Saturday, June 7, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium
Welcome to Germania! Also known as "Zeds Aplenty." A very nice Karen Tracey puzzle today, but I have to ask: What happened to my reliably Pop Cultural Karen? Are you taking the anti-pop culture criticism of your puzzles to heart? I mean, yes, you threw me a bone with Tabitha SOREN (8D: Tabitha formerly of MTV News), but otherwise, nothing insanely contemporary and colloquial. I can't complain too much, since the puzzle is so good otherwise, but still, I miss the hip KT. Your ELOI (43D: Repeated word in Mark 15:34 that means "my God") was denuded of its fictional raciness and made boringly biblical (actually, it was kind of cool to find out that ELOI had a non-"Time Machine" meaning). Your KATZENJAMMER (22A: Hangover) did not involve Kids. And so on. Yet there's ONE O' cat and "Mourning Becomes Electra" and "The Fountainhead" and OLD YELLER and some guy named AL Ritz ... what year is it?
Had problems with both long sciencey words today, especially ISOMERISM (31A: Quality of glucose and fructose), which I had as ISOMERITY (it's like TEMERITY, only ... equal?). The SW of the puzzle was the last and hardest part for me, and it didn't help that I had no idea what followed WAVE in the answer to 30D: Any one of concentric circles in a ripple, in physics. I put EVENT in there for a while, but the magical key to unlocking he SW turned out to be rethinking "menu" in the clue 53A: Menu choice (undo). I had - fairly confidently - SIDE. Had vowel trouble where KATZENJAMMER met SPINELS (7D: Red gemstones) and again where REM met EZRA (25D: Poisoned husband in "Mourning Becomes Electra"). I guess the guy's name couldn't very well have been AZRA, but I've never heard of REM as a 24A: Radiation unit. It's a sleep cycle, it's a band ... it's a radiation unit? OK.
Didn't we have AMORE in this same place, clued almost this same way, not very long ago (1A: Subject for a Venetian boat song)? I think so. I feel like SSSS (6A: Deflation indication) - a total crutch answer - and LORRAINE, clued via Nancy (20A: Nancy's home), have also made recent appearances. One thing I didn't know - what the hell "Uitlander" is. Four letters ending in "R" meant the 60A: Uitlander foe was clearly BOER, but ... wow. You don't see the UI- opening much. The UINTA Mountains. That's about all I got. LA TOSCA (37A: 1887 play on which a 1900 opera is based) and LAKE TITICACA (21D: High water?), which intersect at the "T", are both weird in their inclusion of the first words in each phrase, which you rarely see. If the answer had been TITICACA, no one would have blinked, so the LAKE part is an odd added bonus. I don't think of the LA in LA TOSCA as a bonus. Seems a fairly desperate answer. If you're going to go off-book, make it interesting. At least it was easy to guess. Heavy on the classical music today, with a pair of Tanglewood clues:
- 14A: Tanglewood Music Festival town (Lenox) - didn't know
- 29A: Tanglewood concert hall dedicatee (Ozawa) - didn't know, though I know OZAWA, so guessed it
All in all, the puzzle seemed solid, tough, but weirdly old-fashioned. A sop for the folks who like the cultural center of their puzzles to be Lincoln Center circa 1950. Did people used to ENPLANE (39D: Go into a cabin) back then? Because that's not a word I've heard anyone use. Though my guess was actually worse: ENTRAIN.
- 15A: Coast Guard noncoms (CPOs) - was there a movie called "CPO Sharkey?" Whoops, no. It was a short-lived late-70s sitcom starring Don Rickles. HA ha.
- 38A: Solicited (canvassed) - right off the bat I got this. No idea why.
- 45A: 1929 globe circumnavigator (Graf Zeppelin) - so badly wanted LEAD ... even though I know full well how the band spells its name.
- 49A: "Jazz in Silhouette" composer (Sun Ra) - wow. Did not see that coming. The name of the composition does not seem to go with the name of the composer. Totally different feel.
- 56A: Eight-state coast-to-coast rte. (I Ten) - got it instantly. Wonder if anyone tripped on it. Odd to write out the "10," but you sort of have to for crosswords, don't you?
- 1D: Zany comic Ritz and others (Als) - No Idea
- 4D: Cooper's role in "The Fountainhead," 1949 (Roark) - haven't thought about this book for 20 years, but ROARK came back to me quickly. I wanted GAULT, but really I wanted GALT, who is the hero of the other Rand opus, "Atlas Shrugged."
- 9D: Former boomer (SST) - seen the clue before. Boom here = sonic boom.
- 11D: Some opinion offerers (columnists) - they are busy this election cycle.
- 12D: Part of a Crookes tube (anode) - uh ... no. Guess.
- 18D: Coll. entrance hurdle, once (SAT I) - those who complained the last time this answer showed up, without reference to its erstwhileness, are hereby vindicated.
- 23D: Drs.' reading since 1883 (JAMA) - Journal of the ... you know the rest.
- 32D: 1957 film with the 1963 sequel "Savage Sam" ("Old Yeller") - this puzzle is like a time machine. "Old Yeller" and "Bambi" in a double feature (55D: Disney deer => ENA).
- 36D: Ab _____ (absent) (esse) - Latin!
- 45D: Attire for a trip around the world (G-suit) - good one. Almost doesn't need the question mark.
- 48D: Child tenders (Nanas) - Not as crispy as the Chicken Tenders, but tasty nonetheless.