Fukuda's predecessor as Japan's PM / SAT 3-16-13 / Supervillain from Krypton / Final aim to philosopher / Baroque key of glory / Role for both Burton Amos in 1977 miniseries / Italian game akin to petanque / Football Hall of Famer Minnesota Supreme Court justice / Yuri's beloved in literature
Saturday, March 16, 2013
Constructor: Julian Lim
Relative difficulty: Medium
Word of the Day: Carmen MCRAE (37A: Singer Carmen) —
Carmen Mercedes McRae (April 8, 1920 – November 10, 1994) was an American jazz singer, composer, pianist, and actress. Considered one of the most influential jazz vocalists of the 20th century, it was her behind-the-beat phrasing and her ironic interpretations of song lyrics that made her memorable. McRae drew inspiration from Billie Holiday, but established her own distinctive voice. She went on to record over 60 albums, enjoying a rich musical career, performing and recording in the United States, Europe, and Japan. (wikipedia)
• • •A mostly enjoyable Saturday effort. Many tough parts for me, but I still got through it in very respectable time—8:57, on paper. Pangrams (of which this puzzle is an example) are generally less disastrous in themelesses than they are in themed puzzles because there's just so much more freedom for a constructor, i.e. you're not trying to shove every letter of the alphabet into a grid that's already pretty well taken up with theme answers. Still, whenever I see one, I have to wonder if the fill could've been better had the constructor put kwality above A-to-Z-ness. INURN is always very painful, and, with ENTS (14D: M.D.'s with tiny flashlights) and FRESCAS (!), it contributes to a rather ugly patch there in the NE. Also, DUCTED? Yuck-ted. URE PERF!? (8D: Strict follower? + 9D: Stamp feature, in philately lingo) Hoo boy, no. But: there's lots of spice and pizzaz here to make up for the short gunk. I especially liked QUICK BUCK, "I WAS HAD!" (6D: Gull's cry — a "gull" is a mark; a victim of a con or scam), and CRAZY IDEA, and the entire SE (minus the R.R.N. at 60D) really looks great. I don't know what a HOME LAB is. I assume it's a LAB that you have in your HOME. I had noooo idea who ALAN PAGE was (40A: Football Hall-of-Famer who became a Minnesota Supreme Court justice), so I had to build him brick by brick. But it's a *cross*word puzzle, so even though I was ignorant about the football player, I could use *crosses* to fill in every letter. Also, because ALAN and PAGE are both common names, even if I hadn't known all the crosses, I could've *inferred* virtually any letter in ALAN PAGE's name if I'd had to. Sorry to get all basic on you, but sometimes it's important. ("¡Minas Muletas!")
I'm somewhat surprised at how quickly I got through this thing given how laden it is with "?" clues and cross-referencing—things that tend to slow all solvers down. Maybe it wasn't so much the amount of cross-referencing as the placement. 24D: Like 49-Down is at the heart of the puzzle, connecting all the various parts together, and yet ... you can't get at it unless you get down into the SE *or* just piece it together from crosses. I chose the latter route, and ended up filling in RUBBERY and then using that to help me guess 49D: Stuff in a swim cap (LATEX). 11D: What a 64-Across may comprise was another important long answer that you needed to look elsewhere to understand. So again I just hammered at it with crosses until it resembled a word that might go with the clue at 64A: Gift for a TV buff. Getting ONE SEASON helped me change a wrong answer—IBMS to ABMS (not sure why I decided ICBMS might also be IBMS, but I did). I think the biggest aids to my quick solving today were the rapper and the JAZZ singer, both of whom were gimmes. God knows why I remember JA RULE, but I do (26A: Rapper with the 2002 #1 hit "Always on Time"). The "J" from JA RULE was undoubtedly important, but it's MCRAE who really opened up the grid, especially with the nearby cross-reference answer JAZZ (43A: Genre for 37-Across). "Z"s will break a puzzle Open! CRAZY IDEA and TANZANIAN came pretty quickly thereafter.
- 10A: High-hatter's wear? (TOQUE) — Got it easily. Don't "get" it. It's high why? Does a pilot wear a TOQUE? I thought it was a chef's hat.
- 17A: Sheepskin source (ALMA MATER) — Nice clue. Hard to see at first because I had the first letter as "N" for a while (from incorrect HINDI at 1D: Studier of sutras (SWAMI), which I changed after finally deciding MOSTEST was correct at 19A: Maximum, nonstandardly).
- 38A: Fukuda's predecessor as Japan's P.M. (ABE) — yeah, I'm never gonna be able to keep Japanese P.M.s straight. Thank you, crosses!
- 39A: Italian game akin to pétanque (BOCCI) — seems tough until you realize, c'mon, how many "Italian games" do you actually know? That's right. You know one. This one.
- 49A: Yuri's beloved, in literature (LARA) — she of the Theme. Gimme gimme gimme.
- 2D: Final aim, to a philosopher (TELOS) — I use this word all the time in my teaching. Still took me a while to get.
- 13D: Supervillain from Krypton (URSA) — you'd think I'd've committed this non-contellation URSA to memory by now. You'd be wrong.
- 27D: Pace of "Pushing Daisies" (LEE) — uh, OK, if you say so.
- 31D: Baroque "key of glory": Abbr. (D MAJ.) — got the MAJ and waited ... for DUCTED. :-(
- 47D: Role for both Burton and Amos in a 1977 miniseries (KINTE) — "...blah blah blah 1977 miniseries." Answer achieved.
- 53D: With 54-Down, start of a historic telegraph message ("WHAT / HATH ...") — bit scary there for a bit, since I could only think of "Come here, Watson, I need you..." (yeah, phone, I know). Also, I had LED IN, not HAD IN at 58A: Welcomed to one's house, so instead of -HAT -ATH I had -LAT - ETH . After rejecting "FLAT BETH!", I proceeded in a more reasonable direction.