Motor oil letters / SAT 9-1-12 / Big name in taco kits / 1980s Cosby co-star / Ricky Martin's springboard to fame / Gondoliers girl / Victors of 1879 Battle of Isandlwana
Saturday, September 1, 2012
Constructor: Tim Croce
Relative difficulty: Medium
Word of the Day: AYR (8D: Robert Burns's birth county) —
Ayr (Scottish Gaelic: Inbhir Àir: Mouth of the River Ayr) is a town and port situated on the Firth of Clyde in south-west Scotland. With a population of around 46,000, Ayr is the largest settlement in Ayrshire, of which it is thecounty town, and has held royal burgh status since 1205. Ayr is the administrative centre of the South Ayrshire council area, which is the unitarylocal authority. (wikipedia)
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Played on the slow side for me, but then again I solved it while "watching" "Swimming to Cambodia" (1987), so ... when I adjust for distraction, my time is pretty normal. This grid is fine. Not very exciting, but mostly quite smooth. The one exception is that SW quadrant, which is noticeably uglier than the rest of the grid: ON THE, SAE (50A: Motor oil letters), ALMAPASATIASENNA (though you have to love the "PEACE OUT" / "LATER, MAN" crossing). I liked the NW the best, by far. The center is also pretty nice. Clues seemed quite tough, but it *is* Saturday, so that fact is probably not that noteworthy. Honestly, not much to say here. It's a decent Saturday puzzle.
AYR, and so scrambled through my geography rolodex in search of what possible *country* he could've been born in. NORway? It's relatively close to Scotland. SYRia? Seemed unlikely. Eventually reread the clue and figured it out. TESSA = random opera woman's name (25A: "The Gondoliers" girl). Never like those. Thought ED KOCH (24D: Subject of the musical "Mayor") was ALIOTO. Didn't know Lake TANA—that second "A" was the last letter in the grid (46A: Lake from which he Blue Nile begins). Had DETER at 51A: Avoid for an awfully long time. Convinced myself that AVEEDO and ELECTEE could be right. Never bothered to think that DETER simply isn't a synonym for [Avoid]. Somehow, the ORANG came to my rescue. An unlikely rescue, as I started out cursing the idea that I should know some random Malay word, then thought, "you know, it's probably not random..." I had CEE and CAT down there already, and when I imagined ORANG sliding in there (because I had the "R" and had seen ORANG in puzzles many times before), it really looked good next to CEE (61D: Mercury's core?) and CAT. Plausible, you know? So after a stall of some undetermined length, I moved forward and the SE corner, and thus the whole puzzle, went down from there.
- 11A: Co. now known as Ally Financial (GMAC) — totally fair clue / answer, but about as exciting as I generally found this puzzle. If I never see ONEO and CAT as cross-referenced answers again, it will have been a good life.
- 19A: Vision, in Vichy (VUE) — also, a Saturn model
- 53A: Scientist for whom an element is named (NOBEL) — I spent a good deal of time imagining / hoping that there was a Dr. BORON somewhere in the Science universe.
- 3D: Big name in taco kits (ORTEGA) — I just like the phrase "taco kit" for how preposterous and unappetizing it is.
- 2D: Ricky Martin's springboard to fame (MENUDO) — a boy band with revolving members (specifically, you revolve out of the group after puberty, I think). After "LA VIDA LOCA" wouldn't fit here, I remembered MENUDO.
- 10D: Victors of the 1879 Battle of Isandlwana (ZULUS) — no idea. "ZU" made it obvious.
- 12D: Dancer known for her execution (MATA HARI) — brain kept yelling "Martha Graham" at me.
- 22D: 1980s Cosby co-star (RASHAD) — this was my first guess (kind of a gimme), but I wonder how lucky other people were here. RASHAD / TESSA seems a potentially rough cross.
- 14D: Air-breathing swimmer (CETACEAN) — took a while. I was looking for more common names of animals within this order of mammals (whales, dolphins, etc.).
- 63D: Symbol of rebellion on many T-shirts (CHE) — Ah, "symbol," metaphorically. OK. I was imagining that anarchy "A" (you know, an actual symbol).