Hoosier Folk-Child poet / SAT 3-6-10 / Red sushi fish / Ned Buntline dime novel subject / Slimming option briefly
Saturday, March 6, 2010
Having or consisting of woolly hairs.
[Latin lānātus, from lāna, wool.]
• • •
Another typically tough offering from Barry Silk. Why do I insist on starting every puzzle in the NW. Well, probably because a. I'm a human being who speaks / reads English, and so L to R, top to bottom progression is normal for me. Also, starting in the NW puts you at the front ends of major Acrosses and Downs — easy to get going quickly. But that's assuming you make some, any headway in the NW. Today, at first, I didn't. Zip. Horrible. Was reduced to putting in "S"s where plurals appeared to be (and in at least one case even this was a bad idea). After declaring the top a Fail, I tentatively wrote SNOW at the end of 28A: Ski resort forecast (NEW SNOW). I then went OGRE (29D: One may put a damsel in distress) to AGNATE (32A: Paternal relative) and suddenly the little patch of land in the east was full. I also guessed ALTOONA (9D: City near Horseshoe Curve) off the final "A," but since it felt like a shot in the dark, I didn't go chasing after it. Instead, stuck. Again. Humbled by having to resort to filling in a superlative suffix in the far SE — the "-EST" in ILLEST (54A: Least sound). And then, just when I was at my lowest (figuratively and, literally, physically, in the grid), the puzzle turned. I built the whole grid off that damned suffix. Amazing. What had been a challenging puzzle all of a sudden became very average. I just needed a toehold, and today, it was as far away from my starting point as could be. But once I found it — jackpot.
After -EST, I built the puzzle backwards through the long Downs in the south and then up into the middle and west of the puzzle, with only LANATE (which I didn't know) and MEGA (38D: Bit or lead-in) (which I didn't understand) creating serious resistance in the middle of it all. Oh, and I've never heard of BELTWAY BANDIT, so that didn't help matters either (16D: Private consultant to the federal government, in slang). Sounds pejorative, so ... not just "slang." Maybe I'm wrong. Anyway, it's a cool phrase, as central answers go. West went down so fast I didn't even see the clues for ODOM (24A: Defensive end Antwan) or TEXAS TEA (30A: Crude, slangily). NE ended up causing a pause, as I (reforgot for maybe the third time) EEC (20A: It. was part of it) and have only barely heard of SYSCO (14D: Food service Fortune 500 company). Once I figured out that the last word in 17A: Signs of unavailability was RINGS and not STRINGS (?), ENGAGEMENT RINGS was obvious. I picked up BUFFALO BILL CODY likewise (15A: Ned Buntline dime novel subject), from the end, and then ended up finishing in the place I began — the NW. Let me tell you, EFGH (3D: What I will follow) is not an answer you want to end on. Terrible way to finish an otherwise solid puzzle.
- 19A: Composer Janacek (LEOS) — One of several "How'd-I-know-that?" moments I had today. Got ALTOONA off the final "A." Got TILLAGE off the -AGE (I know squat about farming) (44A: Farmwork). Got PYM (37A: Poe title character) and had no idea how I knew it or what "title" this "title character" even came from. And I knew Janacek as a composer of opera, but ... how his first name got in my head, I have no idea.
- 23A: Skeleton part, in Padua (OSSO) — knew it was OSS-something.
- 36A: Beckerman who wrote "Love, Loss and What I Wore" (ILENE) — yipes. Rough. Other stuff that I just didn't know included TAI (which I think I've seen before, somewhere) (60D: Red sushi fish) and RILEY, a total mystery to me (39A: "The Hoosier Folk-Child" poet), though I have a feeling I've seen ... him? ... yes, him, before. James Whitcomb RILEY. Yeah. I've seen him. He's not ... memorable.
- 62A: Alaska area almost half the size of Rhode Island (DENALI STATE PARK) — crosswords were how I first learned the name DENALI. This one was easy to piece together from its back end.
- 27D: Certain portraits of Zola, Chabrier and Mallarmé (MANETS) — pretty much a gimme. You could've stopped the clue at "Zola." Well ... if MANET did multiple portraits of Zola, you could've. But it looks like he did just the one. Moving on...
- 33D: It's high in the Sierras (ALTO) — Went to a summer camp called "ALTA Sierra," so I had the second vowel wrong here at first.
- 45D: Ancient philosopher whose name means "old master" (LAO-TSE) — oddly easy, the various parts of this guy's name being the crossword equivalent of Starbucks, i.e. everywhere.
- 55D: Slimming option, briefly (LIPO) — as in "-suction." Ick factor = high.
- 56D: One of 31 in Mexique (ETAT) — One of those double-take clues where you have to think for a second about what language the clue is looking for. Mexico is in the clue, but it's spelled Frenchly. Thus, answer is French. French for "state." ETAT. ETAT and LAO-TSE know each other very well.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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