Transcaucasian capital — SATURDAY, Jul. 11 2009 — Nirvana attainer / Pteridologist's specimen / Zulu relative / Rapacious flier
Saturday, July 11, 2009
- A member of a Bantu people inhabiting the eastern part of Cape Province, South Africa.
- The Nguni language of this people, closely related to Zulu. (answers.com)
So Karen Tracey lives! Hurray! I haven't seen her by-line on a puzzle in what feels like ages, and doing this puzzle made me realize how much I miss her work. Snap, crackle, and pop everywhere I turned. More 3-, 4-, and 5- letter words than I'm used to seeing in her grids, but because Karen's a pro, not too much slippage into tired fill. It was a little weird to see stuff like ST. LO (13D: The Vire River flows through it) and ALAR and ERN and NALA (12D: Simba's mate) in my Saturday puzzle ... but a. that handful of answers is forgettable next to the amazing longer stuff, and b. I'll give myself permission to complain about NALA the second I can @#$#ing remember it. "FALA ... no, that's FDR's dog ..." There are a surprising lot of valid -ALA words. VALIDALA!
Anyway, this puzzle might have been rated a little easier if I hadn't frozen up completely in the NE, where 11D: Response to a ding-dong? held me up longer than anything in the grid. I had -HOCA-IT-E and couldn't process those letters to save my life. At first, because of the "?" and the "ding-dong," I was sure that the first letter would be "C" ... Near the beginning of the puzzle, I actually considered something like CHOCAHOLIC (CHOCAHOLIA?), though that "A" should have warned me off right away. Ding-Dongs are cream-filled chocolate cupcakes produced by Hostess, which brings me to another feature of the clue that should have warned me off the cupcake answer: those "d"s weren't capitalized. Ugh. "WHO CAN IT BE" seems quaintish. The phrase exists in my head only as a 1981 query sung by an Australian and followed by the word "Now":
"IN HER SHOES" (27D: Jennifer Weiner best seller made into a 2005 film) and KATE SPADE (17A: Big name in bags) give this puzzle a more distinctly feminine slant than many puzzles have, though both the book/movie and the designer are mainstream enough to be familiar to anyone. JOHN LARROQUETTE (36A: Winner of four consecutive Emmys for his sitcom role as a prosecutor) would have been a gimme with no crosses, so despite the "Q," I wasn't that excited to see him. I was, however, excited to see SUSQUEHANNA (24D: Three Mile Island is in it), as I practically live on its banks. Five-minute walk to the river. I drive over it nearly every day. I gotta say, it doesn't feel very Three Mile Islandy. I'm sure it's polluted as @#$#, but it's actually one of the nicer features of this town. My geographic good luck continued in this puzzle with NASHUA (23A: Second-largest city in New Hampshire), which I knew, but also had the good fortune of seeing in a BEQ puzzle just yesterday. Geographic good luck ran out completely with HANAUMABAY (39A: Snorkeling spot near Honolulu). I'm really glad those last three letters ended up spelling BAY, because otherwise the entire answer would have been unintuitable gibberish to me. Hit the jackpot in the Shorter Exotic Words and Names category today, as BAKU (1D: Transcaucasian capital), ARHAT (16A: Nirvana attainer), ARRAU (10D: He recorded all 32 Beethoven piano sonatas in the 1960s), and XHOSA (54A: Zulu relative) all came to me quite easily (I'd know none of these were it not for crosswords). All in all, an entertaining solve, with the E and NE providing the greatest resistance. NW started out tough, but then I got KATE SPADE, and the "K" fixed everything (as it often does).
- 14A: Trade name of daminozide (Alar) — this is what you do to crosswordese on a Saturday. Hide it. At least DAMINOZIDE wasn't the answer.
- 19A: Internet forum menace (troll) — Reminder: Do Not Feed.
- 21A: Major Côte d'Ivoire export (cacao) — makes me wish 11D had been a CHOCO- answer. Would have made a perfect Chocolate Cross.
- 35A: Early Saint-Laurent employer (Dior) — wasn't sure at first how "employer" was being used here. Or "Saint-Laurent," for that matter (person? brand?).
- 57A: Pteridologist's specimen (fern) — national symbol (or one of them) of NZ. Also, the name of my (Kiwi) nephew. Yes, a handsome, strapping young man named FERN. It's kind of awesome.
- 60A: Org. created by Carter in 1979 (FEMA) — now synonym for "incompetence," sadly. One of the first disasters to which FEMA responded: Three Mile Island. And FEMA crosses SUSQUEHANNA in this grid. Dang, that's nice.
- 5D: To whom Stubb and Flask answered, in literature (Captain Ahab) — Flask and Stubb!? I love their music:
- 4D: Peach variety (freestone) — no idea. None. I will eat a FREESTONE peach by HANAUMA BAY one day, in honor of this puzzle.
- 6D: Unlike fairies (real) — this made me laugh out loud. Excellent.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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