FRIDAY, Feb. 20, 2009 - P Gamache (2003 memoir of a TV executive / Big Daddy player on 1950s Broadway / Decoy accompanier)
Friday, February 20, 2009
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
Word of the Day: RAREE (36A: Street show) - this word is not in the Webster's 3rd New International Dictionary. Not on its own, at any rate. The term is "RAREE-show" (the entire first page of Google search returns for "RAREE" reveals the same thing). Definition: "1. a show carried about in a box: PEEP SHOW, 2. a cheap street show: CARNIVAL"
A very doable puzzle, but one that threw tacks in my way at every turn. I haven't seen a puzzle with so many answers, especially big answers, that I'd simply never heard of before:
- 1A: Aids in artful deception (weasel words) - not a phrase in my vocabulary. Took me forever to see it, mainly because I had -RIT and still couldn't see WRIT (1D: Bailiff's concern). I don't think I knew WRITs had anything to do with bailiffs.
- 6D: Square, in 1950s slang, indicated visually by a two-hand gesture (L-seven) - Not alive in 50s. Never, ever heard of this (though I can visualize it, which is nice). There is a girl band from the 90s called L7. I can't believe this phrase is the inspiration for their name . . . and yet, it's' true. Wikipedia!
The band took its name from a 1950s slang phrase meaning "square," but is often mistaken as a reference to the sex position, "69". The slang phrase "L7" can be heard in the classic Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs song "Wooly Bully" ("Let's not be L7, come and learn to dance..."), and in the Rick James song "Bustin' Out" ("L7- just a little too damn straight...").
- 26D: Extension of the terms of a marine insurance policy (shore cover) - "marine insurance policy?" I couldn't even imagine what that phrase meant, let alone what the answer to the clue could be.
- 20A: Big Daddy player on 1950s Broadway (Ives) - no idea. None. Burl IVES? Actually, yes. And here I thought he was just a chubby avuncular crooner of songs of yore.
- 25D: Measure of a newborn's health, named for its developer (Apgar Score) - Again, no clue. Just ... none. I had up to -GAR SCORE and was hoping to discover that legendary comics artist E.C. SEGAR had secondary career as a studier of newborns. The "P" in APGAR was the very last letter I filled in. PHIAL (29A: _____ of Galadriel (gift to Frodo Baggins))!!? Really? That's a thing I'm supposed to know. Well, I knew PHIAL was a word, and that was enough.
- 13D: Big Apple excursion operation (Circle Line) - a gimme if you live in NYC, I'm guessing, but I needed many, many crosses to make it inferrrable. My big problem, solving-time-wise, was having NSA for CIA for a very, very long time (16A: Org. in the 1982 film "Enigma"). I know a song called "Circle Line," but I don't know who sings it ... aha, Rodney Allen. Any music/video? Let me see ... nope. But here's a completely unrelated song I found while noodling around at lastfm. It has a great title.
- 45D: _____ Rivera, Calif. (Pico) - usually nail the Calif. place names. Not today.
- 52A: Loch _____, on the River Shannon (Ree) - Not to be confused with the RAREE.
- 34A: Year of the last known Roman gladiator competition (CDIV) - now That's how you clue a random Roman numeral. More inferrable than I thought, actually, since Rome's fall is traditionally dated to 476 (making a 5c. date guess a good one). I was not thinking so clearly when I actually solved this, so vague knowledge of Roman history helped not at all.
Fridays rarely smack me around like this. Oh, there are usually a few smacks, but this one was unrelenting. But, thankfully, they were smacks and not full-fledged punches, and so, slightly achy and red about the head and shoulders, I finished the puzzle.
Along the way, there was some joy. KISS MY GRITS! (49A: 1970s-'80s sitcom put-down/catchphrase - that clue was really hard to type). Who doesn't love Flo? And grits? Actually, I don't think I've ever had grits. Closest I ever got was, let's say, Cream of Wheat. I own many a Mike SHAYNE novel (40D: Private detective Mike of Brett Halliday novels), so it was nice to see him today - also nice to get any answer easily today. Usually my favorite answers of the day are among the long answers, but today it's the rotationally symmetrical pair of DUCK CALL (10D: Decoy accompanier) and TAX EXILE (33D: Wealthy Cayman Islands resident, maybe). There's something quirky and charming about both of them - which I guess I'd say about any answer with two Xs in it. I also have a certain admiration for the poetic-sounding stacking of
KLATCH (21A: Gabfest)
SCUTTLE (24A: Sink)
SHANTIES (28A: Crude dwellings)
AS A MAN seemed a bit forced (25A: How Viola is disguised in "Twelfth Night"), as did I MAY (23D: Words after "if" or before "as well"). "I MAY as well?" The "MAY as well" part hangs together, but the pronoun is arbitrary. A WALK, while fine, had an annoyingly vague clue: 30A: Go for _____. The real down side of the puzzle, one that is somewhat excusable in puzzles with four blocks of long answers, is the abundance of abbrevs: AGCY, ORS, SCH, ELO, CIA, SSNS, RMS, PSS, RIT (39D: Slowing, in mus.), BSMT. Real estate ad abbrevs. are among my most hated of abbrevs., so seeing two today was no joy.
- 33A: Antigen attacker (T cell) - a gimme that helped me reboot the puzzle in the center after I'd died in both top corners.
- 37A: 2003 memoir of a TV executive ("Roone") - Arledge. Former chairman of ABC News. Died in '02.
- 44A: Switch (beat) - is this a verb? As in "go get me a switch so I can BEAT you, son."
- 53A: Recyclable (aluminum can) - cute. It's a noun, not an adjective.
- 2D: Strauss's "_____ Nacht in Venedig" ("Eine") - a gimme. Weird, as I know almost no German and have never heard of this Strauss piece. Must be German or "One Night in Bangkok"
- 4D: "The Tudors" airer, briefly (SHO) - gimme, though I've never seen it. You'd think that frequently teaching Renaissance literature would make me desperate to see it, and yet ... no.
- 11D: Cave (spelunk) - a verb?
- 12D: Pet with short legs and a hard coat, informally (Scottie Dog) - went looking for something in an armadillo.
- 24D: Slate, originally (shale) - wanted something to do with EMAGs.
- 34D: Juniper product (cone) - I had SLOE, which makes no sense, and yet kind of does.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld