Yiddish for connoisseur / FRI 12-9-11 / Victorious fleet commander at Actium / Country * 1936 Oscar-winning Disney short / Queen who becomes Senator in Star Wars saga
Friday, December 9, 2011
Constructor: Patrick Berry
Latin: "Ready for anything" (motto of the U.S. Army's 18th Infantry Regiment)
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A typically smooth and interesting Patrick Berry themeless puzzle. Would've skewed toward the Easy side were it not for the NE corner, which brought me to a complete if not screeching halt. Everything above the CRISIS in CRISIS MODE (20A: "The worst is upon us" mentality) was a blank. Neither the PAD in SCORE PAD nor the GAME in HOME GAME was helping me get the first parts of those phrases at first, and the missing crosses? A perfect storm of You Must Be Kidding. McGovern's 1972 running mate? 1936 Oscar-winning Disney short? Some Latin phrase I've never heard of? Yipes. I had that horrid, sickly feeling of Stuck. If I'd been able to spell AM*I*DALA (13D: Queen who becomes a senator in the "Star Wars" saga), I might have gotten myself out of this rut sooner, but no. I eventually got HOME GAME, and then completely guessed SHRIVER. Things came together from there. I probably lost only 30-45 seconds, but that's an Eternity in crossword time (for me). The rest of the puzzle never managed to halt my steady forward progress. I lucked out along the way—ALMOND JOY clue was Ridiculously easy, I know Dolly Parton's "JOLENE" and K.D. LANG's "Constant Craving" by heart, and LAVINIA and I are old friends. SW, like its symmetrical counterpart, was tough, but in a way I could fight through ... though I don't know what I'd have done without the EWOK (47D: Furry denizen of Endor), 'cause I had Nothing in that quadrant until that critter came along. "K" led to PASSKEYS led to HARLEY etc. etc. Long live the EWOK (I malign these creatures a lot, but I'll take a passel of EWOKs over a single queen AMIDALA any day).
An astonishing number of answers from Roman history today: its beginnings in LAVINIA (her marriage to Aeneas provides the mythical foundation for the civilization that would become Rome), its Golden Age glory in AGRIPPA (34D: Victorious fleet commander at Actium), and its 410 AD death knell in ALARIC (1A: Visigoth king who sacked Rome). Lots of music today too, with an especially interesting clue on MAMA CASS (36A: Pop singer born Ellen Naomi Cohen). Didn't know her given name. Also didn't know "CSI" forensic scientist Grissom (GIL). Not a fan of that franchise. I was a fan of "Twin Peaks," however, and Sherilyn FENN's name came back to me rather easily (48A: "Twin Peaks" actress Sherilyn). MAVEN does not sound Yiddish to my ears, so I was reluctant to put it in, even though it was the first word that came to mind (26A: Yiddish for "connoisseur"). The first word (or phrase, rather) that came to mind at 29D: Female impersonators use them was FAKE BOOBS. Later, when I had more of the crosses, I was almost convinced that the answer could be FALSE TITS. this made the actual (fine) answer something of a let-down.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld