He starred as himself in Cuban Pete 1946 / SAT 1-23-10 / Grunting slimy-skinned swimmer / Fielding Menotti title heroines / Nagasaki noodle
Saturday, January 23, 2010
The toadfish comprise the family Batrachoididae, the only family in the ray-finned fish order Batrachoidiformes. Both the English common name and scientific name refer to their toad-like appearance (batrakhos is Greek for frog). // Toadfish are benthic ambush predators that favor sandy or muddy substrates where their cryptic coloration helps them avoid detection by their prey. Toadfish are well known for their ability to "sing", males in particular using the swim bladder as a sound-production device used to attract mates.
Fast ... slow ... fast ... slow ... more slow ... and then a kind of swift shuffle at the end. And voilà! Nope, wait, POLITBIRO? SIVA? ... Hmmm. SIVA's a Hindu goddess, right? POLITBURO / SUVA (33A: Capital on the island of Viti Levu). Oh yeah, that's much better. OK, *now* ... voilà! I think this is how a Saturday is supposed to feel. You should struggle harder than on any other day. You should have at least a brief sensation of "Holy &$%! I'm not going to be able to do this." Ideally you have at least one moment of "Aha, I'm in! Woo hoo! Do a little dance!" Etc. Then more despair. It's like a good novel, just (if you're lucky) shorter. LEAPT out of the box with LEAPT (1A: Acted impulsively) and "L.A. LAW" (1D: "ER" replaced it on NBC's schedule), which has been clued exactly this way before. Then ... I just poked at things for a bit. That damned [Gyro sauce]! Now that I see it, and say it out loud, it seems familiar, but it sure didn't feel that way as I was Getting Every Letter From Crosses (TZATZIKI)! Got the WALTZES, but the OFFWITH came much, much later (23A: Wins easily). In fact, I followed WALTZES down into the middle and eventually western part of the grid, where ...
I (re-)started fast, again. After limping out of the NW and stalling somewhere in the middle, I (for no good reason) decided to test OZARK at 28A: ___ Plateau (U.S. region). Well, one good reason — Karen Tracey likes to Scrabble it up. And OZARK fit. So two reasons. Huge payoff: immediately got ZETA-JONES off OZARK's "Z" (29D: "Chicago" Oscar winner) *and* ANGLICAN off its "A" (30D: Book of Common Prayer readers). Two long Downs inside five seconds off of just two letters — that's a grand slam. I was able to ride that momentum around to the SE, where, once again, I sat a bit. No ... I moved, just, slowly. Took a while to get (the gorgeous) SNAKE PIT (38D: Scene of horror and confusion). Had Zero idea what Jill Eikenberry's character's name was (!?) on "L.A. LAW," so needed every cross for KELSEY (56A: 1-Down counselor). Made up the word ACCREDE for 45D: Block until crosses suggested that might not be right (OCCLUDE! Of course...).
Then I was left staring with a rather large, empty space in the NW. Couldn't remember the name of the POLITBURO (11D: Lenin's body) —which I thought was spelled POLITBUREAU, as well as, possibly, POLITBIRO :( — which was bugging me no end. Finally, once I changed TEN TO to TEN OF, I got WALTZES OFF WITH. Eventually tried PANATELLA (which I thought had just one "L") (18A: Smoke with straight sides) and that corner came together in an ugly, halting fashion. Whatever. I finished. Last letter was the "M" in AMELIAS (10D: Fielding and Menotti heroines).
- 6A: Unofficial "Main Street" of New York's Chinatown (Mott) — here's how I know this street:
- 14A: He starred as himself in "Cuban Pete," 1946 (Arnaz) — jeez, "Cuban" should have given me this straight off. It didn't.
- 15A: Treat with a "Golden" variety (Oreo) — off the "E" in "TEN OF" — this "treat" sounds heinous. God made Oreos black and white. Any variations are abominations.
- 26A: Archer of literature (Isabel) — uh ... she's a protagonist in ... something? Maybe ... a Henry James novel? HA, yes, "Portrait of a Lady"! Ah, my superficial education knows no bounds.
- 50A: Old song with the lyric "When he would ride in the afternoon / I'd follow him with my hickory broom" ("Jimmy Crack Corn") — got it off the "JIM-" but couldn't tell you any lyrics beyond "I don't care" ...
- 61A: River with historic flooding in 1966 (Arno) — don't know anything about any flooding, but ARNO is crossword gold, so that was easy.
- 2D: "Traffic" actress Christenen (Erika) — third actress of the puzzle, and the second one (along with TESSA Allen — 32D: Actress Allen) that I couldn't pick out of a line-up.
- 36D: Kid with no hometown, often (army brat) — solved this puzzle *just* after watching the New Hope For Haiti benefit, so the clue was just depressing. [Scene of horror and confusion] didn't help lighten the mood.
- 41D: Instrument played with a spatula (samisen) — seen it before in crosswords (or crossword, singular, I should say), but still needed help with all the crosses.
- 55D: Nagasaki noodle (soba) — might have thought "noodle" here meant "head," but I had the "-BA" in place already, so it was a cinch.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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