Maid in Merchant of Venice / FRI 2-5-10 / Mexican play places / 1972 Pulitzer winner for Commentary / O naked Moon full Browning
Friday, February 5, 2010
Jamal was one of Miles Davis's favorite pianists and was a key influence on the trumpeter's "First Great Quintet" (featuring John Coltrane on tenor saxophone, Red Garland on piano, Paul Chambers on bass, and Philly Joe Jones on drums). Davis had long admired Jamal's use of space and dynamics, and had asked Wynton Kelly to "sound more like Ahmad Jamal" on the track "Freddie Freeloader" on the landmark album Kind of Blue. (wikipedia)[check out the hepcats in the background — like, crazy, man]
• • •
Once again, solving late-week puzzles first thing in the morning proves not the brightest idea. But I got home from work yesterday and had dinner and watched a tiny bit of TV and I was done. Asleep before puzzle even came out online. So I struggled a bit with the puzzle this morning, though in retrospect there was no one good reason for the struggle. Maybe my brain wasn't processing "?" and misdirective clues as well as it might have later in the day. Anyway, looking back, there's just one real sticking point that I can see: the ORBED region of the puzzle (35A: "O naked Moon full-___!": Browning). I couldn't parse that one to save my life. Figured it was going to be (yet another) partial, something whimsical like "O' something" ("full-o'-beans?" "full-o'-milk?") or "OR something" or "OF something." Couldn't remember if [Jamal of jazz] was AHMAL or AHMAD (tho' AHMAL JAMAL sounds ridiculous, and I think it was only on my mind because of the crosswordy AMAHL of Menotti's "AMAHL and the Night Visitors"). Ended up finishing the puzzle at that crossing, guessing (correctly) "D" while having no clue how "OR BED" could work there. But of course it's one word, ORBED. [Cough]. OK, moving on.
No, actually, staying right there. Another reason that general section was tough was I'd never heard of ENTENTE CORDIALE (2D: Summit successes). ENTENTE, yes, but as I'm not French and this is not ... whatever decade people used this term, I'd never heard the CORDIALE part. Inferred after much hacking at crosses. More trouble down here: ODOR as a [Podiatric problem] is true enough but ridiculously non-foot-specific as an answer, so didn't see that. Also had RUNS AT for GOES AT (32A: Charges). Couldn't remember the first vowel in NERISSA (4A: Maid in "Merchant of Venice").
Made steady and consistent, if not fast, progress through the rest of the grid. Long answers were not as grid-opening as they usually are for me because none of the phrases were terribly obvious, even when parts of the phrases were in place. ONCE ... went to ONCE IN A BLUE MOON at first; corrected to ONCE IN A LIFETIME (which I like better as a Talking Heads song) (15A: Very rarely indeed). Same issue came up with DIALS ... and I'M ... and ACROSS ... and ENTENTE ... Wasn't able to throw the answer down immediately. Long Acrosses down below were far easier to get than the others, perhaps because I started at the back end. Middle south region proved a little thorny, with BOYCOTTS (31D: Doesn't buy, in a way) and RETCH (39A: Heave) being hidden behind very vague clues. ROLEO (42A: Loggers' contest) finally got me some purchase in there. I wrapped things up here ... except for that final letter that I mentioned earlier: ORBED / AHMAD!
- 1A: Mexican play places (teatros) — Got 1A instantly. Thought maybe puzzle would thus be a cinch. Not exactly.
- 17A: They're often tipped on sidewalks (street musicians) — knew it was some version of "buskers," and once STREET came into view, I got it.
- 25A: Title town in a 1945 Pulitzer-winning novel (Adano) — gimme! Super-crosswordesey place name. See also ASTI (23A: Italian province or its capital).
- 47A: Big-top worker with a big responsibility (elephant trainer) — is he training just the one ELEPHANT? Singular "responsibility" suggests so.
- 3D: Like an extradition transition (across-the-border) — if you are extraditing to a neighboring country, OK. But if you are extraditing to a non-adjacent country, then multiple borders are involved. Wanted something like ACROSS [something] LINES.
- 5D: Indochinese currency (riel) — more help from crosswordese (though I think I had RIAL here at first).
- 6D: Bruce Peninsula locale: Abbr. (Ont.) — guessed off the "O." I really did start strong ... then faded a bit.
- 7D: Some tearoom equipment (samovars) — a lovely, exotic-sounding word.
- 26D: 1972 Pulitzer winner for Commentary (Royko) — thought "Commentary" was the title of whatever it was he won the Pulitzer for. But it's just the category. ROYKO was a longtime columnist for various Chicago papers.
- 36D: 1993 Grammy winner for Best Mexican-American Album (Selena) — Jennifer Lopez played her in the movie of the same name, somewhere back in the horrid '90s.
- 43D: Poison apple creator? (alar) — first thought: JOBS.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]