Two-time president of Romania — FRIDAY, Aug. 28 2009 — Memorable 1968 movie villain / Jazz-loving TV sleuth 1950s-'60s / Destroyer in 2000 headlines
Friday, August 28, 2009
Constructor: David Quarfoot
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
Word of the Day: Ion ILIESCU (13D: Two-time president of Romania) — Iliescu is widely recognized as the predominant figure in the first fifteen years of post-1989 Romanian Revolution politics. During his terms Romanian politics stabilized, and Romania joined NATO. However, he is often accused by political opponents and journalists of retaining communist convictions and allegiances, as well as tolerating corruption in the party he led (successively named FSN, FDSN, PDSR, and PSD) and his administrations. (wikipedia) — ILIESCU is the Grover Cleveland of Romanian politics: non-consecutive terms! ('90-'92, '92-'96 and ... 2000-'04)
First, thrilled to see David Quarfoot back and publishing puzzles again after a long break. Second, thrilled to have torn this puzzle up from NW to SE. Absolutely shredded it. Wednesday-style. Headed for some kind of new Friday record. Which brings me to third: utter debasement in the NE and SW corners. Those corners may as well have been separate puzzles. The NE alone took me as long as the entire rest of the puzzle (SW corner excluded), and SW, while somewhat more pliable, still didn't behave. Final analysis: a Wednesday/Thursday puzzle with crazy Saturday appendages, which puts the whole thing in the tough Friday range. A very, very enjoyable, if humbling, Friday experience.
Key to my face plant was TO A HAIR (12D: Right in every detail), which I've never heard before and couldn't see until the very, very last letter up there. TO A -AIR. Very rough, esp. next to ILIESCU (13D: Two-time president of Romania), half of whose name I inferred (I'll let you guess which half); the other half I just waited out. If I hadn't been able to get ACT IV, I'm not sure when VAN DYKE would have fallen (14D: Facial feature with a point) — I was sure the clue was going for a non-human "face" of some kind (watch?). 29A: Second indicator? sent me looking for SILVER or PLACE, when I should have gone back to the "watch" idea that was wrong at 14D. And apparently I have no idea what [Chaffed] means. With that initial "J" in place, it should have been easy. But I had JARRED. Later I had (or wanted) JOLTED. JOSHED? To "chaff" is to joke around? Yes, "to tease in a good-natured way." Throw in two (more) "?" clues in 10D: Superior title? (Abbot) and 11D: One with staying power? (corset), and the whole corner spells disaster. Doable disaster, but disaster nonetheless.
SW was tough because I had only the ERROR in 53A: A bug may cause it (fatal error), and so no real access to the quadrant. Hate it when answers break in two like that. ERROR, indeed. After that, it was tentative entry after tentative entry. Never can keep LARGO and LENTO straight, so tested both, off and on, until one ended up sticking (54D: Funeral march direction). Guessed SSS right off, though wasn't sure of it for a while (39A: Recruiting org.). Tried SHA NA NA at 40D: Title syllables in a hit 1964 song, though I knew that those "N"s might be "L"s. Basically I'm floating in a mess of "S"s and "A"s until my BRAIN (18A: Major processing center) finally picked up the word play at 41D: Swiftly done? (satiric). Never been so happy to see an "R" and a "C" in all my life. Biggest "aha" moment of the puzzle was the "X" to get the very clever SAFE SEX (39D: Transmission blocker?). Smallest "aha" moment: AHAS (48A: Words teachers like to hear). This clue is absurd. I have never heard a student say "AHA" in 18 years of teaching ("well I guess that says something about your teaching skills, chuckle chortle"). Maybe a drawn out "ohhhh," but AHA, no. Plus AHA is barely a "word," and certainly doesn't want to be a plural. Yikes. Thought answer might be I SEE or even YES'M. But this answer is the lone FAIL in an otherwise marvelous puzzle.
- 1A: Rallying cry supported by some monks ("Free Tibet!") — I always associate the slogan with white college kids and Whole Foods shoppers, but I'm sure monks actually do support the "cry," even if they don't really utter it.
- 15A: Company with a maple leaf logo (Air Canada) — gigantic gimme. Those are always nice.
- 17A: 2004 horror film about a passed-on curse ("The Grudge") — I think it has Buffy the Vampire Slayer actress in it. Yes, Sarah Michelle Gellar. That is all I know about "THE GRUDGE."
- 19A: Memorable 1968 movie villain (Hal) — see, I dropped FATHEAD in at 1D: Dolt first thing, with no crosses in place, which is some serious crossword idiot savant !@#@. I then went about plucking the NW Acrosses out of the air, one by one. HAL was probably the answer that confirmed that FATHEAD was right.
- 28A: Jazz-loving TV sleuth of the 1950s-'60s (Gunn) — I do not know his show. I know only his (ultra-famous) theme:
As a kid, I probably heard this version first ...
- 30A: He sighted and named Natal on Christmas Day of 1497 (Da Gama) — only question here was with the "DA" ... "DE"? ... "DI"? ... went with "E" at first, until RIHANNA sorted me out (2D: One-named Grammy winner of 2007).
- 37A: Hawthorne novel stigma (Red A) — midway point on a very quick ride from BAD DOG (7D: Rebuke to Bowser) to SODAS (52A: Pops). Very 50s/60s vibe to this whole puzzle, now that I think about it. Something about "Pops" (as slang for an older man) and SODA jerks gets me to "Bowser," who was in SHA NA NA (I know that's not the answer to 40D, but it's close ... just hear me out). I thought SHA NA NA were the ones who sang "Get A JOB" (38D: Do _____ on), but they didn't. That was The Silhouettes. Anyway, "Get A JOB" features the syllables SHA NA NA, which sound a lot like SHA LA LA. Listen:
But the title song in question at 40D "SHA LA LA" is this one, by The Shirelles:
Here's a cover:
And here's a completely different song:
- 50A: Princess Fiona's voicer in "Shrek" (Diaz) — "voicer." There's a word only a crossword clue could love.
- 64A: High-tech subscription aid (e-list) — no idea what the clue was going for at first.
- 65A: Construction with many locks (Erie Canal) — the AIR CANADA of this quadrant: long and easy.
- 67A: Where "all the people that come and go stop and say hello" ("Penny Lane") — couldn't find the tune by saying the words aloud, but somehow "PENNY LANE" leapt forth anyway.
- 5D: Napoleon's cousin (tart) — oh, that Napoleon.
- 6D: Kayak propeller (Inuit) — can't argue with that logic.
- 25D: Wood blemish (knar) — went with GNAR, which is something Bowser does, I think.
- 27D: Kaffiyeh-clad commander (emir) — learned "Kaffiyeh" from crosswords, possibly from another EMIR clue just like this one.
- 45D: Legendary soprano _____ Patti (Adelina) — "PEPPERMINT" wouldn't fit. "Legendary soprano" will almost invariably mean "meaningless name" to me. That was true here. Patti LUPONE is the only Patti I know.
- 46D: Swiss Guards' setting (Vatican) — wanted something like LES ALPES, though "VAT-" certainly narrowed things down.
- 47D: Destroyer in 2000 headlines (USS Cole) — thought this might have something to do with ELIAN, for some reason (no good reason, that's for sure). Happily, or sadly, I was wrong. Very wrong.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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PS time is running out to get in on Eric Berlin's "Game Night Crosswords" — go here for more details