SATURDAY, Oct. 25, 2008 -Karen M. Tracey (Trailing evergreen related to savory / Captor of Han Solo / Sherlock's French counterpart)
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
Karen M. Tracey is one of the three greatest themeless constructors on the planet, and this puzzle shows why. I Loved It. From start to finish, everything about this puzzle made me happy, even the outrageous or absurd parts. What the hell is an EARTH SHINE (26D: Faint illumination of the moon's dark side)!? I had no idea, but I could infer the answer from crosses ... and with a rotational symmetrical twin like JACKANAPES (12D: Whippersnapper), I'm willing to forgive EARTH SHINE its oddness. AFICIONADO (11D: Buff) must be one of the most frequently misspelled words in the English language. I never ever Ever spell it correctly. I always want two F's, or an A where that first O's supposed to go. All I can say is that the word looks Outstanding next to JACKANAPES - but maybe most words would. JACKANAPES! I just like saying it. And it crosses JELLYSTONE (28A: Park in Ranger Smith's charge). Two 10-letter J-words, crossing swords. Fantastic.
Allow me to rhapsodize some more - the full names of JAMES JOYCE (5D: Writer of the 1918 play "Exiles") and IRENE ADLER (14A: Opera singer created by Arthur Conan Doyle) and CHE GUEVARA (41A: "Guerrilla Warfare" author, 1961) and TARA REID (19A: Player of Danni Sullivan on "Scrubs")!? OK, I could have done without that last one, but look at that cultural spread. High, low, fictional, historical. This puzzle is culturally voracious. It'll be a little too heavy on the pop culture for some solvers - a quick scan reveals at least four contemporary actors, two cartoon references, TUPAC Shakur (25D: First name in rap), and JABBA the Hutt (5A: Captor of Han Solo), for instance. [musical interlude about Boba Fett, the bounty hunter hired by Jabba to find Han]:
And yet the haters should pipe down - this one's frame of reference is broad enough that everyone should be able to find something to like. One minor problem - I did not know IRENE ADLER (though I'd seen her fairly recently, it turns out). So getting the first "L" in BLEDEL (7D: "Gilmore Girls" co-star Alexis) was ... well, it was flat-out guess. ADLER was the only name that seemed right. BLEDEL looked nuts, but it was better than any alternative.
The face-poundingest answer in this puzzle has to be YERBA BUENA (29D: Trailing evergreen related to savory). Frankly, I don't know what region of my ... brain I pulled it from. For some reason, when I had the YERBA, I wanted MATTA. Turns out I was thinking of YERBA MATE, which is a kind of tea alternative you can find in the "Stuff White People Like" part of your suburban grocery. My brain was also flashing on Chichen Itza and Cibo Matto:
- 10A: _____ 1000, annual Mexican off-road race (Baja) - no idea, but easy enough
- 24A: Princess in Mozart's "Idomeneo" (Ilia) - No Idea; see also 2D: 24-Across's "Zeffiretti lusinghieri," e.g. (aria)
- 46D: Joe's love interest in "South Pacific" (Liat) - really the most absurd name in all of fiction. I remember the first time I saw it, two years ago, which is also the last time I saw it. Musicals shmusicals Seussicals.
- 25A: College Park player, briefly (Terp) - one of a handful of gimmes in the puzzle, which made the puzzle easier than it might have been.
- 31A: Trucial States, today: Abbr. (UAE) - Never heard of "Trucial States" - it's weird how many terms and names I've never heard of today, considering how easy I found the puzzle.
- 33A: Cone holders (retinas) - left the last letter open, thinking I might get an -AE spelling.
- 39A: Generational indicator in some names (Ibn) - "son of," Arabic-style.
- 49A: Brunswick stew ingredient (squirrel) - let's see the foodists suck on that today
- 54A: Conspirator's cautious conversation starter ("Are we alone?") - HA ha. Paranoia. Cloak and dagger. Awesome.
- 59A: He-Man's twin sister (She-Ra) - Princess of Power
- 1D: Roman's foe of yore (Pict) - I am fan of most things Scottish ("Braveheart" excepted), so this was not hard.
- 3D: Apt. amenity (terr.) - "Hey, what's the Yukon doing in my apt."
- 23D: Professional shooter, briefly (SLR) - somehow, I saw through this instantly. SLR = single lens reflex, a type of camera
- 30D: Davis who played Maggie in two "Matrix" movies (Essie) - me, for a good chunk of my solving time: "But ... there's ... there's just no way OSSIE Davis was in those movies. I'd have noticed."
- 42D: Sherlock's French counterpart (Arsène) - I don't think Sherlock was a "gentleman thief," but OK.
- 51D: Vance Air Force Base locale (Enid) - classic crossword geography. Also, a song I listened to a lot in 1992 - these guys look like dorks, but then ... well, pot/kettle, frankly:
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld