Central knob of shield / FRI 5-20-11 / Dont make plans for August / 1978 Daniel Patrick Moynihan memoir / Pioneering blues singer Smith / Brute 1970s
Friday, May 20, 2011
n., pl., um·bo·nes, or um·bos.
- The boss or knob at the center of a shield.
- Biology. A knoblike protuberance arising from a surface, as the prominence near the hinge of a bivalve shell or the projection at the scale tip of a seed-bearing cone.
- Anatomy. A small projection at the center of the outer surface of the eardrum.
[Latin umbō, umbōn-.]
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Nine 15s. Impressive, but inevitably you pay for that kind of grid-spanning indulgence in the form of yucky short stuff. UMBO is paradigmatic yucky short stuff (10A: Central knob of a shield). SETT isn't far behind (40A: Rectangular paving stone). RENTE (60A: Pension, in Paris) and COMIN' hurt a little (45D: "___ Home Baby" (1962 Mel Tormé hit)), and there's other stuff here and there that's less than pleasant. There is some payoff here, namely GIANT SEA TURTLES (3D: Loggerheads, e.g.) next to "INDEPENDENCE DAY" (4D: 1996 blockbuster with the tagline "Don't make plans for August"), and OPEN PANDORA'S BOX (30A: Create a whole new set of problems). But the rest I felt like I was just getting through, and too many of the long answers clunked a little for me: SOCCER ANNOUNCER (which is a thing, but so is "[any sport that airs on TV or radio] ANNOUNCER") (5D: One who may comment on a beautiful head shot); INTERNAL AUDITOR (38A: Watchdog in the house?); the mysterious "A DANGEROUS PLACE" (Really? a 33-year old political memoir about being ambassador to the U.N.? OK) (9D: 1978 Daniel Patrick Moynihan memoir). The words and phrases involved here just felt a little limp. I did enjoy the solve, mainly because of the odd grid shape and the weird way that it forced me to solve (mostly burrowing into the little nooks and then blasting out of them with the long 15s). I enjoyed the GIGI / CARON cross-referenced clues (1A: 1958 title role for 21-Across), mostly because I took one look at the "GIGI" clue and guessed both answers straight off (guess that time I researched the difference between "GIGI" and "LILI" (1953) — both starring CARON — paid off). "A DANGEROUS PLACE" could've been cross-referenced with Idi AMIN (14A: Brute of the 1970s), since Moynihan was ambassador when AMIN was in power (Moynihan, not one to mince words, called AMIN a "racist murderer").
Highlight of the puzzle was (finally, well after the fact) deciphering the clue at 54A: Character in "I, Claudius" (COMMA). I wonder how many people are wandering around today (as I might have been if I didn't have to write this stuff up every day) thinking a. "I know Latin names can sound weird, but ... 'COMMA?' What kind of mom names her little boy 'COMMA?' (I guess if you can name a boy TRIG ... and you favor English more than math ...)" and b. "They couldn't have used a punctuation clue there!?" (turns out, they did—the "character" is the COMMA in "I, Claudius" (i.e. "I COMMA Claudius").
Weird start to the puzzle, with "INDEPENDENCE DAY" being the first thing I dropped in the grid. "So ... no plans for August ... which means something happens in July ... what happens in July?" Bang. Then straight into GIGI / CARON. I knew GARTH (from "Bevery Hills, 90210"), but do most solvers (judging by the volume of anti-pop-culture mail I get, I'm guessing 'no')? Ditto BLAKE Lewis (12D: 2007 "American Idol" runner-up ___ Lewis). "American Idol" fame is fleeting except for the very, very few (I say this as someone who watches "Idol" every year, owns not one but two BLAKE Lewis albums, and yet can barely remember the faces let alone the names of every moderately talented generic-looking white boy who's won the competition *since* 2007). OLIN is a better known pop culture figure (at least in crosswords), but her clue is Nuts today (58A: "Bang Bang Orangutang" actress, 2005). If your tastes run more high culture, maybe you enjoyed 42D: Thomas Mann's daughter who married W.H. Auden (ERIKA). I know who those men are, but that clue couldn't have been more useless to me. [A woman's name] would've sufficed. ONO's here again, attempting (and failing) to hide behind a strange clue (35D: Performer who's the descendant of a Japanese emperor). I once got hate mail from Peter NOONE (44D: Herman's Hermits frontman) because he thought I'd insulted him (it was a commenter, not me). I also once saw Peter NOONE in a local cafe here in Binghamton. Thus ends the Peter NOONE section of this program.
- 15A: Hunting attendant of Artemis (OREAD) — one of the many -AD ladies I have trouble keeping straight despite fairly extensive experience reading classical literature / mythology.
- 61A: Duma disavowal ("NYET!") — [Dumas disavowal] would be NON, and [Puma disavowal] would be ["grrrrrr"]. Not sure what [Yuma disavowal] would be. NOPE? SORRY, PARDNER?
- 7D: Photographer Cartier-Bresson (HENRI) — plunked down ANDRE. They're closer in sound than they are on paper.
- 10D: She performed admirably in the War of 1812 (USS CONSTITUTION) — another example of failed answer-hiding techniques. You go with "She" to make the solver think person, but then follow with "war," which pretty much negates any female name that might apply (in 1812, at any rate).
- 11D: Much-performed work set in Nagasaki ("MADAMA BUTTERFLY") — practically a gimme; only issue was that last "A" in "MADAMA," which I had as an "E" to start.
- 31D: Some folks are in it for life (PEN) — speaking of ... looks like I might sign on for another hitch teaching in prison next year. A lot of work for just a little money, but the experience is something close to invaluable. Certainly memorable.
- 41D: Pioneering blues singer Smith (MAMIE) — no idea, though I feel like I've said "no idea" about her before. I guess a Van Doren or Eisenhower clue would've been too easy.
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