1968 space movie villain / FRI 5-3-13 / Spanish liqueur / British submachine gun / Papua New Guinea port in WW II news / Children's author who created Miss Trunchbull / Singer's tongue / First card played in game parliament / Autobiographical book by Carrie Fisher
Friday, May 3, 2013
Constructor: David Kwong
Relative difficulty: Easy
Word of the Day: LAE (25A: Papua New Guinea port in W.W. II news) —
Lae, the capital of Morobe Province, is the second-largest city in Papua New Guinea. It is located at the start of the Highlands Highway, which is the main land transport corridor from the Highlands region to the coast. Lae is the largest cargo port of the country and the home of the University of Technology or 'Unitech'. [...] In July 1937 Lae made world news when American aviator, Amelia Earhart, was last seen flying out of the airport on her way back to the United States. She was never seen again. // When the volcanic eruptions occurred in Rabaul in 1937 a decision was made to transfer the capital of the Territory of New Guinea to Lae. World War II got in the way of the transfer and in 1942 the town was occupied by the Empire of Japan on 8 March 1942. Lae, Rabaul and Salamaua became the major Japanese bases in New Guinea. // The naval Battle of the Bismarck Sea in December 1942 was fought over the Japanese attempt to reinforce Lae with troops sent by sea from Rabaul, an attempt foiled by sustained Allied attack on the Japanese troop transports. In mid-1943, after defeats in the Kokoda Track campaign, the Battle of Buna–Gona and at the Battle of Wau, the Japanese were forced to retreat to Lae and Salamaua. However, the Salamaua–Lae campaign involved many weeks of fierce fighting, before the town fell to the Allies on 16 September. (wikipedia)
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WISHFUL DRINKING" (17A: Autobiographical book by Carrie Fisher) in a bookstore and perusing it for a while just after it came out. It's a great, great, memorable title. Knowing that title really opened up the top (unsurprisingly), and I made steady, consistent progress through the grid from there, with a little slow-down there in the middle, and then another gimme-15 waiting for me at the bottom to slingshot me toward the finish line (I'm guessing "MIDNIGHT IN PARIS" is a gimme for a lot of solvers—far more likely a widespread gimme than any other 15 in this puzzle is likely to be) (61A: Oscar-nominated Woody Allen film). Fill is kinda junky in places, which is unfortunate in any puzzle, but especially in a relatively easy-to-fill 70-word themeless. DAE LAE! Ay ay ay. I have "yerg..." written next to ACRY and RENTA up top and IDEM, TIGRE and AHAS down below. I don't know what "yerg..." means, but when I say it, it expresses my feelings about that fill. Still, I liked this one overall. It's workmanlike, but it's got some personality, as well as a contemporary feel.
Here are some more keys to my slaying this thing so quickly: LAE. One of those horrid words that eventually your xword constructing program suggests, and you're all "No Way, constructing program. I don't even know what that is." That's how I learned it, anyway. It was a gimme. I feel half-embarrassed by that. Another gimme—IRINA (2D: One of Chekhov's "Three Sisters"). Why? Because OLGA was just in the puzzle, clued via her other "Chekhovian" sisters, IRINA and Masha. You know what else was just in the puzzle? TRIAXIAL! Wasn't it? No, wait ... TRI-something ... something I didn't expect to be TRI- ... anyway, once I saw it was going to end -AXIAL, I went with TRI-, thinking I'd just seen it (54A: Kind of cable in TV production). My last big jackpot lucky-time answer was a pair of answers: ELECTRA and ORESTES (63A: Mythological sister of 66-Across + 66A: Mythological brother of 63-Across). Thank you, Great Books program at University of Michigan. Had to teach "Oresteia." Much of it stuck, apparently.
Love the clue on YIDDISH (1A: Singer's tongue). Total fakeout (the "Singer" is writer Isaac Bashevis Singer). Never played parliament, but back end of that answer was clearly DIAMONDS and the SEVEN OF was not at all hard to pick up. Never heard of "Miss Truchbull," but children's author in four letters? That's DAHL (4D: Children's author who created Miss Trunchbull). I don't know how, but I got ANIS [Spanish liqueur] off the "I". Who knows where this stuff comes from? ANIS, by the way—total "yerg..." answer. Again, never feels good when ugly / arcane stuff ends up being a gimme. Feels weirdly ... undeserved and thus cheap. But you take your advantages where you find them, I guess. I should probably just high-five myself for coming in under 6 and move on.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld