FRIDAY, Jan.9, 2009- P. Gamache ("Hooked on Swing" jazzman Larry / Italian beans Dean Martin standard / Dept. store founder pioneered credit unions)
Friday, January 9, 2009
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
Word of the day: FILENE, Edward Albert (44A: Department store founder who pioneered credit unions) - 1860–1937, American merchant, b. Salem, Mass. As president of the Boston firm of William Filene's Sons he pioneered in scientific and ingenious methods of retail distribution—the “bargain basement” was one of his innovations. (Columbia Encyclopedia)
This is a lovely puzzle, but I had serious trouble building up momentum, i.e. getting started at all. I think I read every clue in the N and NW and initially came up with nothing. Nothing. Here's how bad things were - my first answer into the grid? Guess. Can you guess? Take your time ... OK time's up. The answer: EDWARD II (10D: Loser in the Battle of Bannockburn, 1314). Second answer: QEII (28A: Ruler crowned in 1958, informally) - woo hoo, Double Monarch Score! Today is thus one of the few days where my professional training (as a medievalist) gave me considerable help in solving a puzzle. No, wait - there was that time that MIDDLE LOW GERMAN was in the puzzle. It helped then too.
My early failure to get anything up top was, in retrospect, a series of near misses, as I wanted PRIUSES where TOYOTAS ended up going (1D: Some hybrids) and I wanted ONCE OVER where THE ONCE OVER ended up going (1A: A looker might give it ... or get it). Cursed definite article! No one ever suspects ... "THE!" Wanted OBES and ELS (4D: U.K. awards + 24A: Local borders?), and those ended up being right, but given that I could do nothing with them, I left them out at first. The fire finally lit under this one when I threw up WRETCH (get it ... "threw up" ... "(w)retch") (13D: Base person) and with only the W-R- in place I got "SAY THE MAGIC WORD!" (14A: "Please?" elicitor). A magical answer, I have to say. The vast Canadian regions of this puzzle were overrun in short order thereafter.
Finished the puzzle at exactly the spot where PAIR (22D: See 25-Down) and EXES (25D: 22-Down that has split) meet - which is to say, right on top of the puzzle's AXIS (27A: Something to turn on - I wanted DIME there at first, of course). This puzzle is chock full o' pairs. Two base people - WRETCH and SARGE (14D: Base person?). ROTI (20A: _____ de boeuf) and his cousin ROTOR (18A: Wankel engine component). The aforementioned monarchs, EII and QEII. Cyborgs BORG (19A: Winner of 11 Grand Slam titles) and BORGE (40D: The Great Dane of entertainment - really wanted this to be Marmaduke). "BORG and BORGE" is a sitcom waiting to happen. Oh, and lastly, in the pairs department, there's the two characters from children's literature - TIGGER (29A: Bouncy kid-lit character) and GEORGIE PORGIE (47A: Nursery rhyme title fellow). Hmm, TIGGER on top of ANAIS (36A: First name in erotica)? "Bouncy," indeed.
Two skull-crushing names in the puzzle for me today - ELGART (7D: "Hooked on Swing" jazzman Larry), whose name sounds vaguely familiar from some bygone puzzle, but not familiar enough, apparently; and FILENE (44A: Department store founder who pioneered credit unions), which I had to Google when all was said and done just to make sure that it was a real name. It's real alright, despite appearances. I'm going to guess that this guy has regional fame (in the NE), because I have well and truly never heard of him. No matter - the crosses seemed pretty fair.
- 12A: Partner of a certain rabid sports fan (football widow) - great phrase; I had BASEBALL WIDOW at first - my wife is in far greater danger of becoming a BASEBALL WIDOW.
- 16A: Native home of the canary (Azores) - and I thought "The Canary Islands" was just a whimsical name. According to Wikipedia the Canary Islands "form the Macaronesia ecoregion with the Azores, Cape Verde, Madeira, and the Savage Isles." [update, re: Canary Islands (also from Wikipedia): "The name Islas Canarias is likely derived from the Latin term Insula Canaria, meaning "Island of the Dogs", a name applied originally only to Gran Canaria. The dense population of an endemic breed of large and fierce dogs, similar to the Canary Mastiff (in Spanish, la Presa Canario), may have been the characteristic that most struck the few ancient Romans who established contact with these islands by sea. The connection to dogs is retained in their depiction on the islands' coat-of-arms."]
- 17A: Lion, tiger or shark (man-eater) - What's that? Did somebody say "Hall & Oates"? OK ...
- 25A: 19th-century engineer with a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame (Eads) - learned it from crosswords. A Very handy name to know.
- 39A: Matted cotton sheet (batt) - I know BATTing ... but not BATT. I knew a dude named BATT in college, I think.
- 40A: Dylan was once her protege (Baez) - she was playing in Monterey when we were there, around New Year's.
- 41A: Shorts material, in Munchen (leder) - misspelled it as LADER. Actually, I think the first word I had in here was HOSEN.
- 45A: Habitues of art galleries, theaters, etc. (culture vultures) - great phrase, and the name (minus the "s") of New York Magazine's arts and culture blog.
- 48A: Once-common monchrome PC display (green screen) - great phrase. There's a green puzzle out there waiting to be made - screen, room, monster, party, thumb ... perhaps it's been done.
- 12D: Italian beans, in a Dean Martin standard (fazool) - I think I've heard some horrible caricature of a New York Italian say "pasta FAZOOL" on some bad TV show somewhere, but that's my only exposure to this word. Here's the standard:
- 31D: Drop leaf supporter (gate leg) - a term that is odd and squirmy enough to be just out of my comfort zone. I poked at it until it behaved (not recommended for getting other things to behave).
- 32D: They're short on T's (sleeves) - I actually refused to move on when I got to this clue. "Think, think, think" - and it worked! With only the "S" in place.
- 44D: Thing with petalos (flor) - an answer in a puzzle earlier this year. Lots of diacritical marks in today's clues, and I've left them all out, as is my wont. I hope that isn't pet-peeving anyone.