SATURDAY, Jan. 10, 2009 - B. Klahn (Oil-rich South American basin / Nero's homeland / Morgiana's storied master / Literally, "roof lizard")
Friday, January 9, 2009
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
Word of the day: ECOTONE - A transitional zone between two communities containing the characteristic species of each.
Early appt. tomorrow, so even though it's late, I gotta blog this thing tonight. PuzzleGirl wrote me a message before I'd done the puzzle saying "Did you see the constructor's name!?" I had this feeling of dread. Then I saw the name in question - the legendary Bob Klahn - and felt not dread but elation. So we meet again, Klahn. Many of you will remember Klahn (if you have not suppressed the memory) from the Dec. 29 puzzle of 2007, the one with ARGALI and XANTIPPE and some other stuff that absolutely krushed me (and a few others out there). His puzzles are known for being meticulous, artful, and very, very difficult. Today's was difficult, but on the easy side for a Klahn puzzle. I had much more luck early on with this one than I did with yesterday's actually, though objectively I think this puzzle is harder. Happily, I got through this puzzle in very good time (for a Klahn). Sadly, I had a letter I didn't know and just had to guess - this made me very, very sad. Having to guess a vowel, ugh! Left a bad taste in my mouth. I'd heard of MARACAIBO (54A: Oil-rich South American basin), but that second "A" ... let's just say TANKA is not a word that confirms Anything for me (50D: Poem of 31 syllables in five lines). So I stared (stared!) at T-NKA / MAR-CAIBO. But staring, in this case, did nothing. So though I had an "A" to start, I changed it to "O" on the basis that I'd heard of TONKA (maybe the trucks are named after poems!?). Bad idea. So I go down in defeat. But I have never felt so good about a defeat in my life. Klahn got in a lucky punch. In all other respects, I pwn3d this puzzle. I'm coming for you, Klahn. KLAHHHHHHHN! [shakes fist at sky]
I had the NW corner done so fast that I got a little freaked out. Have you ever been playing so far above your head at something - anything - that it starts to make you nervous and self-conscious. I had it happen during tennis once. And again while playing Donkey Kong. Anyway, that's how I felt when the NW corner was done in something like a minute or two. LENO was a guess, but a good one (22A: Dyslexic TV host with a college degree in speech therapy). Went LENO -> OCTANT -> LETS GO (actual answer = LETS BE) -> APPALL -> ADAGE -> PEE DEE (2D: River with an alphabetical-sounding name) -> PECTORAL -> APOSTATE -> STEGOSAUR (4D: Literally, "roof lizard") ... and basically every other cross in @#$#ing PETERMEN (17A: Safecrackers, slangily). What in the World? YEGGS, I know. PETERMEN!? Wow. It's apparently British. Here are a list of etymological hypotheses. I still don't know why ARM is the answer for 6D: Magazine article (don't write me - someone will tell me in the Comments section). Who cares? Just apply a little TAE BO (7D: Regimen with "cardio bursts") to Lena HORNE (23A: Cotton Club standout of the '30s) and I'm all done up there.
Spilled down to the SW, where I dropped 34D: Brilliantly colored food fish that changes hues when removed from the water (mahi mahi), 35D: Hank Williams or Nat King Cole (Alabaman), and 36D: No-names (generics) - all off their first two letters. Seriously, it was like going too high on the swing set - euphoria bordering on nausea. This is about the time I hit the MARACAIBO impasse (South America's version of KENOSHA or NATICK). Grumbled and huffed, then regrouped and promptly torched the rest of the puzzle. The NE took some prodding. I had PRESSURE where REASSURE was supposed to go (14D: Calm, say), but I knew that 16A: Person at home had to be UMPIRE. The big break for me up here was having my loopy guess of BOOT TREES (which I refused to write in forEver) be right (20A: Foot-long stretchers)! That's what was weird today - it was as if that really annoyingly hard-to-get radio station just decided to come in crystal clear for a few minutes. Klahn frequency! That's right, Klahn. I'm in your head. Get used to it.
- 24A: 252-gallon measures (tuns) - here's where having your own crossword blog comes in handy. I blogged nearly this exact clue eight months or so ago. Answer didn't come to me, but I knew I knew it, so I just waited it out. Other answers that constant solvers should have wrangled without too much problem include ADAM'S ALE (63A: Water) and B-STAR (32A: Rigel, for one).
- 9A: Main engagement? (sea war) - as in "the bounding main"? OK. I nearly wrote in SEA AIR (an answer from earlier in the week).
- 27A: Computer prefix meaning 2 to the 40th power (tera-) - had the "TE-" and guessed.
- 29A: "_____ che penso" (Handel aria) ("Piu") - the man with the moustache and leather jacket standing in front of the tree would like to sing for you now:
- 34A: "The Good German" actor, 2006 (Maguire) - didn't know it, but had the -UIRE. I hope that those who routinely struggle with Friday and Saturday are noting how little I actually know. Good solvers are good inferrers (if that's a word, which I'm pretty sure it's not - wait ... nope, I'm wrong. It is, in fact, a word; seriously, add "-ER" to any verb and stir).
- 37A: Area between forest and prairie, e.g. (ecotone) - this sounds like the next step in the evolution of stereo sound. Or a brand of glove.
- 40A: Nero's homeland (patria) - Latin! Patria means "homeland" (or, more precisely, "fatherland").
- 57A: C relative (A minor) - even the music I guessed right - helped having the AMI- already in place.
- 60A: Manage (hack it) - cool. Made me doubt my "C" from GENERICS because I figured the answer must be HANDLE.
- 61A: Style of envelope for greeting cards (baronial) - W+T+F. Envelopes have styles now?
- 8D: The United States, to some prospective immigrants (El Norte) - Love that EL NORTE points due NORTH.
- 9D: Early South Carolina senator Thomas (Sumter) - he of the Fort, I assume.
- 13D: Member of the first state to adopt Christianity as its religion (Armenian) - Klahn clues are long. Or else very, very short.
- 31D: Asian language with 14+ million speakers (Nepali) - OK that number is staggering to me. Had no idea that Himalayan country had that many people.
- 41D: Morgiana's storied master (Ali Baba) - easy to get from crosses. "Storied" helped give it away, somehow.
- 56D: _____ Bones of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" (Brom) - indelible memory of an animated version of this story from when I was a kid. "Sleepy Hollow" and "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" were yearly viewing for a while during my childhood. "I got a rock." Priceless.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld