SATURDAY, Dec. 27, 2008 - Karen M. Tracey (Track gold medalist in three 1920s Olympics / Deep-blue alpine flower / Anchorman, briefly?)
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Hi, everybody, PuzzleGirl here — did you miss me? (Correct answer: "Were you gone?") It's always a pleasure to fill in for the traveling Rex Parker and to hang out with you guys talking about our common OBSESSION (29D: Hard drives?). Pretty good segue, right? So here we go....
Today's themeless puzzle by the lovely and talented Karen M. Tracey is what I'm sure some of you will call "tough but doable." That's certainly how it was for me. I plodded through almost the whole thing in a little over half an hour, then erased and rewrote a bunch of stuff in the Northern California area, which eventually all came together. That was a tough little spot right there! I originally had host for (24A: Party leader), which I thought was pretty clever. If only it hadn't also been ... wrong. I was on the right track with the tricky 24D: Bit of a shock?, but with the H in place for host, I guessed the answer must be hair. Wrong again. So, yeah, took a while to get everything untangled over there. But untangle it I did and, seriously, for anyone that's new to crosswords and feeling frustrated and overwhelmed by late-week puzzles — Don't Despair! I wouldn't have finished this puzzle a year ago. No question about it. The only reason I can sometimes finish Friday and Saturday puzzles is because I've been diligent about doing a lot of puzzles over the last year. And speaking of Finnish, let's run down ...
The Tough Stuff:
- 27D: Track gold medalist in three 1920s Olympics (Paavo Nurmi) — Never heard of him. He won three golds and a silver in the 1920 Games, five golds in 1924, and one gold and two silvers in 1928. He and some of his countrymen were dubbed the "Flying Finns." During his career, he broke 22 official world records. Oh, and he has an asteroid named after him.
- 17A: "Seems likely" ("I suspect so") — Raise your hand if you had "I suppose so" at first.
- 16A: Glaucus's love in "The Last Days of Pompeii" (Ione) — Not to be confused with the 31A: Setting of St. Columba's missionary work (Iona).
- 20A: Centipede alternative (Donkey Kong) — I wasn't thinking of the ATARI game. I thought a Centipede was some sort of tractor. Well, no, but there is such a thing as a Tractor Centipede. Weird.
- 21A: Are, in Arles (etes) — Had sons at first.
- 22A: Pop that's over 80 years old (Nehi) — I was listening to "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" recently and Mavis Staples was a guest on the show. So all I could think of was Pops Staples. Even though that's Pops, not Pop. And, oh yeah, he's dead.
- 28A: Inside shot? (sonogram) — I'm only going to say this one time so listen up. Just because it relates to pregnancy doesn't mean it fails the breakfast test. You will want to keep this in mind for future reference.
- 40A: One less than une douzaine (onze) — That's eleven in French (douzaine = dozen).
- 61A: Verse (poesy) — With the P and the S in place, I started to write in prose, realizing by the time I got to the O that verse and prose are, ya know, opposites.
- 6D: "Good boy" (Jack Horner) — This is really the only clue/answer pair I really have a problem with in this puzzle. The quotation marks around the clue indicated to me that the clue was meant to be read as a phrase someone would say, and that the answer would also be a phrase someone would say. In this case, it sounds like a phrase you would say to your dog. Of course I can't think of a single phrase you could substitute here that doesn't have either the word good or the word boy in it. Which is why it took me so long to figure out the real answer. I guess the quotation marks here indicate that the words are actually being quoted from the poem. That makes sense, but I don't have to like it.
- 10D: It comes into play when there's a deadline (time factor) — Awkward, but I'm going to let it slide because the rest of the puzzle is so good.
- 13D: Eponymous candy man (Reese) — If you ever need to bribe me for any reason, chocolate and peanut butter will do the trick.
- 18D: Piece of lobster or shrimp? (eye stalk) — I'm sorry but ewwww!
- 23D: Half brother of Hercules (Ares) — I'm not very good at the mythology answers. Got this one through crosses.
- 25D: Look of aged whitening (hoar) — Pretty sure I've only seen this word used in connection with frost, but good to know this other definition.
- 46D: "NYPD Blue" Emmy winner Gordon (Clapp) — He played the bumbling, stuttering, anxiety- and allergy-ridden Greg Medavoy. You really can't help but like this poor guy.
- 49D: "Song of the South" syllables (a-dee) — "Song of the South" is the 1946 film that introduced the hit song "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah." I was all over the place with this clue. I thought "Song of the South" was the title of the song and was trying to place it. I had a vague notion floating around waaaaay in the back of my mind. Lynyrd Skynyrd? No. Alabama has a song with that title, but it doesn't have any particular "syllables," and that's not the one I'm trying to get. David Allan Coe's "Son of the South"? It's starting to dawn on me that I'm going down the absolute wrong path here, but at the end of it I think I'll get to something good. Oh yeah. Kid Rock's version of David Allan Coe's song is called "Son of Detroit." It's one of those songs I turn up full-blast when I'm on a road-trip and I'm getting tired. This song fires me right back up.
- 50D: Tale of the South Seas (Omoo) — Omoo is a Herman Melville novel. You'll probably want to remember it for future puzzles.
PuzzleGirl, on behalf of HRH Rex Parker