Cosmonaut Makarov / SAT 5-22-10 / Exobiologist's query / Young Republican 1980s sitcom / Player of logical crew member / Puffed product since 1937
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Max Brot (Hebrew: מקס ברוד) (May 27, 1884 – December 20, 1968) was a German language Czech-Jewish, later Israeli, author, composer, and journalist, known for his close friendship with Franz Kafka. // Max Brod was born in Prague, then part of the province of Bohemia in Austria-Hungary, now the capital of the Czech Republic. Although he was a prolific writer in his own right, he is most famous as a friend, biographer, and literary executor of Franz Kafka. (wikipedia)
Wow. Followed up my fastest Friday of the year with my (by far) fastest Saturday of the year. Possibly my fastest Saturday ever (I tend to time these less often than the other days, so I don't really know). 8:23. Started writing in the NW and never stopped. And I wasn't racing. Just deliberately moving through the grid. Solved it with utter continuity (using crosses the whole way) and never hit a significant snag. My only issue was with the "B" in BROD. I had to wait to see what the cross was, as it was clued via another clue (24D: 31-Across alternative). And then, I knew it would be BUS before I actually knew the answer to 31A: One in line at a station (CAB). I had CAR, but that did nothing for me at 27D: Negev native, e.g. (SAR...?), so I waited on the word I knew I knew, but couldn't recall. Didn't take long for SABRA to spring to mind (it's a name I learned from xwords). Only other bump in the road was entering TREMOR for (what turned out to be) STUPOR at 32A: Result of a great shock. Everything else came very easily.
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This may be the first time ever that my Saturday time was faster than my Thursday time. 1A: Body measurement did nothing for me, but 15A: Throw off was obviously (to my brain) EMIT. I just read the clue with my Saturday goggles on (i.e. shaking off the obvious, apparent clue meaning and doing some lateral thinking). Then I simply knew MILA (17A: Actress Kunis of "That '70s Show") — she also does the voice of Meg on "Family Guy." With EMIT and MILA stacked neatly atop one another, I destroyed that NW corner: STAGGER (4D: Make zigzag) and MEMO PAD (1D: Place for notes) went straight in, OLEG (19A: Cosmonaut Makarov) went across, and there we were. ATTENDING and DEBRIEFS (28A: Questions about a flight, say) went easily across, giving me great access to both the NE (via FREE GIFT) *and* the SW (via NIMOY — 26D: Player of a logical crew member). I followed FREE GIFT (6D: Product recipient's surprise) to AGENT (23A: Gig getter, often) to AWNING (8D: Shade provider), etc. The only hold-up up there was 16A: Exobiologist's query ("ARE WE ALONE?"). I clearly did not know what an "exobiologist" was. I figured it was someone who studied exoskeletons. "ARE WE ... NOT MEN? ... ARE WE ROACHES?" (see 24A). Eventually JO MARCH (12D: Literary tomboy) et al in the far NE made the query clear.
Getting into the south = absolutely no problem with the big, fat, long gimme 29D: Ailurophile sitting there. I tried CAT LOVER and it wouldn't fit, but I knew that that's what "Ailurophile" literally means, so I just thought of another phrase: CAT PERSON. But that answer just stuck down into a bunch of empty space, so I decamped for NIMOY country. Put in the aforementioned bad answer, TREMOR, but because ENID was a gimme (43A: "Idylls of the King" woman), I was able to see TIN FOIL as the answer for 33D: Cheap hat material and erased TREMOR accordingly. ALEX (P.) KEATON is as familiar a pop culture figure as any that lives in my brain, so my only problem there was taking out the (to my mind necessary) "P" (54A: Young Republican of a 1980s sitcom). From there I pretty much rode the KEATON momentum like a wave over that little black bar in the SE, finally crashing down with a flourish in the (easily handled) SE, with the second "E" in TRESTLE being my last letter (40D: Sawhorse, e.g.).
All in all, I liked it. I don't trust my judgment much today, though. People almost always love the puzzles that they defeat handily, especially late in the week. Will worried out loud yesterday about having to follow Patrick Berry's beauty from yesterday, but I don't think this compares poorly at all. That was meant to sound like a compliment. To be a compliment. Honestly, I liked it.
- 27A: Capital near Potosí (SUCRE) — well, I know SUCRE is in Bolivia, but I have no idea what/where "Potosí" is...
- 47A: "Touché!" elicitor (ZINGER) — this is how I decided between CONK and ZONK at 47D: Fall into a 32-Across, with "out"
- 55A: ___ Caovilla, maker of high-end women's shoes (RENÉ) — as far as I'm concerned, this guy is from Potosí, i.e. way off my radar. Thankfully, I needed to know his name not at all. Never saw this clue.
- 5D: One putting a tale in the air? (BALLADEER) — only just now occurred to me that "air" here means "song." I figured "in the air" referred to the fact that his voice was audible, i.e. sound waves "in the air."
- 32D: Bands appearing after split-ups? (SPECTRA) — I assume this has something to do with prisms or other things that refract light. Thank god for ALEX KEATON, who helped me see that this ended in "A," not "S."
- 34D: Ascii alternative (UNICODE) — took one look at this and though "Oh, crud ..." Sounded techy. Ended up being at least vaguely familiar. Gettable, anyway.
- 39D: Andy Warhol subject (SOUP CAN) — actually wrote in SODA CAN (!?!?!) before immediately changing it, while repeatedly calling myself an idiot.
- 50D: Puffed product since 1937 (KIX) — again, I owe ALEX KEATON a debt of gratitude. I knew loving / identifying with that guy would come in handy some day.
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