FRIDAY, Oct. 24, 2008 -Frederick J. Healy (Subject of the 1989 musical monologue "Bon Appetit" / Obi accessory / Supporter of the mascot Handsome Dan)
Friday, October 24, 2008
Relative difficulty: Challenging
I have written on this puzzle "harder than tomorrow's," if that's any consolation.
Even though I began with a rash of gimmes - first MAEVE (48A: Novelist Binchy), then KATEY (50A: "Married ... With Children" actress Sagal) then YALIE (51D: Supporter of the mascot Handsome Dan) - it took me longer to do this Friday puzzle than it does most Saturdays. The big problem was the NW, where the Downs just smacked me around, and the Acrosses (as clued) weren't any great help either. I tried to back into the quadrant via the back end of 6D: One whose lead is followed in the service, but wrote in PASTOR instead of CANTOR. That's what I get for growing up heathen, I guess. I don't think I've ever seen DNAS pluralized like that (10D: Strands of biology), which is why I didn't instantly write it in upon seeing "strands" in the clue. Guessed JULIA CHILD (1A: Subject of the 1989 musical monologue "Bon Appétit"), finally, from a smattering of crosses I managed to scare up, and that got the ball rolling pretty well. I am very familiar with IRON MAIDEN in both its heavy metal and dungeon-dwelling forms, and yet 15A: Old torturer did little to clue me in. But those Downs, ugh. JIMA (1D: Chichi-_____ (largest of Japan's Bonin Islands))!?! INRO (4D: Obi accessory)!?!?!? AMOUR clued in non-French fashion (5D: Reason for a tryst)? It was a bloodbath up there. Can't believe I've seen a billion OBIS and never even heard of INRO. Wow. Still reeling from that. Still, somehow JULIA CHILD makes everything OK. You can have all your contemporary, blow-dried celebrity chefs - this woman rules:
There was some iffiness here and there in this puzzle - to my ear, anyway. TIES A KNOT (41A: Does some macrame work)?!?! Why not EATS A SANDWICH or PETS A FERRET? Those are phrases too? Does TIES A KNOT cohere as a stand-alone phrase, worthy of crossword inclusion? You decide (I'm sorry, the answer is "no"). And TINY TOTs (25D: One taking a first step) are candies, aren't they? Hmmm, I can't find evidence for that. Just sounds a lot like something I would have bought at the corner 7-11 when I was circa 7-11. A TOT is already TINY. I see TINY TOTs as a cutesy name for a diaper service, a pre-school, an awesome 50-year-old kids' book. The clue just seems too literal and plain to accommodate this level of sucrosity.
The SE was simple - a bunch of easy Downs helped me go through it like a buzzsaw. FONZ (55D: Sitcom guy with a frequently upturned thumb), ERGO (56D: Sum lead-in), RIEN (57D: Zip around France?) and SERE (58D: Sun-damaged) all came one after the other, with almost no hesitation between answers. Helped offset the agony of the NW, somewhat. The other corners had some serious thorniness as well. In the SW, the long Downs were Really hard to get from the bland one- and two-word clues, and the easy Acrosses were filled out the quadrant only sparsely. Had TULIP for OXLIP (34A: Yellow primrose) - I know, stupid, but it ended in -IP and that's all that came to mind. Also had STES and then ILES for LACS (59A: Geneve and others). In the NE, one serious error - MACY for SAKS (11A: Gimbel contemporary) - had me stalled badly for a while, primarily because the "C" from "MACY" gave me CARL (not the proper KARL) MALDEN, which I didn't question (13D: Warden player in "Birdman of Alcatraz"). Ooh, PR MEN hurt me too (43A: Guys who make people look good). Difficulty is not bad this late in the week. All in all, a very good Saturday puzzle - the little guy just got lost, apparently.
Here's an interesting phenomenon - 36A: Oscar winner after "Rocky" ("Annie Hall") - should probably have been more specifically clued as [Best Picture winner...], as "Rocky" won multiple Oscars. And yet, the very next Across answer prevents [Best Picture] from being in the clue for "ANNIE HALL" - 38A: Tops (the best). I love "Manhattan" above every other movie ever made, by Woody or anyone, but this one scene from "ANNIE HALL" is enough to put it among my all-time favorites (and there are many such scenes ... "I'm into leather" ... any scene with Walken ... etc.):
- 17A: Country whose capital is Palikir (Micronesia) - never heard of Palikir, and wasn't completely certain that MICRONESIA constituted a country.
- 18A: Union member of the future: Abbr. (terr.) - ???? Not necessarily.
- 20A: Company that developed NutraSweet (Searle) - isn't this the company Rumsfeld ran? Yes! Man, I love when my memory works.
- 26A: Jung's feminine side (anima) - Latin for "soul"; I know a medievalist named "Jung" - I don't know what she calls her feminine side. Perhaps "Leslie" or "Barbara."
- 44A: View from the Arlberg Pass (Alp) - I'll take your word for it
- 54A: Mass stack (wafers) - not BIBLES
- 64A: Target of un coup (état) - accurate enough, but feels weird, butchering the phrase "coup d'état" like this. Who will stand up for the "d'"?
- 2D: "O'Hara's Choice" novelist, 2003 (Uris) - who, he wrote a novel this century? Wow. I know that O'Hara was a novelist ... but that has nothing to do with this answer. I had to guess this one from crosses.
- 12D: 1992 film directed by and starring Edward James Olmos ("American Me") - Commander Adama!
- 27D: Sexy numbers (hot tamales) - just a fantastic answer
- 35D: Family of 18th- and 19th-century painters (Peales) - never heard of 'em. Looks like a name someone might have ... crosses were easy.
- 42D: Seraglio section (oda) - Old Skool crosswordese.
- 46D: Home of the University of Delaware (Newark) - this seems like a joke
- 47A: Bit of biblical graffiti (mene) - when I was a teen, I received a book from my grandma called "MENE, MENE, Tekel." I never read it, but I sure remember the title.
- 53D: High-end shoe and handbag maker (Tods) - once again, I had No Clue. TODS, PEALES, INRO ... I really got smacked around.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld