SATURDAY, Feb 7, 2009 - P. Muller (Glazed waxy fabric finish / Lawless vehicle / Hit NBC series succeeded in its time slot by "ER")
Saturday, February 7, 2009
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: none [correction: "SEX, DRUGS, and ROCK and ROLL" - see NW, NE, SW, and SE corners]
Word of the Day: CIRÉ (also CIRE) - 1 : a highly glazed finish for fabrics usually achieved by applying wax to the fabric 2 : a fabric or garment with a ciré finish (m-w online)
Puzzles are always easier when you can nail the 1A answer early, and for the second day in a row, 1A went down without a fight (1A: Unoriginal order, with "the"). Bambi's aunt is all kinds of crosswordese (4D: Disney doe), so that went down, followed by the also-common EBON (15A: Raven) and XENA (17A: Lawless vehicle - real Saturday clue on that one, as "Lawless" refers to the actress Lucy Lawless). Now I've got SEX sitting there at the top of 1D: Idols, often, and OBJECTS is the first word that comes to mind. I wanted to confirm it off the "J" but I had no idea who co-wrote "Grease" (despite my adoration for the 1978 movie and the pre-tramp version of its female lead). In fact, none of the Acrosses want to confirm that OBJECTS is correct. Except SNO, of course (40A: _____ Balls (snack brand)). Duh. I somehow managed to get VOTED from 23D: Supported a runner, and that allowed me the decent guess of ETATS at 31A: The Louvre's Salles des _____. Everything else in that corner I put together easily after that. Picked up the toughish JACOBS (26A: "Grease" co-writer Jim) and nicely clued BREVITY (22A: Rambler's lack), and exited stage NE. At some point I looked back and saw CIRE sitting there like a horrid bit of roadkill (34A: Glazed, waxy fabric finish). Sometimes short answers have to suck a little in order for the quadrant as a whole to come out looking nice.
The puzzle put up a fight only a few more times, and even then, I didn't have much trouble taking it down. No idea about a dog in a 1928 movie based on a comic strip no one has read since WWII (27A: Maggie's dog in "Bringing Up Father" - FIFI; "Bringing Up Father" actually ran from 1913 to 2000!!! But technically "Dick Tracy" is still running ... successful comics never die - they just fade horribly away, refusing to die until long after anyone cares enough to honor them for what made them great in the first place). I can't even confirm that the damned dog was in the comic strip. Is that the dog there, in the picture (right)? FIFI intersected another word I could get at easily because of its clue: FEVER (27D: Pyrexia). I thought maybe this was a brand of cookware. My problems with FEVER were made worse by my initially having RALES for 35A: Sounds unsound). Isn't that the sound your chest makes when you are unwell? Well, yes, it's a noun meaning " An abnormal respiratory sound characterized by fine crackles." Apparently it is not also a verb. Alas. The answer here was of course RAVES.
I started writing SEA... at 44A: Headed out for the drink before changing it to SET SAIL, and I had CRACK at 45A: Open before SNEAK forced me to give it up, and eventually turn it into the correct FRANK (an entirely different sense of "Open"). I don't see eraser marks anywhere else on my grid.
The section I most admire in this puzzle is the SW. I would read the FRANK story of a LIVE-IN-MAID (50A: Upper-class luxury) who quits her job and crosses the Atlantic (OCEAN-BORNE - 54A: Like bottles with S O S messages, typically) in order to visit the ROCK GARDENs of ... wherever they have those (56A: Spot to show off alpine plants). "FRANK" - in the language of vintage paperback cover copy - means that there will be at least partial nudity.
I like to keep my eye out for potential, possibly up-and-coming crossword fill, and I have two names I'm keeping my eye at the moment. They're both musicians I've been listening to a lot lately. The first is RAPHAEL SAADIQ. He's a soul singer whose debut album features collaborations with Stevie Wonder, Jay-Z, and Joss Stone. I am rooting for his future success, if only for the opportunity it will provide for me to see that delicious last name in my puzzles. Then there's ADELE. Now, ADELE has been a bit of crosswordese for a while now, but you could only get to it via a very limited set of frankly dated clues, such as Fred Astaire's sister or the maid in "Die Fledermaus." Now there is a British singer by the name of ADELE. She was on SNL last year. Her voice is amazing. I can see her being crossworthy in the not-too-distant future - first in late-week puzzles, and then all over the place.
- 5A: Enhancers of cognitive abilities (smart drugs) - I heard a story on NPR yesterday about college kids selling their ADD meds to other students, who think they need the drugs to study for tests effectively. Are ADD meds SMART DRUGS? That scenario suggests 'no.'
- 18A: Follower of an extra-long work day (late dinner) - This feels a little iffy as an answer, but it's not jarringly forced, so I can let it go.
- 36A: Move caller for a round dance (cuer) - For Sartre, hell was other people. For me, it's round dances.
- 49A: Original Dungeons & Dragons co. (TSR) - I really hate this (long-accepted) answer, as it's nothing anyone should know, or could be expected to know unless that person does crosswords. Now GARY GYGAX (d. 2008) - that's some crossworthy fill. He co-created D&D.
- 3D: Solitaire game of matching pairs of cards (Monte Carlo) - never heard of it. This is a kind of car, and a place name, to me.
- 7D: Animated film featuring the voices of Gene Hackman and Sylvester Stallone ("Antz") - I'd forgotten they were involved with that film, but if it's an animated movie in four letters, you've got your "TRON," and you've got this. Well, you probably have others, but they aren't coming to mind.
- 12D: John McCain's alma mater: Abbr. (USNA) - A gimme. And a sop for all the people chafed by the 17 Obama puzzles we've had to do since the election.
- 13D: Emmy winner Will (Geer) - of "The Waltons" fame
- 14D: Bygone Black Sea borderers: Abbr. (SSRs) - Great clue. If you have to use tired fill in a late-week puzzle, give it some zazz. This one has several things I love - the crosswordy clue word "bygone," the awkward "er'" word, and the Black Sea, which is my weird pet historical fascination. Of the moment.
- 32D: Hit NBC series succeeded in its time slot by "ER" ("L.A. Law") - preceded, I think, by "Hill Street Blues" (yes, confirmed); dang, that is a Long Run of successful shows in that slot.
- 46D: First baseman Brogna (Rico) - I had LUCA? I do love "The Godfather"
- 53D: Amount past due? (tre) - one of the oldest tricks in the crossword cluing book. "Due" = Italian for the number "two."
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld