Quechua speaker / WED 6-30-10 / Mendeleev's tabulation / Pigeonholed in moviedom / Singer of Casta diva aria / 1943 penny material
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Constructor: Kristian House
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: Doing stuff to one-named singers — common phrases are clued as actions performed on one-named singers
Word of the Day: Quechua (22D: Quechua speaker => INCA) —
Quechua is a Native American language family spoken primarily in the Andes of South America, derived from an original common ancestor language, Proto-Quechua. It is the most widely spoken language family of the indigenous peoples of the Americas, with a total of probably some 6 to 8 million speakers (estimates vary widely). Some speakers of Quechua also call it 'runa simi' (or regional variants thereof), literally 'people speech', although 'runa' here has the more specific sense of indigenous Andean people.
Well that was easy. Mid-4s on paper, a good 10-15 seconds faster than yesterday's puzzle. Started writing with 1A: Harry James's "___ the Craziest Dream" ("I HAD") and never really stopped — though I hesitated a few times toward the end. Finished up in the W, where I didn't know (i.e. didn't remember) ERIC Carle (43D: Children's author Carle) and didn't know IRINA (figured it had to be ELENA) (27D: "Three Sisters" sister), and couldn't remember (at first) why the hell Mendeleev was important (38D: Mendeleev's tabulation=> ELEMENTS). Only other sticky clue in the whole grid for me was the one on NORMA — and that's opera, so no shocker there (31D: Singer of the "Casta diva" aria). I wonder if this puzzle is going to skew easy for young(er) people and tough(er) for older people. All the one-named singers whose names are being punned on have a post-1989 fame (chronological order of fame, by my internal clock, goes HAMMER (ca. '89), SEAL (ca. '91), JEWEL (mid-90s?), and PINK (2000s). Notice how my dates get vaguer the farther I get away from college. Individual years were clearly delineated before I graduated college. Afterward, less so. By the 2000s, everything becomes a big blur, punctuated by major life events / national trauma.
- 17A: Conk the "You Were Meant for Me" singer? (CROWN JEWEL)
- 10D: Protect the "Kiss From a Rose" singer from the cops? (HARBOR SEAL)
- 28D: Amuse the "Get the Party Started" singer? (TICKLE PINK)
- 62A: Scratch the "2 Legit 2 Quit" rapper? (CLAW HAMMER)
So ... I liked this puzzle a lot. Clever theme, nicely executed. Good fill. Solid. Does Not look like a (mere) 74-worder. Fill seems overwhelmingly short (mostly 4s and 5s). But there are four cheater squares (NW/SE and N/S), and then a couple of long answers paralleling theme answers in the NE and SW, so I guess that explains how the grid can look and feel 76/78 but really be 74. That distinction may seem minor, but it's not. 78s are easy to construct/fill, 76s a bit tougher, 74s tougher still. You'll rarely see themed puzzles at 72, and almost never lower.
- 39A: 1943 penny material (STEEL) — I did not know that. Just that one year? Was it a war-time thing? Yes! Acc. to wikipedia: "The 1943 steel cent, also known as a steelie, was a variety of the U.S. one-cent coin which was struck in steel due to wartime shortages of copper."
- 53A: Pigeonholed, in moviedom (TYPECAST) — great answer. "Moviedom" is a terrible word, but "Pigeonholed" is wonderful, so it evens out.
- 57A: Site of a 1976 South African uprising (SOWETO) — Little bits of South African history being dispensed between football matches all month long on ESPN and ABC. Enjoying watching matches, but was reminded again today (uh, yesterday) how deeply unsatisfying it is to see a match decided by penalty kicks. Mark of a non-real sport (sorry, hockey).
- 4D: White Label Scotch maker (DEWAR'S) — We have this bottle of something called Yukon Jack in our liquor cabinet, which I think I bought believing it was whiskey. It isn't. It's some kind of liqueur that you drink only if you are a desperate lonely cold Canadian lumberjack. Still, it'll get drunk.
- 22D: Quechua speaker (INCA) – I know this as a contemporary language of South America. Didn't know INCAs spoke it. Only reason I know the language name at all is because my ex-girlfriend studied with Sabine MacCormack, who wrote "Religion in the Andes," among many other books.
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