Steinbeck siren / SAT 8-17-13 / Baker's predecessor / Carota Blue II for two / Skillful slangily / Legendary spring figure / Daily Rundown carrier / Vindaloo accompaniment / Merry Mex of golf
Saturday, August 17, 2013
Constructor: Ed Sessa
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
Word of the Day: Jim OTTO (52D: Raiders Hall-of-Famer Jim) —
James Edwin Otto (born January 5, 1938) is a former Professional Football center for the Oakland Raiders of the American Football League. (wikipedia)
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TYPEWRITER STAND => exceptional cluing. So why the struggle? Hmmm. First, NW corner was impossible for me at first. Had NAAN and ANT HILL (*dzzzzzzz* wrong) and nothing else, so even when I got the top middle, I couldn't see TYPEWRITER STAND at all. Then there was the NE, specifically ABRA, ugh (10A: Steinbeck siren). These horrid names from literature and opera that are like 3 to 4 letters long and look like tortured letter combinations no one would ever name their kid. Your ABRAs, your ANSEs, your ASEs (yep, pretty sure that's a name from something ... ah, yes, "Peer Gynt"). I still, after many years of constant solving, can't keep them straight. They all qualify as Terrible Fill. Clue on MEAN is ruthless (16A: Skillful, slangily). I see it now ("... sure plays a MEAN pinball"), but not during. And I tried to write in ORLANDO at 12D: Tony with an Emmy (RANDALL), so ... yeah, that was sad.
But I got helped out by great guesses / massive store of crosswordese. TVA was a gimme (53A: Big inits. in power). MIROS, strangely, was a gimme (5D: "Carota" and "Blue II," for two). OTERO, ditto (42A: County whose seat is La Junta). Anytime you're asked for a five-letter *county*—think OTERO. I wanted MECCAN immediately (why?) but waited for a cross or two to confirm (25A: Muhammad, e.g.). NAIAD? Straight in (30D: Legendary spring figure). POULT ... I saw recently, so boom (31A: Young turkey). These answers all kept the difficulty from getting out of control, which it constantly threatened to be. Once Alfred E. Neuman and his "WHAT, ME WORRY?" went in (18D: Mad person's question), the puzzle finally seemed to stop threatening to kill me, and I swept west to east across the bottom pretty easily.
Worst clue in the whole thing—annoying beyond belief—is 1A: Baker's predecessor (ABLE). If the clue had added "... before 1956," then *maybe*. But who the &%^$ knows the pre-1956 U.S. phonetic alphabet??? I looked this up and all I got were space monkeys. You heard me—Space. Monkeys. Horrible thing to behold. Looked like maybe ABLE was in the nosecone while Baker was, I don't know, in the cab (?), so I was like "well, I guess ABLE was the "predecessor," if she was in the nosecone, but ..." Then I just read they were both in nosecone. Anyway, this is the stupidest dark alley I've ever gone down in an attempt to understand a clue. I hope all you WWII vets liked it, because it was gibberish to me (and, I'm going to guess, millions of others).