Set of cursive Japanese symbols / FRI 10-8-10 / Popular bar since 1946 / Lake Chapala's state / His vet is Liz Wilson / Elegantly groomed
Friday, October 8, 2010
Hiragana (平仮名, ひらがな or ヒラガナ) is a Japanese syllabary, one basic component of the Japanese writing system, along with katakana, kanji, and the Latin alphabet (rōmaji). Hiragana and katakana are both kana systems, in which each character represents one mora. Each kana is either a vowel such as "a" (あ); a consonant followed by a vowel such as "ka" (か); or "n" (ん), a nasal sonorant which, depending on the context, sounds either like English m, n, or ng (IPA: [ŋ]), or like the nasal vowels of French. (wikipedia)
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As very-low-word-count (58) puzzles go, this one is good. Then again, I'm both a Johnny Cash *and* a Pretenders fan, so this puzzle got on my good side pretty early on with "RING OF FIRE" (5D: Country standard that begins "Love is a burning thing") and CHRISSIE HYNDE (27A: The great Pretender?). I think this puzzle (despite having only one real nutso word) might play toward the Challenging side, if only because a. low-word-count puzzles tend to rely on very common letters like E, R, etc. and b. when you're dealing with lots of wide-open space, very common letters don't do you much good in terms of providing footholds, i.e. helping you get crosses. This problem was especially evident for me in the NE, which took me quite a bit longer than any other section. Threw NO SENSE (14A: What a yo-yo might make) across and expected magic. Got none. E, N, S ... they just weren't giving me good traction. *&$%ing BENNETT (19A: Conservative pundit with a daily morning radio show) wasn't much help either, both because of all his super-common letters and because of my failure to know that he has a radio show at all, let alone that it comes on in the morning. In general, hard to get traction when there are no 3s and very few 4s to get you started. In the end, I'm impressed that there's not a lot more of what we usually see with sub-66 puzzles: made-up-seeming words, -ER words, plurals, etc. PILER (24A: One doing laundry, often) kind of hurt, but everything else 5+ felt good.
Thought I was off to a fast start with STAG (1D: One way to go to a party) and TANNIC (12A: Somewhat astringent, as wine) and GEORGIA (18A: "Driving Miss Daisy" setting) all going down lickety-split, but AKRONOH (i.e. AKRON, OH, CHRISSIE HYNDE's home town) (15A: City where A.A. was founded), criminy! I think I threw ALTOONA in there at first, and then just backed off and waited for crosses. If it hadn't been for HORSE (33A: Basketball shooting game), I don't know how I would've gotten into the SW, and even then it was dicey. Luckily managed to pick up CLOSE SET off just the "C" and "O" (27D: Like an owl's eyes). Never heard of HIRAGANA — needed every cross there — and eventually just guessed that the first letter of -TMOS had to be "A" (34D: ___ Energy (big natural gas utility)). Not sure I understand why MUTED is [Soft, now], as opposed to [Soft, whenever]. Considered BEDS and COTS (?) before figuring out SODS (43D: Rolls out for sale at a nursery). Then, despite having NABOB (solidly) and COVEY (tentatively) in place, I couldn't do anything with the NW at first (14D: Big shot + 6D: Quail flock). I think the wild (if mildly educated) guess of AVIONIC at 17A: Like collision avoidance systems was what finally brought the section down. That allowed me to get NEON SIGN (8D: Strip teaser?) off the "EO" pairing, and that was pretty much that.
- 6A: Biblical figure who received the curse of Ham (CANAAN) — why did I think CANAAN was a place??? Oh, because it is. Well, good. Would've been very unsettling if my brain had just invented the phrase "Land of Canaan"
- 20A: Popular bar since 1946 (ALMOND JOY) — Ah ... bar. I see. Time to implore Hershey executives yet again to bring back the dark chocolate Almond Joy. Perfection.
- 21D: Lake Chapala's state (JALISCO) — I've been LEFT JABbed (23A: Delivery that may floor you) by this damned "state" before and today it happened again. Even with the -ISCO in place I couldn't retrieve it. Grrrr.
- 35D: Elegantly groomed (SOIGNÉ) — I'm going to start using this facetiously to describe people dressed to the nines. Better yet, I'm going to start calling such people "Rico SOIGNÉ":
- 36D: It's worth a couple of bucks in Canada (TOONIE) — plunked down LOONIE. But no, "couple," as in "two," as in "TOOOOOONIE."
- 41D: His vet is Liz Wilson (ODIE) — Daughter, this morning: "There's a new comic strip in the paper." Me: "Yeah, 'Cathy''s gone." Daughter: [Stunned look]. Me: "Well they didn't kill her. The artist just stopped drawing the comic." Daughter, who never read "Cathy" anyway: "Oh" [turns back to paper, resumes earnestly trying to understand what exactly is funny about "Hagar the Horrible"]
Oh, and then, this just in—brand new music video from S.F. band My First Earthquake called "Vow to Vowels." It's a love song about xwords (even features a shout-out to Will Shortz ... also rhymes "crossword" with WSJ tech columnist "Walt Mossberg" (dang!)). Lead singer sent me the link this morning, and I think it's adorable. Check it:
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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