FRIDAY, Dec. 26, 2008 - B. E. Quigley (Pop superstar's informal name since 1997 / Sinew: Prefix / "House Call" airer / Title lady in a 1933 song)
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
I love the holidays, but I am glad the pre-Christmas season is over. December represents a kind of crossword lull - it's the one month out of the year where traffic to my site slowly but surely wanes. People's attention is understandably directed toward other matters in December - shopping, vacations, final exams, etc. If this year is anything like last year, though, the New Crossword Year starts ... now. And if the constructors on tap for this long weekend are any indication, this year is going to be fabulous. First up: Brendan Emmett Quigley, whom I can't seem to stop talking about lately. He recently started his own thrice-weekly crossword site, but he saved some real gold for today's NYT.
But I'm going to start with the problems - now, I think these are problems that I and the puzzle share in equal measure. I do think that I should be smarter and know more stuff - that's a given. But how in the world was I supposed to know EADIE (51D: Title lady in a 1933 song)? I had -ADIE and did not once, not ever, doubt that that first letter was an "S," even after that "S" resulted in ST. SEQ. as the answer for 51A: Reference book abbr. (et seq.). I just figured that ST. SEQ. was some arcane bibliographical abbrev. that I didn't know. I never fixed this error, so technically, I was a failure today. I finished the puzzle and tried to figure out what ST. SEQ. stood for before I went to look it up - STANT SEQUENTIA? Ugh. Just UGH! In fact, I "ugh" at the preponderance of "old songs" in general. One or two is fine, but "EADIE Was a Lady" and "Take the A TRAIN" (45D: Title transport in a 1941 song), and "ALL OF ME" (37A: Song standard with the lyric "Can't you see I'm no good without you?")? It hurts me. Actually, I like "Take the A TRAIN." I'm indifferent toward "ALL OF ME." I feel nothing but revulsion toward "EADIE was a Lady," but that's likely situational. Never heard it. [... listening now ...] Damn, it has the lyric, "EADIE had klass ... with a captial "K!", so now I love it. Here it is (from the musical "Take a Chance" - song starts at the 3 min. mark or so):
I have tons of respect for the fact that this puzzle is NOT a pangram. Who cares about getting every letter of the alphabet in there when you've got 3 Z's, 5 X's, 2 K's, and even a terminal "Q"? I loved this puzzle from the get go. I hadn't been noodling around in the NW but 15 seconds or so when SEXPERT (17A: Dr. Ruth, e.g.) occurred to me as a possibility. Took one look at the "X" cross and knew instantly that the answer was XOXOXOXO (3D: Love letters?) I was so in love with that answer, but thought it so improbable, that I waited for another cross for confirmation before writing it in. I was not disappointed. Imagine a grid where the first things you put in are SEXPERT x/w XOXOXOXO. I wanted to stop right there.
The hardest part of the puzzle for me was the NE, where, even with TV CAMERA in place (8D: An anchor often faces it), I had trouble making a dent up there. Finally got the tauntingly appropriate ANEMIC off just the "M" (12D: Weak), and then flat-out guessed VOLANTE (16A: Lightly and quickly, in music). Done in by music yet again. To my credit, I did get SIR PAUL (20A: Pop superstar's informal name since 1997) and FREE JAZZ (38D: Bop alternative) rather easily. My very first thought for 8A: Comic book series that spawned films in 1994 and 2005, a thought I had very, very early on, was in fact the right answer: "THE MASK." I have only the vaguest, ugliest memories of the existence of a 2005 film in that series. The first "THE MASK" starred Jim Carrey and, in her debut film performance, Cameron Diaz.
There were a number of easy answers that should have helped people get toeholds throughout the puzzle. 22A: Wyo. is on it in the summer (MDT) was a gimme, as was 29A: One of the Baltimore Ravens' mascots (Poe). POE was from Baltimore, and wrote "The Raven," whence the football team's name. DAR was another easy one to infer from its clue, 59D: Women's org. with the motto "God, home and country". Notice that the gimmes are all shorties. That's pretty typical for late-week fare. Occasionally you score a lucky big hit like my SEXPERT/XOXOXOXO bonanza without working the short stuff first, but usually you (I) happen to work from shorter / gettable stuff to the longer stuff. Work the short stuff! Two more pop culture answers, INXS (23A: "Listen Like Thieves" band) and SUZIE (28D: Wong of book and film) were also gimmes for me, though I needed to get SNOOZED (35A: Had a 33-Across, say) before I knew whether SUZIE was spelled with a "Z" or an "S."
I like how this puzzle has a ton of X's while also having a vaguely X-ish pattern of black squares at its heart.
- 1A: Where to get a good view of a hit and run (box seat) - the baseball kind of "hit" and "run," presumably.
- 26A: Chapter 13? (XIII) - took me way, Way too long
- 30A: Strips on a table (bacon) - more Friday vagueness. I flirted with NACHO here. I know it makes no sense.
- 44A: Rona who wrote "Mazes and Monsters" (Jaffe) - should've been a gimme off of "Rona" alone, but I got distracted by the book title (which I didn't know)
- 53A: Sinew: Prefix (teno-) - I guess this is better than [_____ clock scholar], but not by much.
- 55A: New Jersey shopping mecca (Paramus) - never been there, but I knew this. Why? Why!?
- 60A: Food similar to a bannock (oatcake) - strangely, I just did another puzzle where "oatcake" was used to clue "BANNOCK."
- 6D: Just off the bottom, nautically (atrip) - absolutely new to me; could easily have gone to a partial, but didn't. Nice. Very Friday.
- 7D: Sandal variety (T-strap) - annoyed that I stared at TST... and thought "I must have something wrong." Rookie mistake!
- 10D: Company whose slogan is "Home away from home" (El Al) - "Company" completely threw me. Generic. Friday!
- 30D: "The Jungle Book" bear (Baloo) - forgot it completely.
- 34D: Mischievous tyke (elf) - really? Wow. I (and you) wanted IMP. ELVES work for Santa.
- 9D: Falcon-headed god (Horus) - had a lot of trouble retrieving this guy's name. His face, however, is very familiar:
- 56D: Ancient walkway (stoa) - crosswordese; a good word to have under your belt (though, to be honest, I still confuse STOA with STELA).
- 48D: Retires from the R.A.F. (demobs) - learned it from crosswords; have heard it several times since, including once on "The Bugle," which is my favorite "news" program of the moment.
- 61D: "House Call" airer (CNN) - with Dr. Sanjay Gupta, whose name is crying out to be in a puzzle.
- 46D: Done, slangily (finito) - ah, "slangily," my good friend. Nice to see you again.
Today, we have to arrange matters with the house/dogsitter, eat as much of the Christmas leftovers as humanly possible, and pack. Daughter will likely be playing with new Webkinz and watching "The Princess Bride" or any number of the 30-year-old Disney films I just recorded off of TCM. I'm headed to the Bay Area this weekend to visit my family in Carmel (and a certain constructor I know in S.F.). I'll be blogging sporadically over the next week, but PuzzleGirl and Acme will be filling in for me here and there, starting tomorrow.
R.I.P. Eartha Kitt, who died yesterday. She was the very first answer I ever wrote about on this blog. I recently posted her "Santa Baby" on this site, so today, something new.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld