Noted Finnish chair designer / THU 11-18-10 / Dressing tool / Hypothetical fundamental particle / 1990 autobiography subtitled Baseball Wall Me
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Constructor: Peter Wentz
Relative difficulty: Challenging
THEME: QUADRUPLE PANGRAM (43A: What this puzzle is, orthographically)— grid contains four of every letter of the alphabet
Word of the Day: KAMA (CLUE) —
Kāmadeva (Sanskrit: कामदेव) is the Hindu deity of human love or desire. Other names for him include; Ragavrinta (stalk of passion), Ananga (incorporeal), Kandarpa ("inflamer even of a god"), Manmatha (churner of hearts), Manasija (he who is born of mind, a contraction of the Sanskrit phrase Sah Manasah jāta), Madana (intoxicating), Ratikānta (lord of Rati), Pushpavān, Pushpadhanva (one with bow of flowers) or just Kāma ("longing"). Kamadeva is son of Hindu goddess Sri and, additionally, is the incarnation of Pradyumna, Krishna’s son. [...] Kāmadeva is represented as a young, handsome winged man who wields a bow and arrows. His bow is made of sugarcane with a string of honeybees, and his arrows are decorated with five kinds of fragrant flowers. The five flowers are Ashoka tree flowers, white and blue lotus flowers, Mallika tree(Jasmine) and Mango tree flowers. A terracotta murti of Kamadeva of great antiquity is housed in the Mathura Museum, UP, India. (wikipedia)
I could tell right away that something weird was up when I had four Xs in side a 4x4 section of the NW. I was thinking that there'd be some kind of connect the Xs or treasure map theme ... but then I never saw another X. But I saw some Zs. And Js. And Qs. Still, had QUADRUPLE well before I had PANGRAM. I was moving along at a fast enough pace that I didn't care to stop and figure out what the hell was going on. Plow forward until you can't—that's my motto (it'll look great on a coat-of-arms, I think). After I got the central answer, the puzzle actually did get easier, because I went into those (damned isolated) corners expecting and hunting for odd letters and letter combinations. Big help in the south with KOOKY (69A: Like the Addams Family), especially since I had no idea about AKIM (64D: Actor Tamiroff), though I know I've seen him before. North section took the most work—literally (well, figuratively, probably) scratched and clawed for ever single letter—could not see the connection between IVANA and the Taj Mahal until after the puzzle was done, actually (I'm assuming the IVANA is Trump and the Taj Mahal is a casino or hotel or something) (16A: Onetime name at Taj Mahal) (funny that AGRA is also in the grid, since it's the site of the Other Taj Mahal=>34D: Locale of a much-visited mausoleum).
Clues felt amped up a bit today. 36A: Stone work is a devilish clue for "J.F.K." (intersecting presidential mongrams!), and 54D: Awards show with a Best Play category, with "the" had me thinking TONYS and EMMYS before finally hitting ESPYS ("oh ... *that* kind of 'play'"). I did not know that a TUP was a [Male sheep, in Britain]. I had a male turkey there for a bit. Then I remembered the word for what male sheep do to female sheep (see "Othello"), and that fit nicely. In the end, I clearly found this puzzle easier than most others. I had an only slightly slower-than-average time, but the times at the NYT site are abysmal. I crushed people who normally crush me. No idea why this should be. Perhaps it was the easy start—1A: Fighter in the "Iliad" was clearly AJAX, and the first thing I did was confirm the "X"—yep, XERXES fits (4D: Persepolis king). Slid right down into the heart of the grid from there and, with the exceptions of north and south, never struggled inordinately. Lots of names in this one, but I either knew them or fought through them, and they all seemed fairly crossed, so: thumbs up.
- 20A: Annoyance, in British slang (AGGRO) — one of a mountain of words I know only because of xwords. It and words like it (e.g. ADZ (48A: Dressing tool) and INEZ) really helped me move through the puzzle with reasonable facility.
- 49A: 1990 autobiography subtitled "Baseball, the Wall and Me" ("YAZ") — former Red Sox left fielder Carl Yastrzemski. He was in the first set of baseball cards I ever collected (1978). "The Wall" is the Green Monster in Fenway Park.
- 53A: Basketball's Isiah Thomas, to fans (ZEKE) — Yeah, I guess I've heard that. It's not as strong a nickname as YAZ, though. Not by a longshot. Mostly people called Isiah "Isiah," whereas people called Carl Yastrzemski "YAZ" routinely.
- 76A: Longest-lived First Lady (BESS) — there's something odd, bordering on disrespectful, about omitting her last name completely. Or does [First Lady] automatically denote first name?
- 13D: It's about 90 yards of a football field (ACRE) — I couldn't make sense of this until just now, mainly because "90 yards" is a unit of length, not area. But I see where area is implied.
- Noted Finnish chair designer (AALTO) — Like AGGRO, I learned this somewhere along the way (although, truthfully, I wanted EAMES at first, since he's first in my chair designer arsenal).
- 3D: Hypothetical fundamental particle (AXION) — I feel like he was also a dude punished in Hades ... whoops, that's IXION ("bound to a solar wheel for all eternity" because he TUPped (a fake cloud version of) Hera)
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P.S. an animated look at each letter of the alphabet in the grid, by Brian Canes: