Brit's bender / FRI 6-4-10 / Mawashi wearer's activity / It's superior to bohea / Oratory projection / Oblast between Kursk Tula
Friday, June 4, 2010
César Ritz (23 February 1850 – 24 October 1918) was a famous Swiss hotelier and founder of several hotels, most famously the Hôtel Ritz, in Paris and The Ritz Hotel in London. His nickname was "king of hoteliers, and hotelier to kings," and it is from his name and that of his hotels that the term ritzy derives. (wikipedia)
• • •Felt like I was struggling, but my time came in below average (albeit two minutes and one minute higher than my last two Fridays, respectively). So the puzzle's challenging compared to recent puzzles, but closer to average compared to puzzles on the year; at least for me. I have been noticing lately that I'm getting faster, and I think it's throwing my personal "averages" off. I can't very well accurately compare my times today to my times in January if I'm a significantly faster solver today. I did not think I could get much faster than I was in January, but lately it appears I have a new gear.
Today, I could tell right away that the puzzle was back to the difficulty level I'd come to expect, after taking a couple weeks off. Actually had to work to get into the top, with the first toehold coming at ZAG / SWAYZE — the former instantly got me the latter (9D: Veer + 5A: People magazine's 1991 "Sexiest Man Alive"). From there I was able to work that north section enough to get COMPARED AGAINST and ... some kind of LEARNING. It *had* to be A LITTLE LEARNING, didn't it? (spoiler alert: it did). But ... but ... I've got EAMES at 15D: Chair person? How can that be wrong? It works perfectly, even (especially) with the tricky cluing. I'm leaving it in ... and look, one cross works, two crosses work .... three crosses work. How Can That First "E" be a "T"!?!? Aaargh. Eventually, the A LITTLE part became indisputable, and once I accepted that, TAMER jumped forward quickly. As in LION TAMER, I'm guessing. I can tell you now that whoever wrote that clue knew *exactly* what he was doing.
Here's where I turned on the gas — I dropped 2D (A LOT ON ONE'S PLATE) and 3D (TIME OF DEPARTURE) (both 15 letters) into the grid with only the first few letters in place. That's a huge chunk of the puzzle done in a matter of seconds. I did not have as much luck throwing the long answers Across down below, largely because I couldn't see APSE (49D: Oratory projection). Again, that's intentionally deceptive cluing. APSE is the key to seeing those Acrosses (esp. the first one). Instead, I worked the south, which was Hard. 55D: TV monitor goes to a federal agency (FCC), not a screen for your living room. The SCOTIA Sea turns out to be far away from any place with "SCOT" in its title (incl. Scotland and Nova Scotia) (60A: ___ Sea (part of the South Atlantic)). The sloganeer today is a station (CBS), not a tangible product (50A: Former "Reach for the stars" sloganeer). BRET Boone ... I forgot he existed, and I follow baseball (51D: Second baseman Boone). I remembered catcher Bob Boone (BRET's dad), and Aaron Boone (his brother). Sorry, BRET. I knew a few of the other answers down there; eventually I guessed SCOTIA and stuff started to fall, STRETCHER BEARER being the toughest 15 to bring down (58A: Battlefield attendant).
I struggled to polish off the middle, which is where I made my last stand. I got into it OK, with PLANT (36A: One that shoots — 6D: Unwanted 36-Across (WEED) helped with that) and "SING A," despite never having heard of the song from which the latter comes (39A: "I Can ___ Rainbow" (classic kids' tune)). Problems were along the southern and eastern edges of the middle. Couldn't see either answer. Oh, and completely forgot about Bugs MORAN (33A: He tried to have Capone killed in 1926). That didn't help. But the main hindrance here was 42A: Brit's bender (BOOZE-UP). Once I guessed the "C" in CÉSAR, I saw CENTAUR (23D: Horseback figure?), which gave me a weird BO--EU- answer for [Brit's bender]. That's when I entertained the idea that the answer might break between "E" and "U." Got the "Z" from FRANZ (27D: Liszt or Schubert), and there it was: BOOZE-UP. I would have arrived at this answer sooner, perhaps, if 43D: It's superior to bohea had made any kind of sense to me. And I might have gotten that answer (PEKOE) if 53A: Hindu love god had made any kind of sense to me. I wanted RAMA. Later, when PEKOE was the only possible answer at 43D, I was reminded of the KAMA Sutra, and so felt OK about KAMA as an answer. Last letters in the grid were the "FO" in FOLIO, which is odd, as I remember thinking "FOLIO" the very first time I glanced at that clue (26D: Page number). Sometimes, apparently, I don't just write in the first thing that comes to mind.
Unknowns to me: MOOTED (21A: Brought up for discussion) — "Excuse me, I'd like to MOOT something" (good luck making yourself understood with that sentence); CÉSAR, as I've said; MORAN, whom I just plum forgot; KAMA, whom it turns out I sort of kind of knew. Everything else in the puzzle (except the "bohea" in the PEKOE clue) was familiar to me. Nice to have a puzzle that is tough without being horrifically obscure. D'OH YEAH! (19A: Spoken word that's a sound trademark of 20th Century Fox + 8D: "___, you!").
- 29A: Vintner's vessel (TUN) — It was that or VAT. I think I already had the initial "T" in place from MINIATURE CAMERA (11D: Spying aid) when I saw the clue. As I've said before, I know "TUN" from Middle English literature. Chaucer used it. Chaucer himself was granted a TUN of wine a year by the king in 1397.
- 34A: Mawashi wearer's activity (SUMO) — went with HULA at first :(
- 37A: Oblast between Kursk and Tula (OREL) — led with OMSK (another oblast), and then remembered that OREL was a. a Russian place of some sort, and b. crosswordese, and common in a way that OMSK isn't. Seemed a good guess. Was.
- 4D: Green party V.I.P.? (ST. PAT) — I really dislike ST. PAT as an answer, generally, but I love this clue.
- 5D: Canon shooter, briefly (SLR) — I object to "Canon"'s being in this clue, as the specific brand has nothing to do with the answer, which is a general term for a kind of camera: single lens reflex. Putting in "Canon" deliberately, in an overly heavy-handed way, tries to make you think the clue wants a brand name for an answer. [Shooter, briefly] would have worked just fine.
- 7D: Lt. Raine of "Inglourious Basterds" (ALDO) — just saw this, which helped. Some (still needed a cross to jog my memory). I liked the movie. Sensationally violent in parts, but it's mostly the constant threat of violence that gives the movie its persistent tension.
- 10D: "Only the hand that ___ can write the true thing": Meister Eckhart (ERASES) — Speaking of medieval (which I was, a few paragraphs back). This was easy to get with just a cross or two in place.
- 30D: "I won't miss it" ("NO LOSS") — a great crossword answer, I think. Perfectly colloquial. A genuine AHA moment when I uncovered it.
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]