SATURDAY, Dec. 5 2009 — Squawk on street airer / Vaya con dios hitmaker 1953 / Model featured in Little Miss Sunshine / It drops to 0 after sundown
Saturday, December 5, 2009
Constructor: Brad Wilber
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
Word of the Day: PEWIT (28A: Plover named for its call) — The Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus), also known as the Peewit, Green Plover or (in the British Isles) just Lapwing, is a bird in the plover family. It is common through temperate Eurasia. It is highly migratory over most of its extensive range, wintering further south as far as north Africa, northern India and China. It migrates mainly by day, often in large flocks. Lowland breeders in westernmost areas of Europe are resident. It occasionally is a vagrant to North America, especially after storms, as in the Canadian sightings after storms in December 1927 and in January 1966. // It is a wader which breeds on cultivated land and other short vegetation habitats. 3–4 eggs are laid in a ground scrape. The nest and young are defended noisily and aggressively against all intruders, up to and including horses and cattle. (wikipedia)
Stacks shmacks. You can take your stacks of 15 and your super-low word-count puzzles and other stunt grids. I'll take a Saturday puzzle like this every time. Reasonably challenging, with original, provocative answers, and a whistle-clean grid. Just lovely. Brad Wilber's puzzles are often beasts (WILBERBEESTS!), so I was braced for the worst, but actually had very few problems with this one. As is typical for late-week themeless puzzles, my biggest problem was just getting started, and even that didn't take too long. Never watch CNBC, but "Squawk on the Street" sounds exactly like the kind of show I imagine they'd air, so it went in first as an educated guess (5D: "Squawk on the Street"). Couldn't do anything off that second "C" and so tentative tried A TAD at 24A: Not much and then confirmed it off of DSL (25D: Upgrade from dial-up). Then I took one look at the adjacent 30A: 2000 Supreme Court case hinging on the 14th Amendment, dropped in the only possible answer, BUSH V. GORE, and the whole puzzle opened right up from there. Started with 32D: Model featured in "Little Miss Sunshine" (VW bus) and drove clear across the grid with only a few awkward pit stops. Ended up in CA (last letter = "E" in DEANS) where I got to witness a performance by a POP DUO (62A: The Carpenters, e.g.). It was a fun trip.
Roughest thing in the grid, by far, was PEWIT (28A: Plover named for its call), which appears to be at least a somewhat variant spelling. No matter. All the crosses were very gettable, very fair. That NW went down fast after BUSH V. GORE. "LET IT BE" (7D: 1970 hit documentary) and LES PAUL (8D: "Vaya Con Dios" hitmaker, 1953) went shooting straight up, which made the YANKEE part of EX-YANKEE easy to see (I went with NY YANKEE at first ...) (15A: One who used to get Bronx cheers?). Having the -CALL in place made ROBO-CALL a snap (1A: Modern campaign element), and I was done up there. NE was done so fast I don't even remember it, and the SW, where I finished, was pretty much the same. Never even saw the clues for EYRE (52A: "Notes on a Scandal" director Richard) or DEANS (56A: They work to maintain their faculties). A faculty member at my University was murdered on campus yesterday (stabbed six times by a grad student), so this clue, this morning, has unfortunate coincidental associations.
Hardest part of the puzzle for me was the SE. I dropped in AGIO (!?!?!) at 40D: Environment for multiplication, of sorts. I figured it was some economic thing I didn't understand. Once I fixed that (changed it to the correct AGAR), I had ROIL for ROLL (55A: Undulate), then tore that out when I figured 50D: Hold must be ASSERT (nope, it's ALLEGE). Tried GO DEAF where GO GRAY belonged (49D: Start developing achromotrichia). Thankfully, for whatever reason, I knew GLI (61A: Los : Spanish :: _____ : Italian), so once I locked that in, GO GRAY, ALLEGE, and even SLIDES (51D: Begins to fail) dropped right down. Earlier, I had had trouble in the lower middle, specifically with the back end of SECRETIVE (46A: Not open) and the front end of (the beautifully clued) UV INDEX (44D: It drops to 0 after sundown). The "V" was the key. To both answers. So SE took as long as NE and SW combined, probably, and brought the puzzle back to near-typical Saturday level (just over 10 for me).
- 26A: Port annexed by Britain in 1839 (Aden) — had a little of my typical ADEN / OMAN confusion, but went in the right direction.
- 36A: Maserati headquarters city (Modena) — I know about this place from Tone-Loc
- 66A: 6 or 7, but not 60 or 70 (early age) — unless you're talking about when you first walked. Or talked. Then 6 or 7 — not EARLY.
- 42A: Corporate retreat closer, perhaps (group hug) — so, so good. A fresh, very much in-the-language answer. The concept itself is repellent (to me), but as an answer: sweet.
- 68A: Producer of a piercing look (X-ray Eyes) — I guess since these EYES are a (single) pair of specs, the singular "Producer" is OK. Kind of cruel.
- 12D: It may be used to avoid paparazzi (side door) — had BACK DOOR at first, but that was quickly remedied (letters in BACK quickly revealed as frauds).
- 23D: Where Aida sings "O patria mia" (Nile) — literally standing in the river? Weird.
- 34D: TV character who says "I didn't think it was physically possible, but this both sucks and blows" (Bart) — a gimme for me, not surprisingly. Love it.
- 64D: Kind of vodka (rye) — why did I think RYE was a word for "Whisk(e)y?" Oh, because it is. Well alright ...
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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PS Caleb Madison's new "Bard Bulletin" puzzle is really imaginative, timely, and fantastic. Do it online here, or get it in .puz (AcrossLite) format here.