Headgear for medieval soldiers / SAT 4-16-11 / Ben Jonson title woman / 1977 cult film Where your nightmares end / 1930s film star notable facial hair
Saturday, April 16, 2011
A medieval light helmet with a neck guard and movable visor.
[Old French, alteration (influenced by Old Italian elmetto, helmet) of arme, weapon; see arm2.]
• • •If memory serves, Robert H. Wolfe is not a guy on whose wavelength I often find myself, but if that's generally true, today was a major exception. Lit it on fire. I measure my times against this one particular guy who solves online at the NYT site—he's an A-level solver and generally just better than I am, but today I owned him, by a full half minute. I would have rated this "Easy," but had this strange feeling that I might have been riding a Good Luck Wave today, and so modified the rating slightly. When 1-Across is a gimme (confirmed by a near-gimme at 2-Down), that tends to bode well for puzzle doability. Now, coincidentally, that NW corner was also the site of the puzzle's toughest crossing (by far)—ACTA (1D: Exitus ___ probat (the end justifies the means)) / ARMETS is pushing close to Natick (lethal, unfair cross) territory. Now, given that the subject of 19-Across is ARMo(u)r, the "A" is really the only plausible guess there, so it's fair, but barely. Crossing not terribly common Latin word with a very uncommon word for obsolete headgear?—don't try that at home, kids. Or, if you do, please don't ask me to solve your puzzles.
I really liked the majority of the grid-spanners today. Very colloquial, very snappy. My favorite was probably the least colloquial: MOBILE LIBRARIES (11D: Novel ideas for rural areas?). One of the young ladies in the "Up" series of documentaries works in a MOBILE LIBRARY (at least for a time—we're only through "28 Up") and that is the image I have when I see that phrase. She was providing service to decidedly non-rural places, but I still knew what the clue was getting at. Besides the ACTA / ARMETS cross, the other cross that gave me trouble was FARR / FAA (47A: Org. concerned with the correct approach). I had (misspelled) PARR, but knew that PAA was not ... a thing. But I was sure that the olde-timey TV clue must be looking for (misspelled) PARR, so it took some convincing (of myself) to do away with the "P"; but once I did, and began running the alphabet, FARR showed up pretty quickly (47D: "The Red Skelton Show" regular).
Enjoyed the poetry answers—Foot massager? is a stretch for POET, but I guess that's the point. Honestly, I never saw the clue. I just remarked, in passing, "Hmmm, POET. Interesting. And with CELIA already in the grid. Nice" (32A: Ben Jonson title woman). Other things I like: Michigan WOLVERINES (I was one for a few years there in the '90s) (12D: 51-Down hoops champs of 1989); BAIRNS (reminds me of studying in Edinburgh, the same year the WOLVERINES were basketball champs) (50A: Kids in Kilmarnock); "ERASERHEAD" (unforgettable, with an iconic poster that I saw a million times before I ever saw the film) (57A: 1977 cult film with the tagline "Where your nightmares end..."); and Buster Keaton (though I didn't know that what he was wearing was a PORK PIE HAT—25D: Buster Keaton trademark). Don't think I've ever had a PEPPERMINT CREAM cupcake, and don't think I want to, despite liking PEPPERMINT and CREAM and cupcakes, individually (7D: Zingy cupcake filling).
After my quick start came to a quick stop, I rebooted with DVR and (misspelled) JAMIE (30A: The Bionic Woman's first name=>JAIME), the latter of which proved hard to fix given that I confirmed it with ESTEE right away (31D: Name on Intuition perfume boxes). Couldn't quite bring myself to believe that DAU. was a thing (abbrev. for "daughter," I assume) until I had no choice (26D: Family tree abbr.). Rode JOSEPH'S to HOER and the whole bottom half opened up. Today, the grid-spanners really allowed me to travel easily from one section to the next. Very chutes-and-laddersy feeling, the way I could shoot from one end of the grid straight to the other, where the long answer allowed me a toehold in a new block of short answers.
So, despite the occasional minor clunker, and the relative lack of a challenge, I really enjoyed this one.
- 5A: Slave-making ants steal them (PUPAE) — no idea. Had to wait for crosses.
- 25A: Inits. associated with the old theme park Heritage USA (PTL) — Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. Good times.
- 4D: Where Yiddish was once spoken (SHTETL) — the "once" part was throwing me, as I was trying to imagine a city or other place name that no longer existed (or no longer had Jews, I guess). Learned SHTETL from (you guessed it) crosswords.
- 23D: 1954 A.L. batting champ (AVILA) — tend to be pretty good with the baseball clues, but not with this one. Tony OLIVA I know. Bobby ÁVILA, not so much. A Cleveland Indian, he hit .341 that year, edging out Ted Williams for the batting title.
- 44D: "Torchwood" was spun off from in ("DR. WHO") — almost makes me wish I knew what "Torchwood" was. As it was, the "--WH-" was enough to tip the answer to me.
- 15D: 1930s film star with notable facial hair (ASTA) — knew this would be a non-human actor, and *still* didn't get it straight off. Oof.
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