Favorite card game of Winston Churhill / FRI 4-23-10 / Lizard fuel beverage maker / 1886 Alcott sequel / 1040 subjs / Palate stimulus
Friday, April 23, 2010
Bezique, is a 19th century French melding and trick-taking card game for two players derived from Marriage via Briscan by the addition of more scoring features, notably a peculiar liaison Q ♠and J♦ under the names Bésigue, Binokel, Pinochle, etc., according to the country. [...] The game gained its greatest popularity in Paris by 1860 and in England a few years later. Perhaps the most famous proponent of the game was Winston Churchill, an avid player and early expert of Six-Pack, or "Chinese" Bezique. But since the late nineteenth century the game has declined in popularity. There is some evidence that the English writers Wilkie Collins and Christina Rossetti were also enthusiasts. (wikipedia)
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I liked this puzzle quite a bit, until I discovered that I had an error. BAZIQUE / AVA instead of the apparently correct BEZIQUE / EVA. I consider this crossing, with this cluing, an editorial failure. If I am alone in my error (or, more specifically, if one or the other of these is common knowledge to the majority of you all), then I will stand corrected, but ... for the moment, let's see if I can explain why this crossing is objectively bad. Actually, the crossing is not bad. What is bad is the cluing on EVA (52D: 2006 Bond girl ___ Green). Do people know this Bond girl? If they do, did they know she was an "E" EVA and not an "A" AVA? BEZIQUE is one of exactly two words in this whole grid that, because it is odd and exotic, requires very fair crosses (UHRY is the other — 9D: Pulitzer winner for "Driving Miss Daisy" — and its crosses are just fine). Crossing that first vowel with a word whose first letter is going to be a total toss-up — that's just lazy editing. I'm happy to know BEZIQUE, but I couldn't care less about this unidentified, alleged Bond girl and whatever movie she is from. There was *no* need to go to some random, marginal EVA in that clue. Doing so didn't make the puzzle any tougher. It just made it shrug-worthy. Sad, because the grid is pretty sweet overall. Prickly in that way that good tough puzzles always are. Reasonable EVA clue would have made this puzzle highly satisfying all around.
Had trouble getting traction. Lots of floundering in the NW. Put in LOBBY at 19A: Room in Clue (STUDY). Put down ACNE for 20D: Cosmetologist's concern (instead of where it ultimately belonged, at 32A: Bad marks gotten in high school?). OLD SAW for 14D: Chestnut (CLICHÉ). And so on. Got my first real toehold with ZITI (48A: Tubes in an oven) / ZINC (48D: Calamine component), and built the puzzle up from there. There were some fat gimmes that I just didn't manage to see at first glance, like GO-GOS (31D: "Our Lips Are Sealed" band) and SOBE (33A: Lizard Fuel beverage maker) — any time "lizard" and "beverage" get together in a clue, the answer is SOBE. Coming out of the SE proved pretty easy, especially the SW, which went down lickety-split. The "X" in SUSSEX (41D: Area where the hoax Piltdown man was found) made ROLODEX (56A: Spinner with numbers) a cinch, and the fact that I've got Alcott on the brain (just bought the new Graphic Penguin Classics version of "Little Women," designed by Julie Doucet, and am preparing to read it once my wife is done with it ... the book opens with a quote from Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress," which I just happened to teach today ...) made "JO'S BOYS" a snap as well (49A: 1986 Alcott sequel).
NE was toughish, partly because of UHRY, partly because I didn't know "Bad" was a German place, so couldn't make sense of 17A: Bad setting (GERMANY). Had to come at the section from below. Much respect to GAYDAR, which made me say 'wow.' Good clue (13D: Sense of orientation). Another good (tough) clue on NINE PIN (12D: One standing at the back of an alley). Honestly, the corners are just good all over today. For a reasonably high word-count themeless (72 words), the fill is remarkably interesting and (mostly) not burdened with IFFY (43A: Not settled) or stale junk. Nothing squirmy or forced. Just nice. My last stand was back in that pesky NW, which was harder than the rest of the grid By Far for me. At various points, I had LETTERS (?) for LECTERN (16A: Address location), ACTS for OPTS (3D: Gets off the fence), ATF (?!) for HUD (26A: Govt. org. associated with auctions), and the aforementioned OLD SAW for CLICHÉ. Also AIR for EAR (5D: Attention). I was thinking "AIR TIME," I think. Most major gaffe up there, though, has to be entering LAST LINE for EXIT LINE (29A: Blanche DuBois's "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers," e.g.) – major because I entered it triumphantly and certainly, which kept all the longish Downs up there invisible to me for quite some time. Is that line the LAST LINE? It certainly is the last *spoken* line in the musical parody version performed some time back on "The Simpsons" — "Streetcar!"
- 7A: Response of mock subservience ("YOU RANG?") — Guessed this off the "YO-" but had *no* confidence that it was right. Very happy to see it pan out. No idea where it comes from or why it's so familiar, but I love it.
- 18A: 1040 subjs. (IRAS) — Man, "subjs" is a weird-looking abbrev. I don't know what I had here at first. Maybe DEPS? (Dependents?)
- 31A: Founder of experimental physiology (GALEN) — ancient physician. Name is familiar from multiple encounters in graduate school.
- 41A: Palate stimulus (SAPOR) — One of those weirdo words that has stuck with me for some reason. Related to the weirder SAPID.
- 2D: Owner of Martini & Rossi, Dewar's and Grey Goose (BACARDI) — I was expecting something out of left field, like SARA LEE.
- 28D: He played an attendant at Wally's Filling Station in 1960s TV (NABORS) — another gimme. Smooth-singing Jim NABORS played Gomer Pyle on "The Andy Griffith Show."
- 33D: 2007 hit comedy with a character who dubbed himself McLovin ("SUPERBAD") — it occurs to me that some of you will not know this movie, and that that might affect your BEZIQUE-hunting chances. Negatively.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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