Pioneering woman lawyer Bradwell / FRI 11-12-10 / Ancient resident Mexico's Cholula / Big C airer / Old NYC elevated operator / Newton alternative
Friday, November 12, 2010
The Toltec culture is an archaeological Mesoamerican culture that dominated a state centered in Tula, Hidalgo in the early post-classic period of Mesoamerican chronology (ca 800-1000 CE). The later Aztec culture saw the Toltecs as their intellectual and cultural predecessors and described Toltec culture emanating from Tollan (Nahuatl for Tula) as the epitome of civilization, indeed in the Nahuatl language the word "Toltec" came to take on the meaning "artisan". The Aztec oral and pictographic tradition also described the history of the Toltec empire giving lists of rulers and their exploits. Among modern scholars it is a matter of debate whether the Aztec narratives of Toltec history should be given credence as descriptions of actual historical events. While all scholars acknowledge that there is a large mythological part of the narrative some maintain that by using a critical comparative method some level of historicity can be salvaged from the sources, whereas others maintain that continued analysis of the narratives as sources of actual history is futile and hinders access to actual knowledge of the culture of Tula, Hidalgo. Other controversy relating to the Toltecs include how best to understand reasons behind the perceived similarities in architecture and iconography between the archaeological site of Tula and the Maya site of Chichén Itzá - as of yet no consensus has emerged about the degree or direction of influence between the two sites. (wikipedia)
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Streaky puzzle. Normal, easy, pretty rough for a while, and then easy again at the end. Lack of secluded areas kept me from getting terminally bogged down, esp. in the SE and on into the center-W, where I struggled the most. First scan of clues up top yielded nothing until I put in ALT (19A: What's gained after taking off: Abbr.), which revealed SOSA (1D: 1997-99 N.L. strikeout leader) and URAL right away. Took care of that NW section and then headed E thanks to a halfway decent knowledge of 20th-century pop music (the IKETTES (8D: 1960s R&B backup group, with "the"), "LET'S DANCE" (10D: 1983 #1 hit for David Bowie). Thought Ross Perot's birthplace might have been somewhere called TEXAS CITY, but that "S" wasn't working, and once I pulled it, things started moving again (starting with TEXARKANA).
Slight hold-up getting into the far NE. Had to work those long Downs from the bottom up, and couldn't do it until I realized that 39A: It's often in a sling was not GUN (as in GUN-slinger???), but GIN (great clue—"sling" here being a drink). Main problem in the SE was trying DUMDUM instead of TOMTOM at 53A: Monotonous beating sound, and then DUST MOP instead of DUST PAN, ugh (43D: Bunny collector?). Had DON and APE before ACT at 61D: Put-on. Figured 66A: Quartzite and such was some kind of -ORES (instead of SANDSTONES). No idea who MYRA Bradwell was (54D: Pioneering woman lawyer Bradwell). So it was a mess down there for a while. Started to dig myself out with ERLE, the only famous four-letter mystery writer I could think of from Ngaio Marsh's era (56D: Contemporary of Ngaio).
Once out of there, I poked around futilely for a bit, then took a risk on CONTAC (49A: TheraFlu alternative), which led to SCYTHE (46D: Means of splitting stalks?), and then the final quick push to the end was underway. Last letter into the grid: the "R" in OAR (36A: Backwash creator) / REC (37D: Sport, for short). Most of the difficulty today lay in clever cluing. Flat-out didn't know only a few answers, like MYRA and TOLTEC and HOWE (16A: "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" lyricist). The puzzle was mostly enjoyable: ALEXANDER I (29D: Grandson of Catherine the Great) is not that interesting, and OREO COOKIE (15A: Newton alternative), while valid, feels redundant, but otherwise the answers seemed pretty fresh and the cluing was tricky without being overly cute.
- 1A: One "standing by the ocean's roar," in a 1963 song (SURFER GIRL) — could not place the lyric—got it once I got "SU-F..."
- 27A: Division indicator (SLASH) — I wanted something way fancier, like, I don't know, OBERON? OBELISK? What's that think called? OBELI? Yeah, I think that's it.
- 35A: Chronological threshold (EVE) — I had ERA. Stupid.
- 44A: Fruit-ripening gas (ETHENE) — just made it up. It *felt* right. And was.
- 46A: Crassus defeated him (SPARTACUS) — I always think of "SPARTACUS" as a fictional character, played by Kirk Douglas.
- 3D: Robbed, old-style (REFT) — vaguely familiar, probably from Shakespeare.
- 11D: Omega, to a physicist (OHM) — I love how crosswords can allow me to pretend like I know stuff (ETHENE, OHM ... look at me, I'm a scientician!)
- 24D: Slot car controller (RHEOSTAT) — I have controlled slot cars before. I did not know the controller had such a fancy-sounding name.
- 26D: With 45-Down, unisex topper (SKI / HAT) — "unisex" doesn't exactly say "ski," but I got it easily enough.
- 33D: Maze full of dead ends? (CATACOMBS) — given the clue, I was looking for something-TOMBS.
- 28D: Preparation that makes folks hot? (LOVE POTION) — nice clue. LOVE POTIONs are common in romance literature of the Middle Ages (most notably in the story of Tristan and Iseult).
- 42D: Old N.Y.C. elevated operator (IRT) — Interborough Rapid Transit.
- 62D: "The Big C" airer, briefly (SHO) — love Ms. Linney. Will watch this on DVD when it comes out.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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