Trombonist Winding / SAT 4-28-12 / Hall of Fame jockey Earle / Poem comprised of quotations / Old-time actresses Allgood Haden / Common language of Niger / Round dance officials
Saturday, April 28, 2012
Constructor: Gary J. Whitehead
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
Word of the Day: Earle SANDE (48D: Hall-of-Fame jockey Earle) —
Earl H. Sande (November 13, 1898 – August 19, 1968) was an American Hall of Fame jockey andthoroughbred horse trainer.Groton, South Dakota, Earl Sande started out as a bronco buster in the early 1900s but then became a successful American quarter horse rider before switching to thoroughbred horse racing in 1918. Sande joinedCal Shilling and Johnny Loftus as a contract rider for Commander J. K. L. Ross. In 1919, he tied an American record with six wins on a single racecard at Havre de Grace Racetrack. He went on to ride for noted owners such as Harry F. Sinclair, and Samuel D. Riddle and was the leading money-winning jockey in the United States in 1921, 1923, and again in 1927. He won both the Belmont Stakes five times and the Jockey Club Gold Cup on four occasions, the Kentucky Derby three times and the Preakness Stakes once. In 1923 he won 39 stakes races for Harry F. Sinclair's Rancocas Stable, ten of which were on ultimate Horse of the Year winnerZev, including the Kentucky Derby, Belmont Stakes, and a match race against England's Epsom Derby winnerPapyrus. Sande's most famous wins came aboard Gallant Fox in 1930 when he won the U.S. Triple Crown.
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CENTO & HAUSA (our opening 1D and 2D punch) are about as ugly a pair of side-by-side answers as I've seen in any NYT puzzle, ever (1D: Poem comprised of quotations + 2D: Common language of Niger). Those are the kind of answers that would've reigned in the Maleska era, the kind that give crosswords a bad name ("I don't like crosswords because you have to know bygone Italian sausages and the Sasquatchian word for 'raccoon,' etc."). Mostly, though, it's the ordinary short stuff that clogs the bulk of the grid—that's what wears you down. This puzzle is by no means bad, as an example of its type. Its fairly typical. But it's a stale type. Most of my favorite themeless constructors will focus on making an exciting grid filled with new and/or vivid phrases and names and words. That's what I love. This was certainly a decent challenge, but the excitement just wasn't there.
I absolutely guessed NURSE CLINICIANS (17A: They may perform minor surgeries)— well, the NURSE part — since A: I don't really know what NURSE CLINICIANS are (are they like NURSE PRACTITIONERS, which is a thing I've heard of?), and B: CENTO and HAUSA were Martian as far as I was concerned. Had a slightly worse time in the CUERS (47D: Round dance officials) & SANDE portion of the grid. Looking at C-ERS, S-NDE, and --E (for 55A: Trucial States, today: Abbr.), I honestly thought I was dead. Started reconsidering EPICS (since I'd wanted TIKKA and not TIKKI to begin with (37D: McAloo ___ (burger at McDonald's in India)) ... but then EPICS was the only thing that made sense at 46A: Big pictures, so I left it). Eventually ran the alphabet at C-ERS and hit my mark, then stared at U-E ... and finally got it. Rest of the grid just wasn't that tough. Slow, steady progress took care of it.
- 26A: Old-time actresses Allgood and Haden (SARAS) — another thing about this grid that made it unappealing—it was Ruthlessly "old-time." From SARAS to SANDE to KAI (62D: Trombonist Winding), there is nothing in this grid that you couldn't have found in a grid 40 years ago. Maybe the ALE (a clue I really liked; 57A: Buzzsaw Brown, e.g.). "Old-time" stuff is fine, but it's nice when puzzles bear at least some small mark indicating that they were constructed in this millennium.
- 51A: Sycosis source, informally (STAPH) — not to be confused with the southern musicians' disease "zydecosis."
- 7D: Literary lion (ASLAN) — took me a while, which is especially ironic given that my wife fell asleep in bed next to me, not five minutes before I started this puzzle, reading (that is, rerererererererererere-reading) The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
- 8D: 1955 sci-fi-film that was one of the first to use Technicolor ("THIS ISLAND EARTH") — the very best thing about this puzzle, both because it amazingly cuts through *all* the stacks and, at the same time, is better than every single one of the answers it crosses. I know this film mainly from the background of the comic Watchmen.
- 11D: Killers that may go through hoops (ORCAS) — those must be big hoops. I tend to avoid animal parks of all kinds, so I wouldn't know.
- 12D: City near Oneida Lake (UTICA) — I was bracing for something much more obscure. I've never been there, but know it well from a. "The Simpsons" (a single joke about hamburgers and Albany and Utica that I have never forgotten) and b. the fact that a friend of mine used to commute there to teach.
- 25D: Luis in the Red Sox Hall of Fame (TIANT) — I always get him confused with Dock Ellis (they pitched in the same era). Ellis was most famous, probably, for pitching a no-hitter while high on LSD.
- 33D: Ticket, informally (DUCAT) — I ... don't know what this means. Is it old-timey? I know DUCAT as a very old-timey coin.
- 35D: Color-streaked playing marble (IMMIE) — another triple-stack fill casualty. Not great.