SUNDAY, Sep. 21, 2008 - Brendan Emmett Quigley (Card game played to 61 / Biological dividing wall / Opposite of guerra)
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: "It's a Mystery" - eight theme answers all begin with the names of fictional detectives (clued in non-detective fashion): 109A: Ones in charge of a case ... or a literal hint to the eight other longest answers in this puzzle (lead detectives)
I am teaching Crime Fiction right now, so you'd think I'd have liked this puzzle. . . and I did. Psych! The only problems I had were with some detectives I barely knew, e.g. the way out-of-popular-consciousness Gideon FELL (a John Dickson Carr detective). FISH is the real odd-man-out here, as he was a detective on "Barney Miller" (played by Abe Vigoda) and was a featured player in his own right only in the very short-lived "Barney Miller" spin-off, aptly titled "FISH." "FISH" ran for 35 episodes from '77 to '78 and featured, among others, Todd Bridges (of "Diff'rent Strokes" fame)! Ellery QUEEN is a character / pen name with a history so long and complex I can do little but refer you to outside sources. I just finished teaching "The Maltese Falcon," so SPADE was on my mind, and we'll be reading Mickey Spillane in a few more weeks - I think Spillane (recently deceased) was a totally misunderstood and under-rated crime fiction writer, and his detective, Mike HAMMER, is a seething poet of populist rage. He has no restraint. He's a great American Monster. But I digress. There's a girl here too. Did I mention that? Nancy DREW is hiding out in the NW corner, as if she can't quite bring herself to associate with all the old(er) men. It's OK. MAGNUM will protect her.
- 23A: School in Madison, N. J. (DREW University)
- 33A: Don't believe it (FISH story)
- 46A: "The Divine Comedy," for Dante (MAGNUM opus)
- 66A: Track-and-field event (HAMMER throw)
- 84A: Dropped off (FELL asleep)
- 98A: Pantry array (MASON jars)
- 17D: Beloved figure in England (QUEEN Mother)
- 65D: Card game played to 61 (SPADE Casino) - the one answer in the bunch that seems to come from outer space. Is this a game I would know if I only frequented casinos more often?
I love when the puzzle decides to give me a little trivia with my answers, so I was especially grateful today when I got the following set of three:
- 26A: Poet whose last words were "Of course [God] will forgive me; that's his business" (Heine) - unlike detective Philip Marlowe, whose business is Trouble.
- 72A: Record producer who published the diary "A Year With Swollen Appendices" (Eno)
- 4D: City with the world's first telephone directory (1878) (New Haven) - Was there an Old Haven? Just ... Haven? I'm guessing yes. This is one weird claim to fame.
- 106A: Only U.S. vice president born in Maryland (Agnew) - have I told you about my AGNEW watch? Oh, that's right, I have. I really gotta take that thing to a watch ... fixer ... guy.
Never heard of:
- WOOD LOT (7A: Lumber supplier) - clearly lumber is not my thing. I remember being stumped by the concept of BOARD FOOT, also in a Sunday puzzle, almost in this exact location, a few months ago.
- LEIGH (11D: "The Da Vinci Code" scholar Sir _____ Teabing) - I still prefer LEIGH Brackett. Hey, shouldn't it be "The Leonardo Code"? I mean, really.
- LACTASE (102A: Enzyme in some yeasts) - I nearly missed this because I got sloppy and wrote in LACTOSE. Thankfully I noticed the bizarre MEDIO staring at me (79D: Broadcasters, e.g. - MEDIA).
- OBIE (42A: Officer in "Alice's Restaurant") - ODIE I know. OBIE ... only as a theater award.
- STEAMER (40A: Raw bar offering) - again, as with lumber, my lack of appropriate regional location hurts me here. There are no raw bars where I live, so after SASHIMI and, uh, SLIDERS, I was stuck.
- CASERTA (14D: Italy's Reggia di _____ (royal palace)) - I thought for sure this was wrong. It looks wrong. It sounds wrong. It's not.
- 20A: City and county in central California (Madera) - I'd like to give a shout-out to all my homies in the SJV! (that is to say, I grew up in Fresno, not far from MADERA).
- 83D: "Malcolm in the Middle" boy (Reese) - this is "Malcolm"'s second appearance in as many weeks. I used to watch it in its early years.
- 49A: 1950s-'70s TV host (Paar) - before my time, but a common xword answer.
- 83A: _____ avis (rara) - bonus theme answer, as the Maltese Falcon is referred to in the novel as the "rara avis." Here's Gutman at the very end of Chapter 19 (penultimate chapter):
"Well, sir, the shortest farewells are the best. Adieu." He made a portly bow. "And to you, Miss O'Shaughnessy, adieu. I leave you the rara avis on the table as a little memento."
- 89A: Work site? ("In" tray) - very clever.
- 92A: Trig angle (arcsine) - after COSINE, I drew a blank ... then 1986 kicked back in.
- 95A: "On Language" columnist (Safire) - I like his writing, generally, and I love that he intersects LEFT WING (86D: Liberal). (Not) Apt! Oh, and I can only hope the proximity of LEFT WING to MEDIA (79D) is not some kind of political commentary.
- 6D: Nuts (zanies)
- 59D: Scoundrels (meanies) - the ZANIES ... and the MEANIES ... and the epic war for control of planet Snaktron.
- 12D: Novelist who wrote "The Gravedigger's Daughter" (Oates) - also, musical partner of Hall.
- 13D: No-tell motel visit (tryst) - the new show "Fringe" opens with one of these. Yes, I'm kind of watching "Fringe."
- 19D: Eve _____, "The Vagina Monologues" monologist (Ensler) - next to "vagina," "monologues" starts looking awfully sexual. I think Ms. ENSLER writes for Huffingtonpost now.
- 28D: Quaint letter opener ("To sir") - preferably "with Love."
- 33D: Extremely pleasing, in slang (fabu) - oh, please, never say that.
- 39D: Biological dividing wall (septum) - goes on the DECOCT list (of ugly words).
- 58D: Southern legume (cow pea) - more legumes (see yesterday's DEHISCES).
- 68D: Loose overcoat (raglan) - I knew the term RAGLAN sleeve (a sleeve I cannot wear as it highlights my relative lack of shoulders), but I never thought about what RAGLAN might mean.
- 100D: Certain flower girl (niece) - er ... ok.
- 96D: Winning hand in blackjack (ace ten) - true enough. Wait, would Ace King beat it? Or Ace Jack? Or ace ... Black Jack!? I don't gamble, clearly.
- 108D: Opposite of guerra (paz) - there is a comics artist named PIA GUERRA, and so all I wanted to put in here was PIA.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
PS I'm happy to announce the arrival of a new Forum for the Discussion of All Things Puzzles - my fellow crossword blogger "Orange" (Amy Reynaldo, author of "How to Conquer the New York Times Crossword Puzzle"), has created "The Crossword Fiend Forum." It has discussion threads related to all the day's major crosswords, larger issues in crossword construction and publishing, and even a section for the discussion of this country's various Cryptic Crosswords. I encourage you to give it a look. I mean, come here first, of course, for your NYT commentary, but if you've got time ... :)