Mezzo-soprano Marilyn / FRI 2-24-12 / President's daughter on West Wing / French loanword literally means rung on ladder / Psychedelic 1968 song featuring lengthy drum solo / Once-autonomous people southern Russia / 1980s Tyne Daly role / Hymn sung to Apollo / Homeric character who commits matricide
Friday, February 24, 2012
Constructor: Patrick Berry
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
Word of the Day: whatnot (51A: What a whatnot has = BRIC A BRAC) —
- A minor or unspecified object or article.
- A set of light, open shelves for ornaments.
• • •
This seems an OK puzzle, but I didn't enjoy it much. With the exception of (finally) figuring out "INAGADDADAVIDA" (48A: Psychedelic 1968 song featuring a lengthy drum solo), most of the effort didn't seem quite worth it. STOCKS AND SHARES is a meaningless phrase to me (30A: Paper assets). I mean, I know those words, but I wouldn't put them together into a grid-spanning central phrase. I just learned that there are things called "STOCKS AND SHARES ISAs" (Individual Savings Accounts). OK. Started out lightning fast in the NW, then got to WATER- and couldn't build on it at all. Two really bad wrong guesses (SALUTE for SNAP TO (8D: Acknowledge a commander's entrance, maybe), EAR LOBE for EARLOCK (?) (14D: One hanging at a temple) kept me at bay a long time in the north. Don't know who ALAN BATES is (15A: 1968 Best Actor nominee for "The Fixer"). This fact strangely does not EMBARRASS me. Stuff like HERBAGE and ELLIE meant nothing to me (35D: Nonwoody plant parts). [Blank] SLIDE could've been at least two other four-letter words besides ROCK. I certainly didn't know what a "whatnot" was (in this clue's sense of the word), and though the only -AC-ending word I could think of was BRIC A BRAC, it kept seeming wrong for various reasons (51A: What a whatnot has).
The thing that irritated me most about the puzzle—in fact the only thing that I found genuinely irritating at all—is the clue for ORESTES (38A: Homeric character who commits matricide). If we are calling ORESTES a "Homeric character," then virtually every known character from classical mythology is "Homeric." ORESTES is not a "character" in either of the Homeric epics—not in the sense that English-speaking human beings generally understand the word "character." He is mentioned in both. Briefly. Despite the fact that you could lawyer up a defense of the clue on a "letter of the law" basis, this clue is fundamentally dishonest. Aeschylus wrote substantially about ORESTES. Homer simply waved at him in passing.
- 13A: Mezzo-soprano Marilyn (HORNE) — no idea, but didn't matter 'cause that corner was easy. Also had no idea "DONAHUE" was ever on MSNBC (25A: It was MSNBC's highest-rated program when canceled in 2003).
- 21A: French loanword that literally means "rung on a ladder" (ECHELON) — this was a gimme—a gimme I could've used in a much harder part of the grid. A gimme that was wasted in this already-easy corner.
- 37A: It has a denomination of $1,000 (T-NOTE) — uh ... OK. I was thinking G-NOTE, for obvious reasons.
- 41A: Weapons used to finish off the Greek army at Thermopylae (ARROWS) — I'd forgotten this. And rounding off the classical trifecta of clues, we have PAEAN (5D: Hymn sung to Apollo).
- 2D: Poet who gave us "carpe diem" (HORACE) — ah, the opening of this puzzle, when everything seemed so right. I went THAI / IN NEED / ARETHA / HORACE in about 10 seconds.
- 7D: Kaplan who co-hosted six seasons of "High Stakes Poker" (GABE) — at four letters, I figured it had to be him, but my incorrect SALUTE kept clashing with him, so I wouldn't put him in. TV poker, ugh ... more stuff I just don't care about. Puzzle is just outside my general sphere of interests.
- 33D: Once-autonomous people of southern Russia (COSSACKS) — lots about them in Anna Karenina. At least I think that's how I know about them.Whoa, Tolstoy also wrote a novel titled, simply, "The COSSACKS." I did not know that.
- 12D: Letter on Kal-El's costume (ESS) — It's technically "Clark's" costume, but ... whatever. This was a gimme. Just covered the "ESS" specifically in a recent class discussion of Frank Miller's "The Dark Knight Returns."
- 47D: 1980s Tyne Daly role (LACEY) — 'Cause CAGNEY wouldn't fit.
SYNDICATED SOLVERS (if it's Fri. Mar. 30, 2012, that's you):
P.S. Here's a birthday / tribute puzzle for you. Warning: it revolves around the lyrics to a song. If you don't know the song, the puzzle will be doable, but at least partially mystifying. The song was very popular, so I'm hoping it resonates with at least some of you. You can get the .pdf or .puz file here (at Amy's place). I'll post the solution later.