Transkei native / SAT 6-4-11 / Maugham's prostitute / French singer/actor Rossi / Classic film featuring Captain America / Pike lookalikes
Saturday, June 4, 2011
Tino Rossi (29 April 1907–26 September 1983) was a singer and film actor. // Born Constantino Rossi in Ajaccio, Corsica, France, he became a tenor of French cabaret and one of the great romantic idols of his time. Gifted with an operatic voice, a "Latin Lover" persona made him a movie star as well. Over his career, Rossi made hundreds of records and appeared in more than 25 films, the most notable of which was the 1953 production, Si Versailles m'était conté directed by Sacha Guitry. His romantic ballads had women swooning and his art-songs by Jules Massenet (1842–1912), Reynaldo Hahn (1875–1947), and other composers helped draw sold out audiences wherever he performed. (wikipedia)
A solid, enjoyable Saturday puzzle, somewhat easier and far more wide-ranging in its knowledge base than yesterday's spectacularly dated slogfest. Saturday-tough, but in a way that felt rewarding, with answers that were revelations instead of shrugs or ughs. And the only answer in the whole thing that feels at all obscure is some French guy whose four-letter name was easy enough to get from crosses. Initially the toughest part for me was the NW, even though I started there. Went with [Deer TICK] (wrong), then I WAS HAD (2D: Cry after being duped), DDT (29A: Target of a 1972 ban in the U.S.), OSCARS (19A: Walt Disney's record collection), RAREBIT (20D: Dish that often includes ale), and IBIS (32A: Ancient Egyptians revered it) (all right)—so I was halfway down the grid in reasonable time, but with only patchy coverage. The SW was far more accommodating. My only struggle was in trying to figure out 56A: Opposite of duck. MEET THE ... MEET THE ... of course I was misreading it. There's only one "T" in there (MEET HEAD ON). Then I tried to get up and out of the south and failed. Couldn't precisely remember LORENA Ochoa's name (42D: Ochoa who won the 2007 Women's British Open), though that was my initial guess. Never heard of Maugham's prostitute SADIE (45D: Maugham's prostitute), but with -ADIE staring at me, that too was my initial guess. Still, I wasn't sure enough of either, and I also could *not* get over into that SE corner, even with ARACHNE and OK, SHOOT in place. Ended up having to reboot in the NE and then circle back down until I finally had that mid-east section of the grid surrounded. Had to change PEST to PAIN and SEEN OUT to SAW TO IT, but I got there. Thankfully, there was a nice payoff in ending here: the lovely LOAN SHARK (42A: Risky funding source).
Enjoyed the tough but interesting cluing on many of the answers. "?" clues can be dicey, but I particularly liked 5A: Lush performance setting? (KARAOKE BAR) and 12D: Support for cold feet? ("BE BRAVE!"). Some of the clues were bizarre trivia that I found enjoyable rather than irksome, e.g. 50D: He fell in love with a fire hydrant on "Sesame Street" (ARTOO-DETOO) and 53A: Home to some notable cast-iron architecture in N.Y.C. (SOHO). Got befuddled by 46A: Foxes' neighbors (IOWAS), as I completely forgot the Foxes were a tribe. Then when I realized they were a tribe, I thought "INCAS...?" Only after guessing IOWAS did I finally begin to bridge that nettlesome gap (can a gap be nettlesome?) between mid-south and far southwest. I needed the name of a people to finally get into and polish off the NW as well: XHOSA. My first inclination was LHASA, but that seemed far-fetched. Not sure how I pulled XHOSA out of my bag of crossword tricks (I've only ever seen the word in crosswords, memorably attached to Nelson Mandela) ... hmm, wait, I think I backed "EASY RIDER" into there (26A: Classic film featuring Captain America), then got NET COST (3D: It's lowered by REBATES), and the "O" gave me XHOSA. The rest of that section went quickly.
Crossword experience gave me a nice range of answers besides XHOSA. Got SNEE (21A: Sticker of the past) off just the first "E" (I guess it should also be mentioned that I got OARED off just the "D"—9D: Like a galley), and got GARS off the tentative "R" in LORENA (48A: Pike lookalikes). Despite never having seen the article "uma" before, I pieced together SAO pretty easily (38A: One with uma auréola). OSO was a breeze (a common Spanish crossword answer; 52D: ___ pardo (grizzly, in Granada)). I grew up in Fresno, CA but never heard (until today) of LOS Fresnos, Tex. Perhaps my greatest pulled-it-out-of-my-#^$ answer, though, was AVONLEA, which I got off just the "V" and which I initially spelled AVONLEE (13D: Fictional Prince Edward Island community). Such solving success was astonishing and exhilarating since ... I have no idea how I knew it. Absolutely none. Is that where "Anne of Green Gables" is set? [Googling ...] It is. Wow. Just ... wow. I had no business knowing that. I am not kidding when I say that you now know everything I know about "Anne of Green Gables."
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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