Puppeteer with 12 Emmys / THU 9-16-10 / Famous Olde Tyme brand / Sports legend with autobiography Open / Former sports org with teams Hitmen Rage
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Constructor: Joey Weissbrot
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: ROSTROPOVICH (50A: 20th-century master of the CELLO) — four theme answers related to ROSTROPOVICH and five circles on a diagonal across the middle of the grid spelling out CELLO
Word of the Day: Lake TANA (18A: Lake ___, head of the Blue Nile) —
Lake Tana (also spelled T'ana, Amharic: Ṭānā Hāyḳ,"Lake Tana," an older variant is Tsana, Ge'ez Ṣānā; sometimes called "Dembiya" after the region to the north of the lake) is the source of the Blue Nile and is the largest lake in Ethiopia. Located in the north-western Ethiopian highlands, according to the Statistical Abstract of Ethiopia for 1967/68, the lake is approximately 84 kilometers long and 66 kilometers wide, with a maximum depth of 15 meters, and an elevation of 1,840 meters. Lake Tana is fed by the Lesser Abay, Reb and Gumara Rivers and its surface area ranges from 3,000 to 3,500 km² depending on season and rainfall. The lake level has been regulated since the construction of the control weir where the lake discharges into the Blue Nile, which regulates the flow to the Tis Abbai falls and hydro-power station. (wikipedia)
Liked this one a lot. Don't understand why the circles are where they are, but I like that they are evenly spaced and form a nice straight line through the grid's center. Very elegant. I thought I was going to solve this in record time early on, but it turns out I don't know how to spell STRADIVARIUS (I had "STRAT...") (22A: Prized possession of 50-Across). And then it turns out that the NE corner had a bunch of short Acrosses that I found pretty brutal. And then it turns out that the AZERBAIJAN (59A: Birthplace of 50-Across) section was toughish as well. In the end, still on the easy side for me, but not by a whole lot. I didn't know that ROSTROPOVICH gave an impromptu (really!?: "Hey, I just happen to have my cello here, so ... aw, what the hell.") performance at the fall of the BERLIN WALL (16A: Site of a memorable 1989 impromptu performance by 50-Across), so that was a cool bit of trivia to learn.
In the NE, I had FHA for SBA (and had to look up SBA when I was done—Small Business Administration) (10A: Guarantor of many bank loans). Had nothing for TANA—if I've seen it before, I don't remember (18A: Lake ___, head of the Blue Nile). I didn't have any way of getting root beer from the clue for BARQ'S (21A: Famous Olde Tyme brand), so that was rough as well. Thankfully, the Downs were all quite familiar names, though spelling SHARI LEWIS's name is always an adventure (always want SHERI) (10D: Puppeteer with 12 Emmys). Down south we get the Scrabbly and rarely seen ZAX (60D: Slate-cutting tool) — its cutting tool cousins the ADZ and ICE AXE get far more grid face time. Got ZAX only after getting AZERBAIJAN, which would have taken me forever had I not had the "J" (from AJAX—55D: Greek warrior) firmly in place. Found clue on EXPO absolutely batty (67A: Shanghai's ___ 2010) — does anyone really pay attention to where the EXPOs are any more? I went to one in '86, and haven't even heard of them since. I also couldn't pick up EVER SO (48D: Really) very easily at all. Had EVEN SO at first and thought "Well, that's not right." And it wasn't. But it all worked out.
- 29A: Option after six months, say (RENEW) — something about this clue feels really off and clunky to me. RENEW is a verb, and clue seems to call for a noun, though clearly one's options may be verbs (e.g. put up or shut up). RENEWAL seems a better fit here.
- 31A: Joyful damsel's cry ("MY HERO!") — There are several joyful damsels in "Erec & Enide," which I'm currently teaching in my Arthurian Literature class. There is an initially mysterious ordeal at the end of the poem called "The Joy of the Court," and everyone tries to tell Erec that it really sucks and he will die, but he's like "but it says 'Joy' right on the label. It can't be bad. I'm ignoring you people." Then it is, in fact, bad (putyourheadonastake bad). But he triumphs anyway. And there was much rejoicing! Some of it by damsels.
- 43A: Its symbol is "X" (STRIKE) — aargh, bowling. This took me way too long. Thank god for YEN (40D: Its symbol is a "Y" with two horizontal lines through it), or that little eastern section would've been much tougher. Had AWAY for AWRY at first (38A: Off) but couldn't figure out what AKO was (it was supposed to be RKO—39D: Early Fox rival).
- 64A: Loch Lomond lovely (LASS) — Are all LASSes lovely?
- 4D: "___ mezzo del cammin di nostra vita": Dante ("NEL") — oh hell yes. First line of "Inferno." I'll teach that (again) next semester.
- 5D: Forum for 140-character messages (TWITTER) — Yesterday I tweeted that Google UK had changed the Google logo in honor of Agatha Christie's 120th birthday (letters turned into characters at a crime scene, very cool). Somehow that stupid little tweet got picked up and RTd ("retweeted") over 400 times. "Agatha Christie" was the Twitter-wide #1 trending topic for a while. My tweet was a "Top Tweet." I have no idea how these things happen. People from Brazil were sending me tweets asking me to follow them and religious fanatics sent me tweets telling me when the world was going to end. So weird. Kind of disconcerting when what you write circulates way way way beyond its intended audience. Mostly, on TWITTER, that does not happen.
- 9D: Former sports org. with the teams Hitmen and Rage (XFL) — in existence for just one season, early in the last decade.
- 23D: Gives a hand (DEALS TO) — the only way I figured out I had STRADIVARIUS spelled wrong was that I had TEALS TO here.
- 28D: "Bullitt" has a famous one (CHASE SCENE) — it sure does:
- 34D: The so-called "blue marble" (EARTH) — hmmm. Dorothy B. Hughes has a mystery novel called "The So-Blue Marble." Knowing this confused me.
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