Singer/songwriter MacColl / FRI 4-22-11 / 1930 tariff act co-sponsor / 1989 one-man show / Blini go-with / Plant once considered source courage
Friday, April 22, 2011
Sylvia Syms (December 2, 1917 - May 10, 1992) was an American jazz singer. // She was born Sylvia Blagman in Brooklyn, New York. As a child, she had polio. As a teenager, she went to jazz-oriented nightclubs on New York's 52nd Street, and received informal training from Billie Holiday. In 1941 she made her debut at a club called 'Billy's Stable'. // In 1948, performing at the Cinderella Club in Greenwich Village, she was seen by Mae West, who gave her a part in a show she was doing. Among others who observed her in nightclubs was Frank Sinatra who considered her the "world's greatest saloon singer." Sinatra subsequently conducted her 1982 album, Syms by Sinatra. // She was signed to a recording contract by Decca Records, having her major success with a recording of "I Could Have Danced All Night" in 1956. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. Syms made regular appearances at the Carlyle in Manhattan. At times, impromptu, while enjoying a cocktail in the bar of the Carlyle, she would walk on stage and perform with the cabaret's other regular, Bobby Short. // She died on stage at the Algonquin Hotel in New York from a heart attack, aged 74. (wikipedia)
In short: liked it. Long stuff is wonderful, and short stuff is solid enough to keep me from squawking. Much. INTERNEE made me wince (42A: John McCain, e.g., for over five years), and shoving two not-terribly-famous singers (SYMS and EWAN somebody ... 62A: Singer/songwriter MacColl) into one little corner seemed kind of cruel, but that was all more than offset by the SUPEREGO TIRADES (35A: Id checker + 41A: Nail-spitting sessions) and the poetic trinary: "MISTRESS ON THE WAY ... STAY CALM!" (37D: Many a tryst participant + 38D: Not yet born + "Nobody panic") Nice to see another muse besides CLIO and ERATO in the puzzle (43D: Sister of Clio => EUTERPE, muse of music).
For some reason the IN in "IN REAL TIME" seemed superfluous to me, as "REAL-TIME" is a perfectly good (and common) adjectival phrase that fits the clue just fine (63A: Like instant messaging).
I could think only of QUINCY at 28A: Jazzy Jones. Then, when I got NORAH, I thought, "Oh, right, she's his daughter." Only she isn't. Her father is indeed a famous musician—but it's (crossword stalwart) RAVI Shankar. But then, I thought, who's the pretty, talented, not-clearly-African-American woman whose father is Quincy Jones? And then I remembered that that's RASHIDA Jones, whom I had just watched (only one hour earlier) in an episode of "Parks & Recreation" (my favorite show on all of television at the moment). So that is the story of my brain's escapade through the magical world of JONESES. I hope you enjoyed it.
Started this one in the NW and got Nowhere Fast. Considered WORLD ATLAS and WASHER at 1A: Setting for many legends (HALL OF FAME) and 1D: One erasing marks (HIT MAN), but then MME (19A: M.'s counterpart) threw a wrench in those (perfectly good) plans. Fumbled around until I saw the Bee Gees clue, and though I don't know the song, the clue seemed to demand the phrase "HE'S A" (11A: The Bee Gees' "___ Liar") — that, or LIAR, which seemed highly unlikely, though I actually saw that clue / answer combo in a (terrrrrible) puzzle just last week. Confirmed that answer right away with HASPS (11D: Features of some diaries), and then took off, tearing that corner down like it was a Tuesday. Ended up backing into the NW via ANONYMS (which I did not know was a word) (8D: Unidentified people) and ETNA (10D: Blower of giant smoke rings). This was enough to trigger (the great) "I KID YOU NOT" (15A: "Seriously!"), and then I figured out what the deal was with Superman's arms (2D: Like Superman's arms, often => AKIMBO) and sailed smoothly from there.
Hardest part for me (aside from just getting started) was the TAE / HAIR GEL / GENUS section. Man doing light work? is a great clue for EDISON, but (with "abbr.") I don't like it so much for his monogram, which is always an unwelcome bit of fill, the cruddiness is highlighted by the difficult clue. ENNE could've been ENNA, and was, for a bit. The distance from [Do glue?] to HAIR GEL is enormous (though clue is cute — in case you're wondering, you have to understand "Do" as a noun). And GENUS ... well, that was easy enough (46A: Begonia, Geranium or Magnolia), but confusion over other stuff kept it hidden for a bit. But I worked it all out. Hey, aren't GENE (40D: Family hand-me-down?) and GENUS related, etymologically? Through Latin back to Greek? [interlude: Whoa, I just opened my Webster's 3rd Int'l dictionary open to find "Gen-" and the first page I came to had "HORNY CORAL" bold in the upper left corner. The secret lives of coral ... who knew?] Dictionary lists GENE as G. and GENUS as L., but I gotta believe that it's not a coincidence that both end up in words about biological classification. Anyway, I don't think crossing them was a great idea. Just make GENE Hackman.
Mistakes: LUMET for LUCAS (48A: "THX 1138" director, 1971), despite knowing *perfectly well* that "THX 1138" involved "that 'Star Wars' guy" ... brain somehow forgot 'Star Wars' guy's name, and then convinced me that 'Star Wars' guy merely wrote it, while LUMET directed. Wanted RECOIL for RECALL (57A: Defect effect). Made sense at the time, i.e. if your face or personality or smell is defective, it will make me RECOIL. No other serious trips. Oh, wanted EBON for ONYX (25A: Black), but thought that clue for EBON would've been too easy for a Friday. I was right.
- 30A: 1930 tariff act co-sponsor (SMOOT) — weird (to me) that this name, and the name of the tariff act's other co-sponsor, live in my brain. Sadly, they live there as SWOOT-HARTLEY instead of the correct SMOOT-HAWLEY, but ... whatever. Minor details.
- 52A: Plant once considered a source of courage (THYME) — then that general fed it to his troops and they still ran screaming from the battlefield, so scientists were like "Hmm, maybe not."
- 4D: Its HQ are in Temple Square (LDS) — Latter Day Saints. I was thinking maybe KAOS or SMERSH, but no.
- 49D: Blini go-with (CAVIAR) — so *that's* what blini go with? I keep seeing BLINI in the puzzle and thinking "pancakes? like with syrup? what do Russians put on their pancakes?" And now I know. Fancy.
- 51D: First African-American Republican National Committee chairman (STEELE) — yeah, that didn't last. They put a white guy in there earlier in the year, and despite his ridiculous name (REINCE PRIEBUS!), he hasn't been heard from since (unlike STEELE, who was deemed "controversial" from the get-go, despite overseeing the Great Republican Resurgence of 2010). Mainly I just miss STEELE's appearances on "The Daily Show".
- 65D: 1989 one-man show ("TRU") — shows in three letters are pretty hard to hide. This clue has three give-aways: 1989, one-man, and the fact that it's three letters. "TRU" is like the "R.U.R." of the '80s.
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