Red wear for Speedy Gonzales / SAT 2-5-11 / Sack starter / Ohio town where there's happiness/ Band self-titled 1982 album #1 nine weeks
Saturday, February 5, 2011
Allan Dwan (April 3, 1885 – December 28, 1981) was a pioneering Canadian-born American motion picture director, producer and screenwriter. [...] After making a series of westerns and comedies, Dwan directed fellow Canadian Mary Pickford in several very successful movies as well as her husband, Douglas Fairbanks, notably in the acclaimed 1922 Robin Hood. // Following the introduction of the talkies, in 1937 he directed child-star Shirley Temple in Heidi and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm the following year. // Over his long and successful career spanning over 50 years, he directed over 400 motion pictures, many of them highly acclaimed, such as the 1949 box office smash, Sands of Iwo Jima. He directed his last movie in 1961. (wikipedia)
• • •Pretty much an exemplar of Saturday puzzleness. Right over the plate. Saturday in every way. A very typical and pretty good Saturday puzzle. What to say, what to say? I realized today that I think in Saturday—I mean, my crossword brain is most comfortable in Saturday mode. It's not that I think Saturdays are easier than other days. The vast majority of the time, they aren't. It's that my solver brain assumes every clue is a Saturday clue, that around every bend will be some off-kilter, punning, misdirective godknowswhatkindof clue waiting to knock me on my ass. I'm a fast solver, but pure speed — short sprints in open (Monday/Tuesday) space — will never be my strong suit. Give me some resistance, and I feel like I'm at my best. If you look back over the past, I don't know, year, maybe more, I think you'll see that the puzzles I found most vexatious (!) were not Saturdays. They were probably Thursdays and Fridays, more often than not. Puzzles that try to find a middle-ground, difficulty-wise, are horribly unpredictable, and while I might take one apart quickly, it's just as likely I'll get on the wrong side of its few tough parts and end up flailing. But on Saturday, I know I'm getting a tiger, and I'm ready. And happy. It might take me longer than any other day of the week, but it rarely rattles my confidence.
No Wow Factor with today's grid, though a couple strong answers do stand out: DREAMSVILLE (24D: Ohio town where "there's a happiness" in an old Glenn Miller song), which I love despite never having heard of it, and CEMENT SHOES (9D: Things that may be word by someone sleeping with the fishes), which is today's crown jewel, as far as I'm concerned. Biggest WTF moment for me was DWAN—a moment made even WTFier when I found out he *wasn't* Japanese [I realize there's nothing particularly Japanese about DWAN, but between the "Iwo Jima" in the clue and that never-seen-it-in-English-before amalgamation of letters, my brain jumped the Pacific ... I realize that the closest name analogue I have, Michelle KWAN, is Chinese, not Japanese, but, well, KWAN is also the name of hip-hop band from Finland so who can say, really?]. I have frowny faces next to YER (6D: Saw attachment) and KNAP (63A: Sack starter), half-words I don't care for. Then there's the ugly safety net in the far SE where ESSES crosses ASSES (52D: Zebra kin). Makes it a bit easier to fill those open corners when you put in that kind of padding. But everything else looks pretty good.
I had a Very bad start on this one. Went STEADED to ELSE to EL SOL (!?) — wrong wrong wrong. Should've been SPELLED to EENY to YACHT. Speedy Gonzales's ASCOT (28D: Red wear for Speedy Gonzales) got me headed in the right direction, as did my sense that 31A: Corn-filled state probably had to end with -NESS (HOKEYNESS). Knowing Agnes MOOREHEAD helped a lot (42A: Actress who played Endora on TV's "Bewitched"), as did knowing SHAQ was an L.S.U. alum (41D: Nickname for a noted L.S.U. grad). Got GLISSANDOS off just the "L." What!? It's true (58A: Dramatic piano effects). Surreal to see me flex some musical muscle, but whoomp there it is. Ended up in the NW, which I found toughest, though looking at it now, I'm not exactly sure why.
- 34A: Mineral in the form of quartz or flint (SILEX) — barely know this word, and then only from xwords. Just needed that terminal "X" to knock SILEX off.
- 36A: South-central U.S. city named for a woman in English Literature (ENID) — I thought ENID was named for the first postmaster's daughter or something like that. Man, what city was that? Someone out there must have done the crossword with the clue I'm talking about ... help me out.
- 57A: Band whose self-titled 1982 album was #1 for nine weeks (ASIA) — I'm just the right age for this one. 1982 is probably the most important year in the history of my musical consciousness, in that it's the first year I had one (of my own — before that, my tastes derived almost completely from my parents, who thankfully didn't have terrible taste)
- 33D: Korean-made sedan since 2001 (KIA OPTIMA) — not many answers are going to give you the letter string "IAO" (OK, there's CIAO, but not much else).
- 55D: Alcopop brand (ZIMA) — do people really drink that? I'd sooner eat at Applebee's.
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