Desert rodents — SATURDAY, Aug 1 2009 — Diphthong dividers / Bygone Buicks / Satirist Ward / 1947 western serial film / Stately old court dance
Saturday, August 1, 2009
- A mark (¨) placed over the second of two adjacent vowels to indicate that they are to be pronounced as separate sounds rather than a diphthong, as in naïve.
- A mark (¨) placed over a vowel, such as the final vowel in Brontë, to indicate that the vowel is not silent.
- Poetry. A break or pause in a line of verse that occurs when the end of a word and the end of a metrical foot coincide.
[Late Latin diaeresis, from Greek diairesis, from diairein, to divide : dia-, apart; see dia– + hairein, to take.]-----
Weirdly uneven puzzle, difficulty-wise. After a very easy NW, I stalled badly in the SW and SE, but once I crossed the WATTERSON line (29A: Creator of a comic strip duo named after a theologian and a philosopher), the puzzle went back to easy again. I finished with a very normal Saturday time. I also finished with an error at JAFFE / DIERESES. I had JAFFA / DIARESES. Though I know of Rona JAFFE (39A: "Class Reunion" novelist, 1979), and the only JAFFAs I can think of are an ancient city, a conservative scholar from Claremont (where I went to school), and an eponymous cake-maker in Britain, I never questioned JAFFA, as DIARESES looked (and still looks) like the right answer (34D: Diphthong divider). FYI, a DIERESIS is that diacritical mark that looks like an umlaut but isn't.
TAJ MAHAL was the first thing I considered for 1A: Final resting place built in the 17th century, and I was shocked to find it was right. I confirmed it with MNO (4D: 6 letters), and then proceeded to tear up that corner. Started by throwing down JERRY LEWIS (3D: Big name in slapstick) off just the "J". GRR (19A: Sound sometimes followed by an attack) and YEW (31A: Fine-grained wood) followed and everything opened up from there. As is common in late-week puzzles, moving from one quadrant into the next proved difficult. The passageway was narrow, and the initial SI- and S- were not nearly enough to get me SITUATION (35A: One may be out of control) and SELKIRK (38A: British Columbia's _____ Mountains), respectively.
Rebooted with RAGA (44D: Ravi Shankar played it at Woodstock) and AGEE (43D: Posthumous Pulitzer winner of 1958), both of which were guesses. Couldn't remember Peter Lorre's character from "Casablanca," except that it started with a "U" and ended "TE." Here's where the main problem of the SW came to light. I wanted the correct UGARTE (47A: Black marketeer in "Casablanca"), but couldn't think of any city in seven letters ending -RAN for 36D: Mehrabad Airport setting. *Six* letters, sure. That would be TEHRAN. But seven? Nope. Only after a lot of poking around and then moving on to the SE and coming back and more poking around did I finally accept what I began suspecting early on — that some alternate spelling of TEHRAN was involved (in this case, TEHERAN). TEHRAN is the standard spelling in America. This is indisputable. The first hit on a Google search of "TEHERAN" is the Wikipedia page for ... TEHRAN. I mean, some Braves pitching prospect named Julio TEHERAN shows up on the first page TEHERAN search results. Nobody spells TEHRAN with two Es any more. Nobody in the U.S., anyway. TEHERAN is a fine, valid answer, but something should have signaled its datedness / alternativity.
I almost went with TEHDRAN as my alternate spelling, as I thought 42A: Pitches was GARDENS and 42D: Get the best of was GULL. I can make a case (weak and strong, respectively) for either of these wrong answers. Sadly, I could not make a very good case for TEHDRAN.
- 18A: Distance light travels in 3.3 femtoseconds (micron) — FEMTO? Wow, that "M" and "T" really do not want to be near each other in my mouth.
- 20A: "A friend to call my own," per a Michael Jackson hit ("Ben") — an oddly moving song.
- 25A: Patron saint of hermits (Giles) — Do hermits still exist? Would any of us know if they did?
- 32A: Desert rodents (jerboas) — happy to have seen this before, though the exact spelling took a while to come to me. I might have had JEROBAS for a bit.
- 37A: So, in Salerno (cosi) — I know the word only from Mozart.
- 48A: Bygone Buicks (Rivieras) — took me a bit of thought. I just started saying "Buick..." in order to feel what it felt natural to say next. LE SABRE came first, RIVIERA second.
- 9D: "Being an actor is the loneliest thing in the world" speaker (James Dean) — my god he was EMO. Didn't he also have the quote a few puzzles back about "only the gentle are truly brave?" And here I always imagined him as a kind of TOUGH GUY (1D: Bruiser).
- 13D: Royal educator (Eton) — one of many short answers I never saw. In fact, I saw none of the short Downs in the NE as all the Acrosses up there were quite easy with their initial letters in place.
- 14D: Hong Kong's Hang _____ Index (Seng) — ... and it's a good thing I didn't have to look at those short Downs. Yikes. SENG? No chance.
- 23D: Satirist Ward (Ned) — ??? Add him to the Flanders, Beatty, and Nancy Drew's boyfriend list of NEDs.
- 27D: 1947 western serial film ("Son of Zorro") — Son of Obscuro! Wrestled hard with this one.
- 32D: Girl Scouts founder Low (Juliette) — no idea. Inferred her name from the -IETTE ending.
- 41D: Stately old court dance (pavan) — odd. TEHERAN has an extra "E," while this one's missing an "E." I know this as a PAVANE, perhaps because I know it only via the French composer Ravel's "PAVANe pour une infante defunte":
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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