Victorian vehicle / FRI 5-21-10 / Sedan chair accessories / Descendants of Japheth / Animal on Mauritius's coat of arms / Chicago outfit bigwig
Friday, May 21, 2010
Easy, beautiful puzzle. If you want to know why Patrick Berry is one of the most respected and admired constructors in the world of crosswords, just check out this grid. Gorgeousness as far as the eye can see. Gigantic, wide-open NW and SE corners that are filled Perfectly (so, so hard to fill in that much white space without resorting to some ugly and/or marginal stuff). He relies on a couple -ER words and four colliding words with the letter string "ATE" there in the SE, but not so that anyone but me (a hyperinspector) would notice. There's not a single answer in the puzzle that made me wince or caused me the slightest discomfort. Gush gush gush. Patrick Berry rules.
Rinso was the brand name of a laundry soap most commonly used in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. The brand was created by Hudson's Soap which was sold to Lever Brothers of Port Sunlight, England, in 1908. It was also manufactured by the Lever Brothers Company (later known as Unilever) in the United States, starting in 1918. // Rinso was one of the first mass-marketed soap powders. It was advertised widely on radio, being the sponsor of many network programs such as the popular daytime soap opera Big Sister from 1936 to 1946, and the night-time programs Big Town from 1937 to 1942, Mayor of the Town from 1942 to 1943, and most notably The Amos 'n' Andy Show from 1943 to 1950. During this time the product's advertisements happily chanted the slogan "Rinso white, Rinso bright" and boasted that Rinso contained "Solium, the sunlight ingredient".
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This was my fastest Friday of the year, but I jacked the rating up to "Easy-Medium" because my ease-of-solving felt freakish and idiosyncratic. I mean, for instance, I pulled LANDAU (12D: Victorian vehicle) instantly off just the "U," and not everyone can do that. I also just *knew* SWAMPY (41D: Camp ___ ("Beetle Bailey" setting)) and MADISON (7D: Mermaid's name in "Splash"), both of which gave me great leverage in the NW and SW, respectively. SWAMPY was particularly important — I went STAKE RACES (41A: Belmont and Preakness, for two) to SWAMPY and had that whole (amazing) section done before I blinked twice. ZONK-YANKS-PRONG-MAGOG (53D: Descendants of Japheth) — the fill is just bouncing off the walls down there. Great energy. Love it.
Biggest problems were getting started (as usual) and the SE, where I finished the puzzle off. Began with ABET (6D: Give shelter, perhaps) and then, stupidly, neglected to look one more Down over to MADISON, which I would have gotten w/o crosses. Instead, I went back west into the fat part of the corner and started mucking around. Wanted NEPAL at 5D: So-called "Land of the Gods" but had no way of being certain. Then ventured a guess of TOWEL at 21A: Beach bag item and decided sure, why not, NEPAL. Then MEN at 28A: Playing pieces, then the -ING suffix at 3D: Tossing about (STREWING). With second "T" and "M" in place LOST TIME leapt forth (1D: Something to make up for), and the NW was all over but the shouting. SWEPT (22A: Got award after award) through the NE and SW like a tornado, only to come to a near-halt in the SE, despite having it surrounded. Main problem — I had REGROUP where REGIMEN belonged (39D: Training recommendation). Seemed reasonable. But ONU- seemed an improbable beginning for 56A: Cramped vehicle (ONE-SEATER), so I scrapped REGROUP, and bam, TENT DRESS just fell into place (58A: Garment with no waistline). Wanted ONE-SEATER, but couldn't picture one, so waited. Then REGIMEN fell in, then HOME PLATE went across (54A: Swinging place?), and the corner went down without any more fight. The only answers in the whole puzzle that left me with that "wha?" feeling were RINSO (before my time, I assume), and JOSIP (48A: Marshal Tito's first name). I had JOSEP. But it's JOSIP. I really wish Yugoslavia had produced a Saturday-morning TV show called "JOSEP and the Pussycats." I would play a clip of it for you right now. But instead you get this:
- 10A: Sedan chair accessories (POLES) — Wow, I have no idea what a "sedan chair" is, apparently. Why would a chair require POLES? Oh, wait, are the POLES holding the chair up? Oh, I see, they are the poles that the porters (front and back) use to carry you in your little compartment. You gotta be pretty special / lazy to ride in one of those.
- 19A: Magazine founded by abolitionists in 1865 ("THE NATION") — They used to have a cryptic crossword. Do they still?
- 24A: "A very high price to pay for maturity," per Tom Stoppard (AGE) — Not the funniest quote in the world, but easy enough to figure out.
- 31A: Robert L. Fish Memorial Award and others (EDGARS) — the annual awards for mystery writing. No idea who "Robert L. Fish" is/was. He apparently wrote the book that the 1968 Steve McQueen movie "Bullitt" was based on, but he doesn't even have a wikipedia page (in English, that is).
- 45A: Animal on Mauritius's coat of arms (DODO) — makes sense. Only place on earth where DODO is known to have existed.
- 51A: Band name that has an umlaut over the "n" (SPINAL TAP) — embarrassing that this took so many crosses to get. I own the DVD and played part of it in class just a few weeks ago (I was teaching Swift's "Modest Proposal" ... I swear it was educationally justifiable).
- 4D: Old English aristocrats (THANES) — I know these *only* as Scottish.
- 11D: Poet exiled by Augustus (OVID) — another flat-out gimme. Love him. He has an irreverence and sense of humor that Virgil, say, does not. I love Virgil, too, but kind of in that way that you dutifully love some older relative with whom you have Zero in common. OK, a little more than that.
- 26D: Publike eatery (BISTRO) — Is "publike" a real word. I kept reading "public." That, and "pubic lice."
- 42D: Soap opera actress Braun (TAMARA) — the RINSO of the SW, i.e. "wha?"
- 43D: Kingdom that once included Sicily and Sardinia (ARAGON) — not to be confused with the Christopher Paolini novel "ERAGON" (a book, and series, that my daughter has devoured).
- 44D: Chicago Outfit bigwig (CAPONE) — the biggest wig. I was expecting something less obvious, like NITTI, but no.
- 48D: Poked fun (JAPED) — this answer will forever remind me of PuzzleGirl, who insisted I take it out of a grid we were constructing together. When I defended it as a perfectly good word (one that would add some zazz to the grid with its "J"), she called it all kinds of derogatory names, and ultimately I was forced to back down. I don't know what's in its place now. Something lame, no doubt (actually, it's something pretty decent ... but I still like JAPED).
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