couldn't get it without crosses.
- 22A: Put on an unhappy face (mope) - I had WEPT at one point.
- 23A: Revival movement's leader? (neo-) - thankfully, I never saw this clue.
- 26A: Stray animals don't have them (names) - I had HOMES, of course. Strays might have NAMES, especially if they have strayed from an owner's HOME.
- 39A: Young cowboy in "Lonesome Dove" (Newt) - had no idea, just as I had no idea what 30D: 1600 to 1800, on a boat was getting at. Luckily for me, I had enough sense to change DOGPATCH to the correct DOGWATCH.
- 40A: Ships on the seafloor (hulks) - this was the guessiest-feeling answer I wrote in, mainly because the "H" cross, HANNO (40D: Carthaginian statesman who opposed war with Rome) was unknown to me. But BULKS and BANNO just sounded wrong on both counts, so I stuck with the oddly super-hero-sounding answer of HULKS. Good idea.
- 49A: Most mawkish (soupiest) - I eventually had SOU-IEST and still couldn't piece it together. Needed my good friend PULP (44D: Great literature's opposite) to get the job done, finally. By the way, Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler would like to have a word with you about your clue for PULP.
- 5D: Pennsylvania's Flagship City (Erie) - always looking for new and better ways to clue ERIE. I like this one. I was in ERIE about a decade ago. There wasn't much that felt ... Flagshippy about it.
- 26D: 1939 film taglined "Garbo laughs" (Ninotchka) - this kicked loose eventually from some dark recess of my brain. Never seen it, only heard of it. I wanted something Russian ... but all I could come up with was ANASTASIA.
- 28D: "Is There Life Out There" singer (McEntire) - looking for a New Agey type and got a country superstar. Weird.
- 9A: Muscleheaded (stupid) - clue is so much cooler than answer. I hope to see these words reverse roles some day.
- 21A: Star of "Gigi" and "Lili" (Caron) - this clue made me laugh out loud, as I only recently made clear that I get GIGI, LILI, and (for some reason) LULU confused all the time. Once I had the -ON, the name in question jumped forth in all her dancing glory.
- 24A: Strand at the airport, maybe (fog in) - who is the subject of these verbs? In my overcleverness, I was imagining "strand" as a noun.
- 28A: "Field of Dreams" actress Amy (Madigan) - married to Ed Harris, I believe.
- 32A: More of the same (clones) - grrrreat clue.
- 47A: One with a guitar and shades, stereotypically (rock and roll star) - way to make good use of a hackneyed image.
- 1D: Game featuring Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde (Pac Man) - another genius clue. These are the official names of the ghosts that hunt down our hero, I believe.
- 7D: Stage actress who wrote "Respect for Acting" (Uta Hagen) - heard her once on "Fresh Air," and she was horrible and condescending. Lighten up, Uta baby.
- 16D: Boxy Toyota product (Scion) - should win some kind of award for ugliest or most ill-conceived car design. A blight on the automotive landscape.
- 21D: Some emergency cases may be found in them (comas) - this made me laugh. Takes some real daring to incorporate the gravely ill into your little word games.
- 29D: Titular mouse in a classic Daniel Keyes novel (Algernon) - Never read it; everything I know about it (almost) I learned from crosswords.
- 33D: Number to the left of a decimal point, maybe (dollars) - goes nicely (rhymingly) with CLERICAL COLLARS.
Woo hoo. Done.
All best wishes, especially to the folks at Northern Illinois University.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
- LAT 8:59 (C) - Jack McInturff: author puns. These are pretty good, esp 20A and 59A.
- NYS untimed (C) - Byron Walden, Weekend Warrior (themeless) - HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: if only all puzzles could be this good. My jealousy at his astonishing competence grows and grows...
- CHE 6:09 (C) - Daniel C. Bryant, "Four of Hearts" - HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: best of the VD (!?) puzzles, by far