19th Amendment champion — FRIDAY, Aug. 14 2009 — Papal name last used 1724 / Ponderosa pal / Subject of a 1976-79 Met exhibit
Friday, August 14, 2009
Constructor: Barry C. Silk
Relative difficulty: Easy
Word of the Day: Renata SCOTTO (11D: Her 1965 Met debut was as Cio-Cio-San in "Madama Butterfly") — Renata Scotto (born February 24, 1934) is an Italian soprano and opera director. Recognized for her sense of style, musicality and as a remarkable singer-actress, Scotto is considered one of the preeminent singers of her generation, specializing in the belcanto repertoire with excursions into the verismo and Verdi repertoires.
When 1A is a 10-letter gimme, you know it's going to be a good day. Or at least a fast day. Actually, I've nailed 1A before only to come to a crashing halt, but not today. Blazed through this one with virtually no problems, a full two minutes faster than yesterday. Despite its less-than-toughness, this is a solid puzzle — light on impressive or inventive fill, but expertly constructed and, as people are fond of observing about Mr. Silk's puzzles, smooth. CRAIG'S LIST (1A: Alternative to newspaper classifieds) is about the most modern thing in this puzzle (except NAS (20A: "Stillmatic" rapper), who hardly counts, as he's one of those glue words that people constructors put in more out of necessity than from any particular modern sensibility). Otherwise, the puzzle has its pop cultural sensibilities set squarely in the period just before I was born (and extending out a decade in either direction). I don't know who Renata SCOTTO or Peggy Cass is (12D: Play for which Peggy Cass won a Tony in 1957 => "AUNTIE MAME"), and Rita MORENO (41D: Puerto Rican-born Oscar winner of 1961) is on my radar mostly because she was a regular on "Electric Company" when I was a kid.
SHARON TATE (57A: "The Wrecking Crew" actress, 1969), I know, but not for her acting, sadly. "Happy" Anniversary to that answer, by the way [Shudder].
One place my own pop culture sweet spot overlapped with the puzzle's was at 38D: Subject of a 1976-79 Met exhibit (Tut). Hard to describe what a big deal this was. One of the first major American cultural phenomena of my lifetime that I can remember. I have vague memories of Watergate (mainly a memory of being on the mall in D.C. and being accosted by, or perhaps just seeing, a man in a Tricky Dick / jailbird costume). Then there was Bicentennial Mania. Then TUT. Oh, the Starland Vocal Band was in there somewhere too.
My main slow-downs today were caused coincidentally, by symmetrical answers. I blanked on 26A: Dessert, in Dover (afters) — had the -ERS part and knew it was something oddly literal, but could think only of ENDERS, which is what I wrote in. ENDER'S GAME is a fine scifi novel, but ENDERS was not the right answer here. Problem was eventually remedied via the long Downs in the SW. The other extended stumble occurred at MUSERS (41A: They're reflective), where I resorted to running the alphabet when I got to -USERS. Couldn't see the answer even After running the alphabet, so then did what I should have done the instant I couldn't get it — Check The Cross. Ms. MORENO was waiting to help me all along. Aside from putting in INDIC and then URDIC (?) for VEDIC (34A: Like the scriptures on which Hare Krishna is based), there were no other points of difficulty in the puzzle.
- 15A: Constitution precursor (Magna Carta) — by the time I looked at this clue, I had more than half the letters in place. When I get 1A, I then move to the Down crosses and try to pick them off in order. I had pretty good success with that today.
- 19A: Member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty (Nero) — four letters, Roman ...
- 23A: 19th Amendment champion (Catt) — got a little worried here when I realized I didn't know if it was CATT or COTT, but the clued-as-if-it-were-real ARK (24D: Major ancient construction project) settled the matter. That is a Noah's ARK clue, right?
- 33A: E.U. mem. since 1995 (Aust.) — oddly pesky. If I had to name all the Eur. countries, this one would almost surely bring up the rear, despite its familiarity. I like to call AUSTria "Not Germany."
- 36A: Sch. in the New England Football Conference (MIT) — they play football?
- 43A: "The Human Stain" novelist (Roth) — a gimme. Also, one of the ugliest book titles of all time.
- 44A: Storied shrine (Pagoda) — I thought PAGODA was just a little shop, but then realized I was thinking of BODEGA. I don't know what's "storied" about PAGODA. Appears to be a generic name for any number of multi-tiered temples found throughout Asia.
- 4D: Papal name last used in 1724 (Innocent) — medieval studies gave me a certain familiarity with papal names, which came in handy today.
- 26D: It goes up and down at dinner (Adam's apple) — no fan of riddles, I.
- 37D: Ponderosa pal (pard) — at first thought "Ponderosa" was some Spanish place name, and went looking for AMIGO.
- 47D: Muslim honorific (Agha) — wrote AGAH ... why?
- 49D: Couch extension? (-ette) — had to look this up. Sleeping berth on a train. Thought it might be a female and/or miniature couch.
- 53D: Setting for sedges (fen) — hey, I only just this second noticed this clue/answer. FEN and BOG, despite their manifest ugliness, are two of my favorite three-letter words.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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