1919 novel set in Paris Tahiti / SAT 1-16-10 / Comic actress who co-starred on Archie Bunker's Place / 1968 soul album with hit Think
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Constructor: Ned White
Relative difficulty: Medium
Word of the Day: HYSON (61A: A caddy may hold it) —
Hyson or Lucky Dragon Tea is a Chinese green tea that comes from the Anhui Provence of China. It is made from young leaves that are thinly rolled to have a long, twisted appearance that unfurls when brewed. The name Hyson is likely a Chinese name meaning "flourishing spring" or "blooming spring," emerging between 1730-40 in the Chinese dialect Guangdong as "héichēun". However, some believe it to have been named after an English tea merchant, Phillip Hyson. Hyson is graded into the following three categories: Mi Si, Cheng Si and Fu Si.
One of the best puzzles of the week, which is not saying much, I realize. It's just fine — an incredibly typical Saturday: felt hard at first, contained many clues and answers unfamiliar to me, but came together in fits and starts. Nothing nothing, spate of answers, nothing nothing, another spate. Neither of the crossing 15s were immediately familiar to me. That is, I've heard of both, but could see neither from their given clues. SKITTLES are nothing but candy to me, but once I got the -TLES part, the phrase BEER AND SKITTLES (36A: A bowl of cherries, in Chelsea) came to mind as "something British I don't really understand." Wrote it in tentatively and it held. Also solved "The MOON AND SIXPENCE" (8D: 1919 novel set in Paris and Tahiti, with "The") from the back end (puzzle in general went NE, SE, SW, NW), though even after getting the "SIXPENCE" part, I had to struggle a bit to remember the rest (possibly because I'd written in DOWNY where TAWNY was supposed to go at 26A: Like the coats of 25-Down — you know, because of all the DOWNY PUMAS I've seen in movies). Last square was the "L" in SUL / LPN (29D: Orderly supervisor, maybe: Abbr.). Knew that SUR was "south in Spanish, and nearly convinced myself that there was such a thing as a Registered Practical Nurse, but the "Brazil" part of 28A: South of Brazil? made me change my mind. If it were SUR, the clue would not have gone Portuguese. So though I'd never heard of SUL, I went with it.
Started with -ETH (5D: End of the Bible?) and got nowhere in the NW. Knew that the album involved ARETHA, but though I got ARETHA to fit in the first part, I couldn't think (Think!) of a word to follow. Only much later did I get the full "ARETHA NOW" (17A: 1968 soul album with the hit "Think"). Rebooted in NE with the sweet gimme AMBOY (9D: The ___ Dukes (1960s-'70s band)) — no idea who this band is, but "The AMBOY Dukes" is a classic novel by Irving Shulman — classic to vintage paperback collectors, at any rate. I gratefully took AMBOY and used it to destroy the NE in a matter of seconds — except CATAWBAS (13D: Carolina natives) — what the !?
Sent BEER AND SKITTLES across, tentatively, but then went down to the SE, where I anagrammed an initially wrong answer (ASPCA) to get a right answer (ASCAP) (46A: Org. that tracks numbers), and then, with help of A LA (53A: Mimicking), proceeded to make relatively short work of that quadrant. Needed a little help from ED HARRIS in the west (34D: Jackson Pollock's player in "Pollock"), but I got those SE answers surrounded and solved with little problem. Once I changed DOWNY to TAWNY, the top opened up. TWO WEEKS (15D: What an angry employee might give a boss) gave me the "W" I needed to get "ARETHA NOW," and the NW fell from there. Then there was the exceedingly easy SW, where only HYSON (61A: A caddy may hold it) gave me any pause, and by the time I saw it, the whole section was filled in and I knew it had to be right.
- 1A: One very concerned with how a kid acts (stage mom) — just saw this answer somewhere else. I had GOATHERD at first.
- 14A: Plant disease similar to blackleg (potato rot) — BLACKLEG would have been a Lot harder to get.
- 16A: Comic actress who co-starred on "Archie Bunker's Place" (Meara) — also just saw this clue / answer somewhere else. In crosswords, Ms. MEARA is usually clued as part of the comedy team MEARA and Stiller. Or is it Stiller and MEARA? Whatever, they're great.
- 35A: Limerick scheme (AABBA) — wondered if I knew the word for "scheme" in Gaelic ...
- 6D: Evidence of paranormal activity, perhaps (moan) — uh, no. No. A MOAN is "evidence" of no such thing.
- 7D: Speculation follower ("... or not.") — I had "...MAYBE."
- 11D: Dance based on bullfight music (paso doble) — a gimme, but ... it's sloppy to have essentially the same word in two different answers. PASO = "step" and "PAS" = "step" (from PAS DE, 49D: ___ bourée (ballet move)).
- 32D: Entrepreneur's request (seed money) — like it. Don't like the word "entrepreneur," as a. people use it in stupid, pretentious ways all the time, and b. it's creepy to type – it's got 16 Es and 22 Rs and just goes on and on monotonously.
- 41D: Kenyan leader Mboya whom Obama called his "godfather" (Tom) — really? That's your clue for TOM? Gotta say, I was not expecting such an apple pie answer. I've literally Never heard of this person. Of course, I never read Obama's book (the "Dreams" one), which I'm guessing is where Obama "called" TOM his "godfather."
- 44D: Biblioteca Ambrosiana locale (Milan) — no idea, but had the "MI-" so no problem.
- 47D: Sportscaster with the autobiography "Holy Cow!" (Caray) — as in Harry CARAY, the late Cubs broadcaster.
- 55D: Contemporary of Baiul and Yamaguchi (Ito) — Midori ITO. These are ice skaters.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]