Santa drawer / SAT 2-19-11 / Controversial color enhancer / Classic novel with biblical parallels / Picasso painting sleeping mistress
Saturday, February 19, 2011
Emma Samms (born Emma E. W. Samuelson; 28 August 1960) is a British television actress best known for her role as Holly Sutton on the American daytime soap opera General Hospital and for replacing Pamela Sue Martin as Fallon Carrington Colby on the primetime soap opera Dynasty. (wikipedia)
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This was good, but had way too much short stuff to be very interesting. Tons and tons of 4- and 5-letter answers, more (or so it felt) than your average Monday puzzle. I count 14 answers at 9+ letters and 56 (!) 3-, 4-, and 5-letter answers. No mid-range fill. That's weird. Grid is also weird, with a ton of black squares (again, about as many as one might expect to see on a Monday). Not a lot of fun in going into one of these 4x4 nooks. The one in the SW was the toughest for me, and was not, in the end, very tough. I solved this faster than I did yesterday's, which I did in pretty good time. First thing in the grid was JAZZ (11A: What makes cats happy), and from there proceeded to wipe out most of the grid without much resistance. There were so many blind alleys, I kept expecting to get caught short in one of them (esp. the center), but that just didn't happen. Not a bad experience, but not a memorable one either. I'm thrilled to take a Saturday down in under 8 minutes, but somehow doing so today didn't feel like such a big accomplishment.
All the 4s and 5s gave me ample opportunity to slice into those longer answers, and they all went down without a peep. Up top, after getting EAST OF EDEN (20A: Classic novel with biblical parallels) out of the NE, I dropped ODEA, RDAS, and NAST (9D: Santa drawer) in order, which gave me HAD A BAD DAY (15A: Needed to relax and unwind, say), and the whole NW fell from there. Tried LEMON tart at first, but then a fat gimme just fell in my lap at 24D: "Wannabe" hitmakers (SPICE GIRLS), and LEMON became PECAN (35A: Kind of tart) and center went poof. GO WIRELESS (nice answer) was probably the toughest for me to pick up because I solved it from the back end and it looked like an adjective (ending in -LESS) despite the clue's clearly calling for a verb phrase (43A: Eliminate lines of communication?). From SPICE GIRLS, OMAR (54D: Baseball's Minaya), and MMES, I was able to take out the entire SE in about 30 seconds—the easiest Saturday quadrant I've ever solved, probably. Hardest section for me was that pesky 4x4 bit in the SW. Nothing in clue for N.F.L. UNIFORM to signal abbrev., so N.F.L was hard to see (50A: Wear for some guards), but EXES and FLAX were virtual gimmes, and with the exception of an APSE-for-NAVE hiccup (50D: Mass gathering place), that last section wasn't that hard, in the end.
Got interviewed by local NPR station today for some future segment on crosswords. Interviewer had me solve a puzzle in studio, commenting as I solved — the only puzzle she had handy was the Newsday puzzle, which I normally don't do. But I dove in and really enjoyed it. Turned out it was written by my friend, all-star constructor Doug Peterson. So happy to have a decent puzzle to talk my way through.
- 19A: "Wielding ___ Sword" (Piers Anthony novel) ("A RED") — I think I read some of his stuff when I was an adolescent. Never heard of this title, but phrase was very easy to pick up from crosses.
- 31A: Language with 44 consonants (THAI) — this clue may as well have said, simply, [Language], though that is an interesting bit of trivia.
- 58A: Controversial color enhancer (ALAR) — had SLUR here at first, figuring a SLUR would be controversial and (euphemistically) colorful, language-wise.
- 11D: "Death in the Desert" writer, 1930 (JAMES AGEE) — got the JAMES easily, then just guessed the AGEE part a bit later. Never heard of this work.
- 55D: "Le ___," Picasso painting of his sleeping mistress ("RÊVE") — thought it might be "Le DORA" or "Le MAAR," but the masculine "Le" was wrong and anyway the very idea is preposterous. Blew through that corner so fast I never even had to figure it all out. Crosses just took care of it.
- 28D: Hissy-prone missy (DIVA) — wanted SNIT, but figured that was gender-neutral. Then wanted some kind of cat ... got DIVA from crosses.
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Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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