Red giant in Cetus / SAT 8-13-11 / Yardbirds hit of 1965 / Unlike aristos / Ki legendary founder of Korea / Sci-fi writer Frederik
Saturday, August 13, 2011
Mira [...] also known as Omicron Ceti (ο Ceti, ο Cet), is a red giant star estimated 200-400 light years away in the constellation Cetus. Mira is a binary star, consisting of the red giant Mira A along with Mira B. Mira A is also an oscillating variable star and was the first non-supernova variable star discovered, with the possible exception of Algol. Apart from the unusual Eta Carinae, Mira is the brightest periodic variable in the sky that is not visible to the naked eye for part of its cycle. Its distance is uncertain; pre-Hipparcos estimates centered around 220 light-years, while Hipparcos data suggests a distance of 418 light-years, albeit with a margin of error of ~14%. (wikipedia)
• • •
A solid Saturday outing, and a solid minute faster than yesterday's puzzle. What was most remarkable today was how much prior solving (i.e. lots and lots of solving experience) helped today. I mean, it probably helps every day, but today there were some answers that I remember specifically learning from crosswords. After a quick start (OGEE to NEIGH (15A: Trigger-happy sound?) to WHARF, almost instantly), I had a tiny bit of trouble bringing down the first set of long Downs. I had ANACONDA, and so tried out the short crosses, since I had all of their first letters in place. I looked at 26A: Unlike aristos and tried to think of a word for "poor" or "working class" or "common" ... then remembered the nutty four-letter word I'd seen a handful of times in late-week puzzles past: NON-U. Plugged it in and it worked. Had a similar experience at A.M.E. (32A: Letters in some church names)—African Methodist Episcopal, utterly unknown to me until I ran into it (or it me) in a some old crossword. Had some good luck too. Guessed "I'M A MAN" off just the first "I" and the second "A" (24D: Yardbirds hit of 1965); happened to know POHL (58A: Sci-fi writer Frederik); wrote in NOM for 56A: Jacques Cousteau, e.g. without much hesitation. That last one was damn lucky, as that SE corner was the only corner I was in danger of really struggling over (of course I should've guessed EIDER off the damn first "E," but for whatever reason it did not come at first). NOM + A-ONE got me JOAN BAEZ, which was a real corner-opener. Last letter was probably one of the "A"s in SAAB, which I first had as STAT (34D: 9-5, e.g.).
Grid is solid, with very little in the way of forced or wobbly or obscure fill. Grid is also highly forgettable, with the clue on "GET A ROOM!" being, by far, the most original and lively feature (2D: Order to curtail public bussing). TOO TIRED TO THINK is somehow not very exciting. The clue is more vivid than the answer, I think (7D: Mind-numbingly exhausted). I've never heard of Godzilla creator Tomoyuki TANAKA, which is weird since I'm almost certain I recently put the original "Godzilla" movie in my Netflix queue. But TANAKA is the only thing in the grid I'd never heard of before. Oh, I don't know that particular TSE (30A: Ki ___ (legendary founder of Korea)), but that little answer pretty much filled itself in, so no biggie.
- 28A: Allspice and clove's family (MYRTLE) — why aren't ladies named "MYRTLE" any more? It seems the last MYRTLE of note (American actress MYRTLE Vail) died in 1978.
- 38A: Allowing peeking, perhaps (AJAR) — I like this voyeuristically inclined clue. Other suggestive fill includes COMES ONTO, GET A ROOM, AT IT AGAIN, INTO IT, and ERECT.
- 61A: Fifth in a series of seven old comedy films ("ROAD TO RIO") — though it might be something Thin Man-esque. . .
- 63A: Her temple was adorned with cows' horns (DIANA) — wanted it to be HERA, who is often described as "cow-eyed," but no. Once I had EIDER, DIANA was pretty easy to figure out.
- 13D: Its logo features two eighth notes (iTUNES) — I'm very familiar, though lately the logo I've been staring at most days is the Spotify logo. I don't know what it's supposed to represent.
- 50D: They call their native language "te reo" (MAORIS) — I had almost all this filled in before I saw the clue, which is too bad, as I think I could've got this one. Have a lot of experience with said language from various NZ cryptic crosswords (which I used to solve with my (Kiwi) wife).
- 58D: Like tailgated drivers, often (POKY) — had SLOW at first. POKY is much nicer.