Middleton who sang with Louis Armstrong / SUN 8-29-10 / Title dog in Inge play / Egyptian god of universe / Newswoman Logan / Gee in Glasgow
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Constructor: Derek Bowman
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
THEME: "GOING FOR A RUN" — thirteen two-word phrases, creating 26 words that start with the consecutive letters of the alphabet, i.e. AB (ARMY BRAT), CD (CARBON DATING), EF (EXHAUST FANS), etc.
Word of the Day: VELMA Middleton (6A: Middleton who sang with Louis Armstrong) —
Velma Middleton spent most of her career as Louis Armstrong's singer. She was originally a dancer and, although overweight, she often did splits on stage including during the Armstrong years. Middleton had an average but reasonably pleasing and good-humored voice. After freelancing -- including visiting South America in 1938 with Connie McLean's Orchestra and working as a solo act -- she joined Louis Armstrong's big band in 1942, appearing on some Soundies with Satch). After Armstrong broke up the orchestra in 1947, Middleton joined his All-Stars. She was often used for comedy relief (such as for duets with Satch on "That's My Desire" and "Baby, It's Cold Outside") and occasional features. Jazz critics rarely thought highly of Middleton's singing, but Armstrong considered her part of his family, and she was a constant part of his show. Middleton, who recorded eight selections as a leader for the Dootone label in 1948 and 1951, died in Africa while touring with Satch in 1961. (answers.com)
• • •
This was two struggles in one. First, the struggle to finish in a reasonable time—the puzzle felt decidedly crunchier than most Sunday offerings, with the west coast in particular proving a real bear for me today (crunchy bear!); and second, the struggle to figure out what the theme was—it was a good minute or so after I'd finished the puzzle that I figured out what was going on. Normally, when you "*" the theme clues, there's a clue somewhere giving you a hint as to what the starred clues have in common. Not so today. The title is the only clue. INSIDE and OUTER seemed related ... but no, dead end. Same with SPEED and QUICK (esp. with "RUN" in the title), but again, no. Finally just went to the beginning and took them one by one, and saw the ABCD string instantly. Very clever. I'm impressed by the construction. Thankfully, I didn't have to know the theme to solve the puzzle, though it sure would have helped there in the west, yeesh. Couldn't see either INSIDE or OUTER, and only INA and SHEBA (89A: Title dog in an Inge play) and OCH (or ACH, I couldn't remember which was Scottish and which German—39A: "Gee," in Glasgow) were providing any help in the crosses. All the Downs were a mystery. Finally decided 85A: Isthmus had to be NECK :( and that got me CONTINUES (40D: Carries on) and things began to fall from there. But I really had to work, and briefly despaired of getting any real toehold. Rest of the grid was toughish but ultimately pretty tractable. NEALE (53A: "Conversations With God" author ___ Donald Walsch) and VELMA were the only real bafflers for me. The rest were just clued in vague, indirect, or otherwise tough ways. So all in all, I call this a 'win.' Good workout, clever theme, solid grid.
- 22A: *Kid constantly switching schools, maybe (ARMY BRAT)
- 23A: *Age-revealing method (CARBON DATING)
- 29A: *Stale air removers (EXHAUST FANS)
- 33A: *Supposed results of stress (GRAY HAIRS)
- 58A: *Embezzlement, e.g. (INSIDE JOB)
- 60A: *Pet shop purchase (KITTY LITTER)
- 68A: *Party bowlful (MIXED NUTS)
- 78A: *Pluto, e.g., before it was plutoed (OUTER PLANET)
- 81A: *Harlequin romance, e.g. (QUICK READ)
- 101A: *Leadfoot's downfall (SPEED TRAP)
- 106A: *It's got some miles on it (USED VEHICLE)
- 117A: *Annual sports event since 1997 (WINTER X-GAMES)
- 120A: *Beginning of time? (YEAR ZERO)
- 56A: British American tobacco brand (KENT) — "British American" completely threw me. I don't know what it means. Why isn't it hyphenated? Anyway, that clue told me nothing. Got the answer from crosses, then recognized it, vaguely, as a cigarette brand.
- 67A: Words a house burglar doesn't want to hear ("SIC 'EM") — this one was brutal. A house burglar doesn't want to get shot. Or bitten. Or generally discovered at all. A house burglar also Doesn't Want To Hear Any Words. If he hears words, there are people about, and for a burglar, that is always Bad. My guesses here: "I AM IN" "IT IS I" "I AM UP" and other stuff I can't remember now.
- 115A: Flair of pro wrestling (RIC) — Only other RIC I know is OCASEK.
- 8D: Newswoman Logan (LARA) — learned her from xwords a while back, and have now seen her twice in the past week. Useful.
- 9D: "Sex and the City" character also known as John (MR. BIG) — words can't express my non-interest in this show, or its movie spin-offs. Saw a couple episodes and found them repugnant, and Particularly insulting to women. "Kill yourselves, all of you!" I'd shout at the screen, to no avail. If I ever have to put MR. BIG in a puzzle, you can Bet that it'll be clued via these guys—I mean, they're not, uh, great, but I would willingly listen to them for hours if my only other option were watching a single episode of "Sex and the City":
- 14D: 900 years before Queen Elizabeth was crowned (MLIII) — wow, the "900 years before" part just makes the bad worse here.
- 82D: Locale of an 1805 Napoleon victory (ULM) — wrote in URI. If you did yesterday's puzzle, you know why.
- 10D: Egyptian god of the universe (AMON-RA) — spelled it AMEN-RA, which I believe is what you say if you agree with RA. Nope, my spelling was valid, just not correct for today's puzzle.
- 84D: Low-cost, lightweight autos of the 1910s-'20s (CYCLECARS) — definitely learned this from xwords too, but remembered it as CYCLOCARS, which I think a far superior name.
- 90D: Gymgoer's pride (BOD) — the longer you stare at the word "Gymgoer's" the crazier it looks.
- 104D: "Dónde ___ los Ladrones?" (1998 platinum album by Shakira) ("ESTAN") — total guess. I can picture her, and I probably could recognize a couple of her songs, but that album title is brand new to me.
And now your Tweets of the Week, puzzle chatter from the Twitterverse:
- @DrOssie90 I was doing a crossword earlier when I came across "Twilight (4)" Apparently "shit" wasn't what I was looking for...
- @amyskababy My aunty is using the 'just keep saying words until they fit' method of crossword solving.
- @chelseashell My heart melts a bit when I see an attractive guy doing a crossword. Nerdy? Absolutely.
- @outofsequences Stupid things: trying to surreptitiously watch a girl do crossword puzzles.
- @SkyBlueThru Woman in front of me on train is reading crossword clues to her bloke. I am typing answers on phone and holding them above her head for him.
- @jonvox Lack of a free daily New York Times sure took its toll on my crossword abilities.
- @Renee70 @JargArmani there's something u should know about me. I don't do crosswords. I was going to tell you sooner but everything was going so well
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]