SATURDAY, Jul. 18 2009 — Bucharest buffoon of court / Bandleader with #1 hit Blues in Night / 1960s catchphrase / Fernando Valenzuela's nickname
Saturday, July 18, 2009
- Any of a series of projections on a shaft that fit into slots on a corresponding shaft, enabling both to rotate together.
- The groove or slot for such a projection.
- A flexible piece of wood, hard rubber, or metal used in drawing curves.
- A wooden or metal strip; a slat.
This is a common grid shape for constructors who want to show off with a very low word count. In general, only Patrick Berry can fill these grids with any kind of panache. That said, this was not bad. I've seen worse. Kind of dull, fill-wise, but not at all terrible. A step up from the last time Mr. Krozel went to a word count this low.
My initial foray into the grid was probably like many of yours — I got squat, and had that common, early-in-a-Saturday-puzzle feeling that I was never going to make progress. But after futzing around in the NE for a while with various stabs and ERASURES (44A: Indications that things have changed?), I finally saw a clue I knew I knew: 20A: Watching Letterman or Conan, say (up late). Not sure why I was so certain, but I was. Then the gimme SOREN (probably the only real gimme for me in the whole thing, 13D: Theologian Kierkegaard) confirmed it and I was on my way to getting the NW. Next answer up there was FREE LOVE (3D: 1960s catchphrase), which I wouldn't have trusted (it's a catchphrase? I thought it was a ... practice) if I hadn't entertained DUFFS already at 1A: Rears, which gave me the "F." In a grid like this, getting a few answers can really make a section fall quickly. It's getting those initial answers that's the touch (sometimes Very tough) part.
Grid shape makes it hard to round corners into other sections of the grid. I failed coming out of the NW and had to reboot with HEELS (42D: They're tough to run in) in the SW. Without that answer, I'm toast down there. With it, I've got initial letters for almost all the Acrosses. I start with LEAD INTO, which is wrong, but 75% right, which is enough (real answer = LEAD UP TO, 48A: Precede). Then I try HAVE AT IT (42A: "Dig in!"), which turns out to be 100% right. Cool. That lone Scrabbly "V" has Very high value in a grid like this, and makes AVATAR instantly obvious (38D: Embodiment). Rest of the quadrant takes care of itself (though BARNET is a complete mystery to me — 37D: Charlie of swing) and it's back to the center again.
I manage to get GET A at 25A: _____ clue, and with just that T-L ending I then get 15D: Before coming out? And now I'm up in the quadrant where I technically started (and sputtered, and died). I've got some residue from my first attempt still up here. One of these leftover answers is PROXY, which I had at 11D: One may act for an actor. But even as I wrote that in in the beginning, I didn't trust it. I really wanted LETS IN ON at 19A: Makes privy to, which would have made PROXY impossible. Well PRENATAL gave me the "E" I needed to go with LETS IN ON and obliterate the lovely (if wrong) PROXY. Also obliterated in that move: DERIDE, which I had where CUSS AT was supposed to be (7D: Verbally run down). LIANAS was an early guess that actually ended up panning out, huzzah (9D: Rain forest flora). Knew the proper nouns up here but their clues didn't get me there easily. Wasn't aware that SCALIA had written a book of any note (6A: Jurist who wrote "A Matter of Interpretation," 1997). I had a different, non-tennis "court" in mind at 23A: The Bucharest Buffoon of the court, and only late did I realize we were talking about tennis. Clue on ATTILA seems more straightforward, but it still didn't help much (8D: King who infamously demanded half of Rome's Western Empire as a dowry).
All that was left after the NE was the SE, but rounding that corner ... not easy. Forgot / couldn't get AYESHA (28A: Muhammad's favorite wife), and without those delicious initial letters in the Downs, I struggled. Guessed SENORAS (36D: Serape sporters), which felt good, but didn't get me much. Then wrote in SECTS (51A: They branch off), and that "C" ends up being the tipping point. It tells me there's an "-IC" ending on 31D: Consonant, and HARMONIC is the first thing that pops to mind. That lets me guess CHAPS (35A: Western wear), which gives me "P" in APPARENT (32D: Ostensible), which gives me back end of THORPE (a guess) (41A: Breaker of the 400-meter freestyle world record at the 2000 Olympics), and everything falls from there. That I was able to hash out a quadrant with FOUR PROPER NOUN ACROSSES that I Didn't Know ... feels good. AYESHA, THORPE, HERMAN (43A: Bandleader with the #1 hit "Blues in the Night") and EL TORO (45A: Baseballer Fernando Valenzuela's nickname) ... yipes. I loved Valenzuela when I was a kid. I thought maybe he was EL GATO or EL GORDO. Didn't remember the bull.
Oh, I should say that I got complacent at the end, or was just too tired to care, and finished with an odd double-error — one that resulted in mostly plausible answers all around. Because I had SENORAS initially at 36D, I had a final "A" at 49A: It turns over before it runs. Filled that answer in by feel as I went along, and apparently that answer "felt" like ANGINA. And, yes, a THEMA is a thing (41D: Writer's development — real answer = THEME).
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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