Signature song of Peter Allen / SAT 11-6-10 / Dadaist Hausmann / Capital near Green Peter Lake / Old Chicago Outfit frontman / Rondo producer
Saturday, November 6, 2010
An inflorescence having stalked flowers arranged singly along an elongated unbranched axis, as in the lily of the valley.
[Latin racēmus, a bunch of grapes.]
• • •OH ... MIC! (11D: Like some resistance). And things were going so well. Couldn't believe how quickly I was taking this thing apart—was clearly on my way to setting ... well, not a Saturday record, but certainly a Brad Wilber record (I think his puzzles are, on average, the toughest around). So, I'm actually getting a little spooked at how quickly stuff is falling. Went through the SE very easily, and absolutely steam-rolled the NE—threw across OUT THERE (16A: Kooky) and SAD SONGS (7A: Music that may make you get down), and then knocked off each and every one of the Downs up there, in order, without hesitation. Eerie. So, I should've known that something was up—like in horror movies when there's some scary noise but then we see that no, it's just the cat swatting at a drawstring, whew, no danger OMG AXE MURDERER! Oh, the humanity.
Today's axe murderer was the NW. OK, I'm exaggerating, but it did take me almost as long as the rest of the puzzle combined. Only way I got in was slowly, creepingly, by building the corner from the ground up. TOE LOOP (37A: Axel alternative) and SIMIAN (33A: Macaque or marmoset) were easy, but to get AROAR (28A: Like monster trucks or their spectators) I had to infer the "O" in what turned out to be GLADSOME (3D: Delightful) and the "R" in what turned out to be "I GO TO RIO" (2D: Signature song of Peter Allen). Finally figured out that the "wear" in 1D: Wear after a serious spill must be something-CAST, but ... what? I couldn't think of a suitable 4-letter word. HAND? NECK? FOOT? Those all seemed pretty weak, and none of them were giving me any entree into the Acrosses up top. Finally stopped thinking of body parts and just thought BODY. Eureka! YTD (19A: Financial report abbr.) went right in from there and then HANDSOME ... but the B-H beginning to 1A: Baseball All-Star's nickname ... or a popular food product made me realize that "H" must be wrong. So I remembered / semi-invented GLADSOME (really wanted WINSOME!) and then (unfondly) remembered Mark McGwire (aka BIG MAC). OGLALA (15A: Crazy Horse, e.g.) materialized during this process, somehow. Kind of cool that the last thing revealed to me was also one of the coolest answers: DO A JIG (17A: Physically show elation). I didn't physically show elation when I was done, but I did feel a faint sense of pride at having beaten that corner into submission despite my Peter Allen ignorance (the only Peter Allen I know was my freshman-year French professor, for whom I worked one summer on an NEH research grant ... eventually quit his tenured position to go to Wharton and eventually, I assume, earn millions).
Got TEN TO and ALIT first thing. SETHS was also a gimme (25A: Actor Rogen and others). From plural at 31D: They may appear over icons, I put in a terminal "S" and from that got SALEM (51A: Capital near Green Peter Lake). From there, all the words just congealed there at the top of the SE corner, and I went down and around the bend no problem. TOTO IV = piece of cake (64A: Triple-platinum 1982 album with the #1 hit "Africa"). "Africa" is iconic song of my youth, and ... I mean, it ended -OIV, what else was it going to be? I once insisted that the lyric in "Africa" was "I quest the rains down in Aaaaaaaaafrica." Friends insisted it was "bless," not "quest." Me: "He's not a priest, he can't 'bless' anything!" Friends: "Uh, it's 'bless.'" They were right.
Getting into NE was easy because that same cluster of words that propelled me down into the SE also propelled me up. SOFT TOP = easy (7D: Feature of many a Jeep—I have a friend who drives just such a vehicle), and AUTO HARP ... well, the -OHARP was in place, so ... easy guess (8D: Producer of simple chords). Except for in the NW, everywhere there was tough stuff, the non-tough stuff took care of it. RACEME was scary, but with a few crosses, I remembered it. Still not sure I understand HALOS (31D: They may appear over icons), but I'll just assume that the icons in question are religious ones—saints and what not. Not up on my MILL POND trivia (40D: Wheel-powering reservoir), but with just -LL- in place, I knew it was MILL something. "Reservoir" in four letters = POND. So, everything fell my way, and then it didn't. And then, eventually, it did again.
59A: John's neighbor (BIDET)
53D: Doctors with spirits (LACES)
50D: Part of an English wizard's spell? (ZED)
38D: One with a notably hard bed (PAPA BEAR)
68A: Past paranoia producer (RED SCARE)
- 63D: Rondo producer (KIA) — Always handy to have a general awareness of car models.
- 34D: "___ of Her Own" (Clark Gable film) ("NO MAN") — Me: "Clark Gable starred in an adaptation of Virginia Woolf's feminist essay 'A ROOM of Her Own'!?" But it's "A Room of One's Own," and no.
- 42D: Cover-up unlikely to fool anyone (COMBOVER) — favorite answer in the grid, I think.
- 46D: G.M. system with a "Virtual Advisor" (ONSTAR) — The "G.M." part made it a cinch for me. Without the brand name, it might have been tougher, though probably not much.
- 60D: Zodiaco animal (TORO) — the bull. One of those answers that just filled itself in accidentally.
- 22A: Old Chicago Outfit frontman (NITTI) — pure xword memory. I have no experience with him outside the grid.
- 29D: Dadaist Hausmann (RAOUL) — whoa ... no idea. Just inferred his name from the last three letters. Berlin Dada ... whoa, his photo is Krazy.
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P.S. Dear Diana, Isaiah (age 11), and *especially* Hana (age 13), I got your package today, and I don't really know what to say except — I'm incredibly touched, and incredibly grateful (see hand-stitched rendering of my Aug. 17, 2010 NYT xword debut, below). One of the nicest things anyone (who doesn't know me personally) has ever done for me. I mean ... I showed my wife and *she* teared up. The grid, along with your note with the (aDORable) pictures, will hang on my wall forever. Seriously awesome. As one of my Facebook friends said when I posted the pic to my FB wall: "That's up there with Van Gogh's ear as far as impressive presents go." Thank you thank you thank you. All of you.