24 actress Cuthbert / SAT 3-10-12 / 1940s-50s tough guy Dennis / Burning Giraffes in Yellow painter / Madrigal syllables / Ancient Mycenaean stronghold / Jelly Roll Bix 1994 history early jazz / Crumbled ingredient dirt pudding / TV golf analyst won three Masters
Saturday, March 10, 2012
Constructor: Patrick Berry
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
Word of the Day: SPOT PASS (14D: Part of a timing pattern on a football field) —
A pass directed to a predetermined place on a playing area so that the receiving player arrives at the same time as the pass. (freedictionary.com)
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Humiliating train wreck for me. This puzzle should've been Easy—was Easy, for most of the time. Sometimes Medium, but mostly Easy. And yet I got flattened by it. Well, by one tiny, 4x4 section of it—specifically, the NE corner. Total embarrassment that I could not not not come up with the TAG in TAG SALES (13D: Subjects of many notices stapled to telephone poles). The term is not native to ... my people. We call them "yard sales" or "garage sales." I've never heard anyone refer to a TAG SALE before in my life. But—BUT—I know the term exists. I've seen it before. And—EVENTUALLY—my brain supplied it. But only after a horrid freefall that consumed easily as much time as it took me to complete the entire rest of the grid. Also embarrassing—I watch a lot of pro football, and have followed the game off and on since I was about 8. I cannot remember ever hearing / seeing the term SPOT PASS. I threw every kind of PASS I could up there—nothing. I don't quite understand how a SPOT PASS is different from any pass where the receiver catches it while running. Presumably, yes, you want ball and player to be in the same place at the same time. But again, I'm sure this is something, like TAG SALES, I should've known and just didn't. Also completely forgot what O.S.S. stood for. Organization of ... some kind of States? No. Office of Strategic Services, an intelligence agency formed during WWII (11D: When the O.S.S. was formed). But when you don't know that, and your answer ends in "I"—then the only reasonable answer is (yes) a Roman numeral. I know O.S.S. was 20th-century, and so, for many minutes, it was an agency formed in MCMI. That's right: 1901. Stop the presses, rewrite the history books. Turns out the O.S.S. was formed by Teddy Roosevelt. Ugh. The only thing that saved me was the lucky drifting of TAG to the forefront of my brain. That "G" instantly gave me IAGO (18A: "But men are men; the best sometimes forget" speaker), and then everything fell into place. WITS came out of the woodwork, and then all that remained was CRAP. Literally. That's the answer I had sitting at 16A: Stop shooting (WRAP) until the bitter end. Thus I remember very little about solving this baby. Just the slow-motion face-plant at the end.
- 21A: "Jelly Roll, Bix and ___" (1994 history of early jazz) (HOAGY) — Carmichael, whom I always get confused with Fatty Arbuckle, for no other reason than that they sound like discarded WB cartoon character names.
- 2D: Robert who won Oscars for both writing and directing "Kramer vs. Kramer" (BENTON) — never heard of him. I'm more of a Thomas Hart BENTON man, myself.
- 37A: She bests Sherlock in "A Scandal in Bohemia" (IRENE) — Adler, whom I know from many a crossword puzzle. This was one of several gimmes that made the vast majority of the grid easy to move through. See also ELISHA (1D: "24" actress Cuthbert) and ORESTEIA (32D: Aeschylus trilogy).
- 44A: TV golf analyst who won three Masters (FALDO) — Nick, whose name I know only from hearing it accidentally and repeatedly in my sports-obsessed youth (see my above embarrassment at not knowing what is apparently basic football terminology).
- 55A: Terrible #2s (SORE LOSERS) — Would've kept BORN LOSERS if that hadn't resulted in ridiculous crosses.
- 3D: 1942 invasion site (BATAAN) — keeping with our WWII theme ...
- 28D: 1940s-'50s tough-guy portrayer Dennis (O'KEEFE) — I'm sure I've seen him, but I've never heard the name before, as far as I know. I'm more of a Michael O'KEEFE man, myself.
- 45D: Ancient Mycenaean stronghold (ARGOS) — whence "Argives," i.e. one of the collective terms for the Greeks in "The Iliad."
- 34D: Mineral found in igneous rock (PYROXENE) — if you say so. I had PYROXITE for a bit.
- 33D: "The Week at War" airer (CNN) — never heard of it. But then I probably haven't heard of 90% of their programming. They've got the "Situation Room," right? And that British guy who took over for Larry King? Piers Plowman, I think. Anything else ... ? Probably. But not so's you'd notice.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld