SUNDAY, Jan. 11, 2009 - D. J. Kahn (Green's songwriting partner in old musicals / "Talk of the Nation" airer / Flier to Omsk)
Saturday, January 10, 2009
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: "Making History" - An election / inauguration-themed puzzle with a rebus component that includes that state abbreviations of the 28 STATES WON BY BARACK OBAMA / IN THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION (46A: With 90-Across, what the 28 circled squares in this puzzle represent)
Word of the day: ENCHASE -
- To set (a gem, for example).
- To set with or as if with gems: enchase a brooch.
- To decorate or ornament by inlaying or engraving. [answers.com]
Well, this is super-clever, not to mention super-TIMELY (47D: Opportune). Saw Kahn's name and got a little panicky - he and Bob Klahn (of Saturday's puzzle) and Byron Walden all scare me a little because their puzzles are almost always wickedly, ingeniously tough. Then, as with yesterday's, I sailed through the NW and got the theme early and all that. But then I got significantly slowed down in the N and NW - never heard of WARWICK and had INSIDE for WITHIN at first, even though Obama clearly didn't win Idaho. And ENCHASE (21A: Set, as a gem)? PETE Fountain (13D: Fountain in New Orleans)? No and no. But I worked it out. The rest of the puzzle felt very Sundayish - I like that Kahn managed to make the puzzle a good work-out despite its having a very easily graspable theme.
- 25A: Song with the lyric "We salute him, one and all" ("HaIL to the CHIef") - I guess they'll just change that "him" to "her" some day.
- 56A: Patriotic displays (AME RI CAn FLags) - great run of states there
- 66A: First U.S. chief justice (JOH NJ ay) - I'm counting this as a theme answer, given that the chief justice swears in the president. Nevermind that "chief" is in the clue when it's already part of an answer elsewhere in the puzzle (25A)
- 84A: White House tour highlight (OVAl Office)
- 115A: Political insider (CO NVention goer) - damn, he's got this presidential season down from alpha to omega. The Dulles airport has entire stores dedicated to Obama merchandise. It's ... a bit ridiculous. Like some crazy cult took over a store. We have some Obamints hiding somewhere in our kitchen.
There was a good chunk of American info here that just got by me. PETE Fountain was first. Then WARWICK, RI. Then Mike ENZI (31A: Wyoming senator Mike) - the fact that Wyoming and New York have the same number of senators makes me sad if I think about it too hard. Speaking of "numbers," I hope none of you fell for the old "let's use 'numbers' to mean 'things that numb'" trick ... again. That "?" on the end of 84D: Numbers? (opIAtes) should have set bells off. But back to America - MINOT (83A: Seat of Ward County, N.D.)? That's a place? Seems about as famous as NATICK to me, but thankfully all the crosses (with the possible exception of JINNI - 66D: Islamic spirit - and FANJET - 59D: Certain engine) were a breeze.
Highlights (No "bullets" in an inaugural puzzle write-up)
- 1A: Box in many dens (TiVo) - I had HDTV at first, despite its non-box-like shape
- 23A: Flier to Omsk (Aeroflot) - "knew" this without really knowing it. Also spelled it "AEROFLAT"
- 41A: Green's songwriting partner in old musicals (CoMDen) - real guess. Freaked me out almost as much as ENCHASE. Looked it up afterward to confirm.
- 54A: "The Great Ziegfeld" co-star, 1936 (Loy) - costar of "The Thin Man" movies, along with crossword royalty, ASTA
- 59A: Record holder? (felon) - this was a poser for me. I had to back this one into a corner and still puzzled over the "F" - considered MELON but couldn't figure out what that meant in context, and also thought MANJET (!) was probably not an engine type.
- 62A: Jazz Age figure (flapper) - flat-out gimme - if it's not Fitzgerald, it's FLAPPER
- 65A: White House family of the 1840s (Tylers) - hey, look, another theme answer.
- 68A: Butterfly's title (Madama) - wrote in MADAME without hesitation, then figured the clue for 73D: Used as a dining surface (ate on) just had the wrong verb tense.
- 86A: Daly TV role (Lacey) - forgot which one she was. This is quintessential 80s TV. Like a hardboiled "Murder, She Wrote." Whoa, this intro makes it look more like "Perfect Strangers" than a cop show:
- 89A: Zaragoza's river (Ebro) - probably my favorite of the four-lettered European rivers
- 99A: Nobel physicist Tamm (IgOR) - well, at least it wasn't his last name in the puzzle.
- 114A: Old German rocket (VTwo) - me: "they had a word for 'rocket' in Old German?"
- 124A: "The Simpsons" character whose last name has 18 letters (Apu) - Nahasapeemapetilon!
- 129A: Citi Field team, starting in 2009 (Mets) - at this point, they'll try anything
- 4D: First word in Montana's motto (oro) - "Oro y plata" - very important motto to know if you're going to be solving a lot of crosswords
- 12D: "Sesame Street" tune, with "The" ("O Song") - another theme answer! Well of course I'm going to play it:
- 18D: Diplomat Annan (Kofi) - I feel like he's in every puzzle I do lately. Probably not true.
- 33D: Former big name in browsers (NetsCApe) - first browser I ever used
- 35D: Popular film Web site, briefly (IMDB) - Internet Movie Database. It really is amazing. Thorough.
- 43D: Like heaven's vault, in a Shelley poem (ebon) - as in black. From Part IV of Shelley's "Queen Mab: A Philosophical Poem in 9 parts"
[...] Heaven’s ebon vault,
Studded with stars unutterably bright,
Through which the moon’s unclouded grandeur rolls,
Seems like a canopy which love had spread
To curtain her sleeping world.
- 45D: With 52-Across, what angels pray for (sMAsh / hits) - "angels" are the financial backers of theater productions. Learned that from crosswords. The NYT crossword still thinks Broadway is the center of the universe. You just have to get used to it. I'm still trying.
- 51D: Etymologist's concern (root) - misread it as "eNtOmologist," which slowed me down but good
- 57D: "Talk of the Nation" airer (NPR) - you know whose talk I don't want to hear? The nation's. I find that show unlistentoable. "Hi, I'm random guy from somewhere you don't know, and I have this unsubstantiated theory. Blahbitty blah. I'll take my response off air."
- 64D: "_____ babbino caro" (Puccini aria) ("O mio" ) - another day, another aria. Take a listen:
- 79D: Inauguration recital (oath) - yet another hidden theme answer. This puzzle just keeps on giving.
- 85D: Frankie with a falsetto (Valli) - Remember, they are saying "PeanuTs" - there's a "T" in there. Because if you take the "T" sound out, well the song gets a little blue:
- 92D: Where a torpedo may be made (DEli) - heard of a submarine, but not a TORPEDO
- 96D: "OMG!," quaintly (egads) - very quaintly; now E-gadz ... that would be modern.
- 102D: Io's guardian, in Greek myth (Argus) - had ARGOS which is a Greek city and also the old dog of Ulysses ... in Greek myth.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
PS you might consider watching "I.O.U.S.A." on CNN today (Sunday, 3pm EST); it's a documentary about the national debt, which has nothing to do with crosswords except that it was directed by Patrick Creadon, who directed "Wordplay"; I'm going to go TIVO it right now. (Actually, I don't have TIVO - I have TiFaux)