Milquetoast of old comics / FRI 2-18-11 / Bird in Sean O'Casey title / Unseen Mork & Mindy character / Common praenomen Roman emperors
Friday, February 18, 2011
Juno and the Paycock is a play by Sean O'Casey, and one of the most highly regarded and oft-performed plays in Ireland. It was first staged at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin in 1924. It is set in the working class tenements of Dublin in the early 1920s, during the Irish Civil War period. // It is the second of his well known "Dublin Trilogy" - the other two being The Shadow of a Gunman (1923) and The Plough and the Stars (1926). [best I can tell, PAYCOCK is some kind of phonetic rendering of "peacock" (!?!)]
Status: IRRITATED (37A: Peevish). I'm used to Loving Patrick Berry puzzles, and I just didn't love this one. It's fine, but sub-Barry. Got annoyed at the uneven difficulty level, first of all. Super easy NW. Most of the rest was ordinary Friday-hard, but the NE, jeebus! Half my time was spent in that damn quadrant. OK, maybe not half, but at least a third. Couldn't see LEECHES off the LE-. Didn't know ISLA. Could never have guessed STET for 35A: Indicator of second thoughts. Could Never have guessed GRECO- for 20A: Roman leader? Thought the clue on INANE (16A: Like wearing socks on your hands) was just that (esp. after watching the latest "Glee," where leg warmers worn on the arms became a fashion fad). So many other adjectives fit that stupid clue. Thought PALAU instead of SAMOA at 9A: 2009 "Survivor" setting. No idea what an AEROSTAT is (13D: Balloon, e.g.). As for 12D: Like early life, I believe the term is "single-cell(ed)" — ONE-CELLED looks INANE. In short, the only answer I had in there was HALT, and I wasn't even sure about that (28A: Stop order?). I'd still be solving that damned quadrant if I hadn't just guessed NADER (18A: Four-time presidential candidate) and gotten the ball (finally) rolling.
I liked the SE best, with CASHES OUT being perhaps my favorite answer (31D: Quits gambling). I also like that HAVE A GO AT (14A: Attempt) looks like HAVE A GOAT (don't mind if I do!). Too much of this grid was simply dull. ASSIST, SNEERS AT, SENSE, ATTESTS, "ERES TU" (23D: 1974 Billboard hit with Spanish lyrics)—it all felt uninspired. Too many of the "?" clues fell flat. The very word "milquetoast" is annoying to me and despite knowing a thing or two about comics I'm utterly unfamiliar with the character of CASPAR Milquetoast from the 1924 (!?) comic strip "The Timid Soul" (24A: Milquetoast of old comics). I figured The Friendly Ghost was at issue. And then there's the matter of PAYCOCK, which I assumed was some kind of close relative of the gamecock. But no. Some Irish play I don't know. . . this puzzle just wasn't for me.
- 19A: "Isn't that so?," to Rousseau ("N'EST-ÇE PAS?") — big fat gimme that opened the NW right up. From there, LENTO, ARTOO (21A: Sci-fi beeper), GHANA (1D: African soccer powerhouse popularly known as the Black Stars), etc. Then I dropped TESLA COIL (15D: Early radio transmitter). Then ... nothing.
- 33A: 2008 greatest hits album that includes the song "Proud Mary" ("TINA") — first guess, but couldn't believe *that* would be the clue for an ordinary name like TINA.
- 34A: Palindromic name high on the Forbes billionaires list (SOROS) — even with the Os, I couldn't see this. Kept wanting PEROT, despite his name's being utterly non-palindromic.
- 53A: Unseen Mork & Mindy character (ORSON) — wow, it's been a looooong time since I've thought about "Mork calling ORSON, come in ORSON!"
- 55A: Common praenomen among Roman emperors (GAIUS) — not sure where I pulled this name from, but it came pretty easily.
- 30D: 1997 animated film set in Russia ("ANASTASIA") — I have only a dim memory of this movie's ever existing. Clue made it easy enough to get from crosses.
- 33D: More than a quarter of native Filipinos, ethnically (TAGALOGS) — knew Tagalog was the language; had no idea it was an ethnicity :(
- 50D: ___ Research Center (NASA lab in Silicon Valley) (AMES) — I must have heard of this place before, bec. I wanted AMES early on, but I honestly don't know how.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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