Big-time kudos / SAT 2-27-10 / Emulate Niobe / Captain Nemo's final resting place / Operation Bikini co-star 1963
Saturday, February 27, 2010
Gnarls Barkley is an American musical group collaboration between multi-instrumentalist and producer Danger Mouse (Brian Burton) from New York, and rapper/vocalist Cee-Lo Green (Thomas Callaway), from Atlanta. Their first album, St. Elsewhere, was released in 2006; it and their first hit, "Crazy", were major commercial successes, and were noted for their large sales by download. The duo released their second album, The Odd Couple, in March 2008. (wikipedia)
Coincidentally, Danger Mouse (half of Gnarls Barkley) will release a new album on March 9 as part of his new group Broken Bells (a collaboration with James Mercer of The Shins)
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72 words is pretty high for a late-week puzzle, but when a grid is this clean, this fresh, it's easy to see the value and upside of a somewhat high word count. Very workable grid leads to astounding smoothness, with all the difficulty located in the (devilish) cluing. In short, not an ELKES in sight, and despite being harder than yesterday's puzzle, this one was much, much more lovable. It's also more daring. MAD PROPS (1A: Big-time kudos) and OH, SNAP (16A: Response to a good dig) in the same grid!? That's a wicked lot of 2006 (i.e. Gnarls Barkley-era) slang to cram into one puzzle. I guess you gotta get that stuff in before it gets too dated. Anyway, I loved it all. A nice, tough, 11+-minute workout for me. Even something as forgettable as T-BALL is enlivened by having its pals C BATTERY (36D: Common toy go-with) and E*TRADE (59A: Dot-com with an asterisk in its name) in the grid. MAD PROPS, for sure.
Couldn't do much with the NW and so went over to the NE, where I flubbed 18A: Preparatory stage (LEAD-UP) by entering PHASE I. The upside of wrongness — it occasionally leads you in the right direction. In this case, the "A" gave me TSA, which gave me PATINA (9A: Film about the Statue of Liberty?) (which I'd just seen in a puzzle immediately prior to starting the NYT), which gave me POLOS (9D: Tops of golf courses?), and I was on my way. Ran down the eastern seaboard until petering out in the far SE, where SURE AM and lack of certainty about how to spell SIEGEL (49D: Film critic Joel) and ENCASE all stopped me cold. Moved slowly but surely up from the front end of MR. PEANUT (34A: Mascot that's a shell of a man) until I got into the NW, then circled back down to the SW, where BRAT PACK (41A: Demi Moore was in it) came easily, but the front end of CATLIKE (36A: Slinky and stealthy) did not. Brain wanted only EELLIKE, which is probably not a legitimate answer, though who's to say anymore? TSO (55A: Eponymous general) broke me through and I came whipping around to the S and SE, where I finally polished things off. "A" in UNSEATED (64A: Moved out?) was the last letter in.
Nine "?" clues today. I've never counted before. Is that a lot? It felt like a lot, but it's Saturday, so such playfulness is expected, and most of the "?" clues were good, or at least inoffensive. I was super annoyed at not being able to get 42D: Dog's coat?, but then when I got it (KETCHUP), I had to give it the MAD PROPS it deserves. Favorite clues of the day — for their fine combination of misdirection, subtlety, and accuracy — were 66A: Opening used before opening a door (PEEPHOLE) and 37D: One being printed at a station (ARRESTEE). The latter clue was so good, it made me completely forget that ARRESTEE is pretty crappy fill.
- 32A: Disco or swing follower (era) — fine, but if we were talking about the Swing Era, wouldn't the words be capitalized? (I'm looking at you, "swing")
- 2D: "Operation Bikini" co-star, 1963 (Avalon) — also the place where King Arthur went to die (or not) and a Roxy Music album from 1982.
- 5D: Means of forced entry (rams) — grrrr ... "means" is singular *and* plural. I didn't consider the latter possibility until ... well, until I looked back and noticed I'd gotten the whole answer from crosses.
- 13D: Captain Nemo's final resting place (Nautilus) — the name of his ship. "Final?" You never know. Maybe he'll come back. Just like Arthur. From AVALON. Aaaaany day now.
- 52D: Triumphant song (paean) — I'd like to thank grad school for teaching me this word. This word, and ENCOMIUM, which is its near equivalent. See also PANEGYRIC.
- 56D: "Laverne & Shirley" landlady (Edna) — I was *addicted* to this show as a kid — every Tuesday was "Happy Days," "Laverne & Shirley," and then bedtime. Still, didn't remember this right away. Charlotte Rae, from "Facts of Life," has taken the only spot my brain has for sitcom EDNAs. Whoops, scratch that. EDNA Krabappel's in there too.
- 57D: Emulate Niobe (weep) — one of the few flat-out gimmes in the grid.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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