Hairstyle popularized by David Beckham - FRIDAY, Apr. 3, 2009 - J Farmer (Peace Nobelist Ralph Bunche's alma mater / Caterer's setup hot buffet)
Friday, April 3, 2009
Relative difficulty: Medium/Challenging
Word of the Day: SAHEL - A semiarid region of north-central Africa south of the Sahara Desert. Since the 1960s it has been afflicted by prolonged periods of extensive drought.
- (ecology) A region having characteristics of a savanna or a steppe and bordering on a desert.
- (meteorology) A strong dust-bearing desert wind in Morocco. (answers.com)
I felt like I had sludge in my brain when I solved this. I would stare at clues that I knew I knew (e.g. B'NAI, FAUX HAWK), and nothing would come. This happened a lot in the beginning, and a lot at the end. I had real trouble getting started, as the NW was a dead zone, and then the NE refused to give up more than a smattering of words. I was roaming the grid like a nomad trying to get a foothold, which did not come until I hit the very far SW, where I knew two intersecting answers: JOSEF (45D: _____ K., Kafka's protagonist in "The Trial") and Pomme FRITE (59A). That SW section was a huge anomaly in this puzzle, as I had it done in what felt like a minute or so. BERTOLT and MONTESSORI are straight-up T/W-level gimmes. Their counterparts in the NE - not so much.
I wanted EASTWOOD or LEONE in the ELI WALLACH position (11D: Hollywood star whose memoir was titled "The Good, the Bad, and Me"), and I have never heard of a STEAM TABLE (12D: Caterer's setup for a hot buffet), though I guess I have stood in front of one many, many times in my life. I was looking for something with STERNO in it for a while. The real killers, for me, were, first, the SAHEL region (15D: Savanna region stretching from Senegal to Chad). Never heard of it, and in fact had never heard of Any of contiguous Downs (as clued) from BARABBAS (9D: 1961 Anthony Quinn title role) west to TOLEDOS (23D: Old Spanish swords). Second, and finally, the NW, where I finished. Reasonable, gettable stuff just wouldn't come to me, and that damned haircut - 16A: Hairstyle popularized by David Beckham (faux hawk) - I've seen it in the grid before and loved it, and I still love it, but today I just struggled to retrieve it: "Some new coinage ... a hybrid ... maybe CREW is in there ... @#$#!" None of the Downs up there were coming easily. Even after SIN TAX (18A: With 4-Down, smoker's fee) and BNAI (duh!) (2D: Sons of, in Hebrew) finally came to me, I was still stuck. I finally went for SPUN at 3D: Like yarn, and that did the trick. Puzzle solved. All in all, a worthy Friday challenge that suggested to me that my brain might be experiencing some kind of puzzle burn-out. I hope it's just temporary.
Answer of the day: SPIT TAKE (34D: Surprise shower?)
- 27A: It has energy in reserve (oil belt) - yet another term I didn't know. I had OIL WELL.
- 28D: "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon," co-star, 1949 (Dru) - Actress Joanne. Learned her from crosswords. When I first didn't know her, I was told she was common crossword fare. After today, she's certainly commoner than she was, say, yesterday.
- 19A: Walpurgis Night vis-a-vis May Day (eve) - total guess. But what else could it be in three letters?
- 20A: Syllable repeated after "hot" ("cha") - got this quickly, but I can't say I've ever seen this expression spelled out, or even know where it comes from. Google is oddly useless here.
- 40A: Peace Nobelist Ralph Bunche's alma mater (U.C.L.A.) - All I saw was "alma mater" - waited for crosses. Do people really know where Peace Nobelists went to school?
- 41A: "Falling Man" novelist Don (DeLillo) - don't know this work, but DELILLO is quite famous. Probably best known for "White Noise" or "Underworld"
- 47A: Harvey Wallbanger mixers, briefly (OJs) - had the "O," so, easy. That "J" made all the difference in the SW, as it gave up SOUP DU JOUR, which started the dominoes falling.
- 55A: Subjects of some Toulouse-Lautrec paintings (cabarets) - easy enough. His stuff seems almost proto-noir to me. Love it.
- 1D: Comic book exclamations (oofs) - I read comics every day. This didn't come easily at all.
- 6D: Attire worn with frock coats (cravats) - if you are a fop, yes. Or perhaps a dandy. Or a pirate.
- 8D: Black _____ (Lakota visionary) (Elk) - news to me. He was nearly an ELM.
- 13D: 1971 N.L. M.V.P. who was later twice A.L. manager of the year (Torre) - my first guess, but I had no idea he'd been an M.V.P. This clue has an absurd abbrev. density.
- 20D: Leader with Roosevelt and Churchill at the Cairo Conference, 1943 (Chiang) - Kai-shek. I did Not know this and didn't fill it in until I had the "C" and "NG" in place.
- 42D: Setting for Martin Scorsese's "Kundun" (Lhasa) - wicked good guess. I even remembered that it's not spelled LLASA this time. It's LLAMA. LLANO. LHASA.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
My Friday LAT write-up is up now at "L.A. Crossword Confidential"