City rebuilt by Darius I — SUNDAY, Nov. 15 2009 — Lyricist born 11/18/1909 / Beachgoer's hair lightener / Curvy-horned animals
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Constructor: Elizabeth C. Gorski
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: JOHNNY MERCER (115A: Lyricist born 11/18/1909 who wrote the words to the 10 songs with asterisked clues) — Note on the puzzle: "When this puzzle has been completed, connect the circled letters in order from A to N to get an appropriate image" — image = TREBLE CLEF
Word of the Day: SUSA (103D: City rebuilt by Darius I) — was an ancient city of the Elamite, Persian and Parthian empires of Iran, located about 250 km (150 miles) east of the Tigris River. [...] Susa is one of the oldest-known settlements of the region and indeed the world, possibly founded about 4200 BC; although the first traces of an inhabited village have been dated to ca. 7000 BC. Evidence of a painted-pottery civilization has been dated to ca. 5000 BC. [...] Susa is also mentioned in the Ketuvim of the Hebrew Bible, mainly in Esther, but also once each in Nehemiah and Daniel. Both Daniel and Nehemiah lived in Susa during the Babylonian captivity of Judah of the 6th century BC. Esther became queen there, and saved the Jews from genocide. A tomb presumed to be that of Daniel is located in the area, known as Shush-Daniel. The tomb is marked by an unusual white, stone cone, which is neither regular nor symmetric. Many scholars believe it was at one point a Star of David.
JOHNNY MERCER is way, Way out of my wheelhouse ... *except* that I happened to catch the tail end of a JOHNNY MERCER documentary the other day on TCM completely by accident. Since I know nothing about show tunes, and since show tunes come up in the puzzle not infrequently, I thought maybe I'd better watch. Today, payoff! When I got ONE FOR at the front end of 21A: *Tony Parsons novel [1943 song] I tried ONE FOR THE ROAD (didn't fit) and then immediately recalled the song "ONE FOR MY BABY" from the documentary I'd just seen. Then thought, nah, that's probably not it and started in on a different, nearby part of the puzzle, only to look up and realized I had crosses in place now and, in fact, "ONE FOR MY BABY" was right. Still, though, for all I knew there were just going to be songs in the puzzle ... wasn't til I hit "MOON RIVER" that the "ding ding ding" sound went off in my head (nice that (probably) his most famous song is dead center). Looked around for the theme-revealing answer, and there it was: JOHNNY MERCER.
- 21A: *Tony Parsons novel [1943 song] ("One for My Baby")
- 26A: *Mandarin variety  ("Tangerine")
- 67A: *It flows into Ontario's Georgian Bay  ("Moon River")
- 108A: *Laurel and Hardy flick  ("Great Guns")
- 3D: *"Omigosh!"  ("Jeepers Creepers")
- 11D: *Rural jaunt  ("Hayride")
- 46D: *Total sham  ("Charade")
- 48D: *Former first lady  ("Laura") — wanted "MAMIE" !?
- 59D: *One of the Brontes  ("Emily")
- 90D: *Toro's target  ("Matador")
Never mind that I've only ever heard of three of these songs — the non-MERCER cluing made them easy to get, or to infer with a few crosses. As for drawing the treble clef on my puzzle, I haven't done that. Not a big post-solve drawer — but I can see that it's a pretty damned good approximation of a treble clef. Good enough for me to see it w/o having to draw it.
Had trouble around all around OSLER (47A: William _____, the Father of Modern Medicine), whom I wanted to call a whole lot of things before I settled on OSLER. Not knowing LAURA hurt me here, as did not knowing (or not remembering) Rachel MCADAMS (17D: Rachel of "Mean Girls"). MCADAMS led into COALYARD, which also gave me trouble — well, the YARD part did at any rate. I had MINE (23A: Source of black diamonds). Switching minerals, I completely forgot what the hell ORMOLU was (98A: Faux gold) and had to piece that together almost completely from crosses, even though the terminal "U" was the first thing in place (should have jogged the word loose from my brain, but no). Otherwise, there was just stray odd stuff like NYE (68D: Nevada's largest county) and FAHD (53A: Late Saudi king) and the above-mentioned SUSA to slow me down.
Did anyone get killed by the SUN-IN/SUSA crossing? I'd heard of SUN-IN (103A: Beachgoer's hair lightener), but if I hadn't, I'd have been a dead man (though I could have inferred "SUN" from the clue, I suppose).
- 11A: "_____ Nagila (song title that means "Let us rejoice") ("Hava") — even though I knew it was right, it looked (still looks) really wrong in isolation. Want it to be HORA or JAVA.
- 51A: Greek god of the north wind (Boreas) — Greek god of sports agents = Scott BORAS.
- 58A: "Mad Men" extra (steno) — best clue for STENO ever.
- 61A: Stylish filmmaker (auteur) — great (if arty/pretentious) word, one I'm surprised I don't see in grids more often given the avalanche of vowels involved.
- 85A: Curvy-horned animals (elands) — crossword antelope I learned in the olden days of Eugene Maleska. The ELAND, ORIBI, and ORYX are all very handy to know.
- 56D: Hungarian half sister? (Zsa) — OK, I don't really like ZSA in isolation, but that's a pretty good clue.
- 71D: Ham radio catchword (Wilco) — indicating agreement or compliance: WIL(L) CO(MPLY)
- 99D: Indiana/Michigan natives (Miamis) — love that the location of the MIAMIS in this case has Zero to do with with the Florida city of the same name.
- 113D: Janis's comic strip hubby (Arlo) — I've decided that in order for the comics page to get some level of interest or zing back, these two crossword stalwarts, ARLO and JANIS, should start beating the hell out of each other on a regular basis, a la ANDY CAPP and FLO
And now some Tweets of the Week — puzzle talk from the Twitterverse
- @JonFrmMaplewood: Only answer I've gotten so far in the NYT crossword puzzle is A-P-U.
- @TylerGreenDC That NYT xword was so boring that I literally fell asleep in the middle
- @e1en0r Drinking tea and reading a book. If I'd done a crossword and had better social skills then my transformation into my mom would be complete.
- @raford3 Also, if you're going to structure a crossword around "Take The Money And Run," shouldn't it refer to the Steve Miller Band song?
- @ninoskasua Had fun at @LA_Live.... Except for the part when some drunk guy tried to finish my crossword puzzle..
- @cgbridges Wow, I'm about two weeks too late on this, but I think my current goal in life is to make it into @rexparker's NYT crossword blog. [good to dream big]
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]