Lamp-Lighter painter / FRI 10-15-10 / English composer/pianist Lord / It has more seats than Astrodome / Cousin of blackfish / Humana offering
Friday, October 15, 2010
Atahualpa, Atahuallpa, Atabalipa, or Atawallpa (March 20, 1497 Caranqui, Ecuador – Cajamarca, July 26, 1533), was the last Sapa Inca or sovereign emperor of the Tahuantinsuyu, or the Inca Empire. Born in what is now Caranqui, Ecuador, Atahualpa was the offspring of Inca Huayna Capac and Pacha Duchicela, a Quiteña princess and first-born of Cacha Duchicela. The union was a politically expedient one, as the southern Ecuadorian Andies had been conquered by Inca Huayna Capac's father, Inca Tupac-Yupanqui some years earlier, and there being still elements of revolt among the people. As an adult, Atahualpa became emperor upon defeating his older half-brother Huáscar in a civil war sparked by the death of their father, Inca Huayna Capac, from an infectious disease which may have been smallpox. During the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire, the Spaniard Francisco Pizarro crossed his path, captured Atahualpa, and used him to control the Inca empire. Eventually, the Spanish executed Atahualpa by garrote, ending the Inca Empire (although several successors claimed the title of Sapa Inca ("unique Inca") and led a resistance against the invading Spaniards). After Atahualpa died, the Incan Empire began to fall apart. (wikipedia)
• • •I think I liked this more than I didn't, though it felt like someone trying a Little too hard to create a pangram. I strangely resent pangrams—at some point about 2/3 of the way through the solve, I get distracted by this "oh, he's going to try to get them all, I guess" feeling. Scrabbly letters are fun, but I wish this grid had Any answers longer than 8 letters. Oh, and I wish THE OPERA weren't an answer (32A: Part of some cultural nights out). THE. Well, at least THE is right over RAG—that's kind of funny. I resented the cluing in the NW at first—"I swear!" is something an ordinary person might say, but "BY JOVE" is not, unless said ordinary person is wearing a monocle and presiding over some far-flung section of the British Empire circa 1920. I, of course, had "NO JOKE!" which is a far better answer. This screwed me up royally. Other things that screwed me up royally: putting in SALSA DIP right away (1A: Party bowlful with zing); putting in LAS right away (5D: Noel syllables); crossing MIATA with ALTERED (23A: Sporty ride + 25D: Let out, in a way); choosing the wrong 4-letter crosswordese O-fish at 30D: Cousin of a blackfish; and so forth. Would've written in DOC for DR. K at 63D: Nickname of Dwight Gooden if I hadn't had SNOOKERS already in place (67A: Flimflams).
Proper nouns were jamming me badly today. Don't even know what the "Home Counties" are, let alone their individual names, so ESSEX was tough (28A: One of the Home Counties). Crossing JAVIER (59A: Pitcher Lopez or Vazquez) and ODENSE (64A: Port named for a Norse god) with EWING (52D: 1992 Dream Team member) and FRED (56D: Ebenezer Scrooge's nephew) in the SW was pretty mean-spirited; I generally like a better balance of names and non-names. No idea who this EGAN guy is (33D: Eddie who inspired "The French Connection"). Know POE and ENSOR, but not (at all) from the works in their clues (10D: "Hop-Frog" writer + "46A: "The Lam-Lighter" painter). JON Lord is news to me (58A: English composer/pianist Lord). The whole thing was just Way out of my wheelhouse, name-wise. And yet ... JOE ISUZU, I could get (17A: Pitchman who said "It has more seats than the Astrodome!"). SPLIFF, yup (9A: Joint). FACE TIME, bam (13D: Camera hog's concern). And my biggest savior of the day: WHACK JOB (35D: Nut). I was having Real trouble down there (had JUNIOR for JAVIER, for instance) until WHACK JOB popped into my mind, first thing, off just the "A" and "K." Outside of the names, the puzzle had a nice, contemporary, colloquial feel. And the ugly little stuff here and there, I can just imagine away. For instance, instead of looking at two cruddy 3-letter answers in the east, I just imagine someone is shouting enthusiastically about a coin he's just found: "DIIIME!"
- 26A: Its final production was released in 1959 (RKO) — went with REO. As in the car maker. Yeah, it's a crappy answer. Sorry.
- 40A: Humana offering, briefly (HMO) — "Humana" being just one in a long line of "huh?" words for me today.
- 65A: Setting for half of Chopin's 24 preludes (MINOR KEY) — I'd have been a lot more irked by the horrid "setting" misdirection if I hadn't had MINOR in place before ever seeing the clue.
- 3D: Parts of many role-playing games (QUESTS) — this is a good answer ... and the only way I *finally* got BBQ CHIPS, ugh.
- 42D: Childish rejoinder ("IS SO!") — yeah, that's pretty childish.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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P.S. I'm speaking at Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY next week, Friday, October 22, 2010, as part of their library's 75th Anniversary Symposium: "Kapow! From Pulp Fiction to Google Books." My talk is about post-war American paperback cover art (my other great love — and other great blog). I'm assured the conference is free and open to the public. See full details (including my misspelled name) here. Looks like I'm the warm-up act (morning speaker), probably because they know the visuals I'm likely to bring are both hot and hilarious. Vintage paperback covers should wake folks up even if I'm a gigantic bore as a speaker. And now you know.