Exuberant gesture with splayed fingers - SATURDAY, May 16 2009 - T Hinman + B Walden (Radiodensity indicators / White in fiction Brown in real life)
Saturday, May 16, 2009
Any of various, usually deciduous trees of the genus Catalpa, especially C. bignonioides or C. speciosa, native to the United States and having whorled, heart-shaped leaves, showy clusters of white flowers, and long, slender, cylindrical pods. Also called Indian bean.
[Creek katałpa : ka-, head + tałpa, wing (from the shape of its flowers).]Woo hoo. I *loved* this puzzle. A puzzle that appears to have been written just for me (right in my wheelhouse in so many ways) and yet *still* gave me a Saturday work-out. Actually, this was a tad on the easy side for me, but I have enough perspective to realize that not everyone is going to benefit from an 11-letter gimme the way that I did. Asking me 20A: Sideshow Bob's last name on "The Simpsons" (Terwilliger) is like asking me the capital of Nevada - it's that familiar. I'm not sure I'd ever thought about spelling before, but my first guess was the correct one. I know I'm not alone here - this puzzle is going to break hard (difficulty-wise) not just along generational lines, but along "Simpsons"-fan / non-"Simpsons"-fan lines. One answer of that size is a not inconsiderable thing (though the other 11 in the puzzle - COFFEE BREAK (51A: Work stoppage?) - should have been pretty easy to get for just about anybody). Other name gimmes from which I benefited were CARRERE (39D: "Wayne's World" actress - though I spelled it with a terminal "A" at first) and NED BEATTY (56A: "Deliverance" actor) and JASPER (1D: Traditional March birthstone), the last of which was not clued via "The Simpsons," but could have / should have been.
Tyler Hinman started hyping this puzzle on his Facebook page yesterday, so I was braced for something killer. Then, when I saw he had teamed with Byron Walden, I thought I was in for something fiendishly clever and virtually undoable. So I was a bit surprised when, after a few typical Saturday moments of looking at clues and getting nothing, I saw 4D: Common field trip destination (zoo). That *has* to be ZOO, both because it's the first three-letter answer that comes to mind, and because of the "Z" - I'm betting at that point that these guys are going to revel in hi-value Scrabble letters. While testing out AW, GEE at 6D: "You shouldn't have," JAZZ HANDS sprang into view (1A: Exuberant gesture with splayed fingers). I learned the term from an episode of "Friends" where Joey lies to get into an audition where being a trained dancer is a requirement. He's not a trained dancer. At all. The only part of the whole routine he can get right is "JAZZ HANDS." With 1A in place, things got rolling.
My mystery word of the day was CATALPA (see "Word of the Day"). That was right around where I ultimately finished the puzzle. Because I had never heard of it and the spelling seemed like it could be any combination of alternating consonants and vowels, I very very nearly ended with a hilarious error at 31D: Extra in "Broken Arrow," 1950 (Apache). The only "Broken Arrow" I know is a bad movie from about a decade ago where Christian Slater and John Travolta ... do something involving terrorist or a bomb or something. So the title didn't evoke APACHE for me. I, therefore, guessed AMECHE ... as in legendary mustachioed character actor Don AMECHE. I remember thinking "well that's kind of an obscure way to clue an accomplished actor ... who's going to know what movie he was an extra in?" But then the lady I'd never heard of at 38A: Mrs. Wingfield in "The Glass Menagerie" really looked like her name wanted to end in "A" - not "E" (what was her name going to be? "GRANDE?") - so I went with "A" which was confirmed by "AMANDA" and then finally got that the "Arrow" part of "Broken Arrow" was supposed to signify OATER - in this case, one with many APACHE.
- 18A: Something gays and straights have in common? (long A) - after much cogitation, I finally realized that the clue had to be "letteral" - i.e. referring to the words in terms of their structural components (the letters) and not their meanings
- 26A: Like some gems and old movies (recut) - weirdly couldn't get this quickly even after I had "REC-" ... "RECTO? Is that a thing?"
- 32A: Longfellow or Millay, by birth (Mainer) - guessed it was a state thing, and thought probably MAINE, but I didn't know what MAINE folk were called. Now I know.
- 39A: Maker of the first electric compact calculator (Casio) - gimme. I had the "S"
- 40A: Rtes. with plazas (tpks.) - another useful gimme; always happy when an answer can "gimme" a "K"
- 55A: Red-haired Disney princess (Ariel) - another gimme. I can't remember whether her get-up allowed you to SEE TO (60A: Handle) her NAVEL (58A: Central point) or not. Probably. Yes.
- 59A: Something pulled out in church (organ stop) - had ... BOOK at first, but fixed it pretty quickly.
- 3D: Antiallergy brand (Zyrtec) - there are so many damned drug names out there that I had no idea which one went here. Tried ZANTAC (is that something?). I knew ZANAX was spelled differently. Ugh. I try avoid all medications (almost to a ridiculous degree), so this wasn't a gimme, but I certainly had heard of it.
- 11D: "My God," in Aramaic (Eloi) - when you absolutely positively can't bear another H.G. Wells clue for this answer...
- 29D: Baseball player known as Mr. White Sox (Minoso) - MINETA, MINOTO, MR. RMOTO, MENOTTI, MINNIE THE MOOCHER ... this one took many crosses, though the name is vaguely familiar.
- 33D: "Votre toast," for one (aria) - hardest ARIA clue I've seen in a while. Me: "Those words .... aren't from the same language."
- 45D: White, in fiction, and Brown, in real life (editor) - dang that is Good. Perry White is the EDITOR of "The Daily Planet" / Tina Brown is former EDITOR of "Vanity Fair" and "The New Yorker," now heading up "The Daily Beast." I love that "Superman" gets picked up again at 53D: Frequent phone booth user (Kent) - nice.
- 49D: Nick of college football who was twice A.P. Coach of the Year (Saban) - I spelled his name like the polio vaccine guy at first, but still ... easy if you follow college football or just watch ESPN at all.
- 48D: Item with a pegbox (cello) - had the "C" and CELLO was the first thing I thought. Maybe having a best friend cellist helped. I don't know. Nice that CELLO intersects the equally musical CHORDS (48A: They may be fingered :)
- 34D: Radiodensity indicators (CAT scans) - the last letter I filled in was the first "S" in this word. This resulted in SHE for 47A: One going steady? I thought about it. Checked the crosses. Thought about it. Checked the crosses. Nothing. I did NOT get it. Yes, SHE might go steady, but so might HE, so ...??? I wrote my fellow xword blogger Orange, asking her what it meant. I then asked Tyler, and as soon as I posted the question, the answer came to me: "STEADY AS SHE GOES ..." A ship = SHE. Damn it. As I said to Tyler, that's ice cold. But fantastic.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
P.S. My "Last-Minute Father's Day Gift Ideas" post is here.
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