Gedda Ghiaurov of opera fame / FRI 1-3-14 / Cap'n Joseph C. Lincoln novel / Lun Tuptim's beloved in King I / Online realm since 2006 / Common British Isles shader
Friday, January 3, 2014
Constructor: Barry C. Silk and Brad Wilber
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
Word of the Day: A. A. FAIR (43D: Erle Stanley Gardner pseudonym) —
Cool and Lam is the fictional American private detective firm that is the center of a series of detective novels written by Erle Stanley Gardner using the pen name of A. A. Fair. // In the first book about her, The Bigger They Come (1939; British: Lam to the Slaughter), Bertha Cool is said to have opened her own detective agency in 1936 after her husband Henry died. She's described in various terms as overweight, and uncaring about her weight—in the first novel, Donald Lam estimates her weight at 220 pounds. At the beginning of Spill the Jackpot! (1941) we learn that she had flu and pneumonia, and lost a great deal of weight, down to 160 pounds, and in many later novels her weight is given as 165 pounds. She has white hair and "greedy piggish eyes". All the novels agree that she's extremely avaricious and miserly. On the other hand she has persistence, loyalty and nerve. Her favourite expletive is "Fry me for an oyster!". In the opening chapter of the first novel, she hires a small, nervy, and extremely ingenious former lawyer named Donald Lam. Donald later becomes a full partner in her business, forming the firm of Cool & Lam, which features in more than two dozen books by Gardner. (wikipedia)
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FOREVER STAMP (6D: Certain rate-hike circumvention). I couldn't see it. Just couldn't. Couldn't even really get my head around the clue. Even when I had FORE-ERST--P I was lost. All the E / R / S action just wasn't clarifying anything for me. Worse, the adjacent answer, WYCHELM, was something I'd never heard of. I mean Never. I've heard of WYE OAK (they're a band I like). But WYCHELM, yikes, no. And I couldn't remember where Harpers Ferry was (24A: Home of Harpers Ferry: Abbr.). Just … blanked. My brain was like "Alaska?" but I was like "shut up, stupid brain, that's Harper's Folly." Later on, a different part of my brain realized Alaska was actually "Seward's Folly," but that's a story for another time. Anyway, no hope at WYCHELM, blanked on WVA. Then there's NICOLAI (40A: Gedda or Ghiaurov of opera fame). Now, Brad Wilber and I are friends and we have a lot in common, but on opera we could not be further apart. He knows all and I know squat. "Of opera fame" is essentially a paradoxical phrase to me. So NICOLAI I had to infer from NICO-. Then there was the YUM-for-MMM fiasco (46A: "Tastes terrific!"). MMM was weirdly the tipping point because it gave me (finally) FOREVER STAMP, and thankfully only "W" made sense at -VA, so … completion! With so much failure, I'm surprised I came in as fast as I did (somewhere in the 8s).
Puzzle began unpromisingly with very little going into the NW corner. Always painful when a puzzle cross-references two answers in the same quadrant. Here, PIDGIN/TONGUE were nowhere to be seen until I got most of their crosses (which came later). First thing in the grid was "EROICA" — such a fantastic clue (2D: Record glimpsed on Norman Bates's Victrola). I watched "Psycho" recently, and the record is indeed prominently displayed. Lila Crane sees it when she's snooping around the house toward the very end of the movie. Another answer in my wheelhouse was A.A. FAIR. I have a bijillion books by him in my vintage paperback book collection. I much prefer the Cool & Lam mysteries to the Perry Mason stuff, so A.A. FAIR is a very familiar name to me (though I wonder if people under, I don't know, 50, are very familiar with it. Luckily crosses were fair / easy). TWITTERVERSE really opened up the east for me, so that side of the puzzle wasn't that tough. But FOREVER STAMP sure balanced things out. All in all, a nice little battle.
THA (!?!?!), YAWPS (I had the "W" and immediately wrote in HOWLS), -CRAT, ATT, SYL—pretty minimal, all things considered. Whoa, wait, I just noticed this so-called Cap'n ERI. What in the world?? (41A: "Cap'n ___" (Joseph C. Lincoln novel)). I like how "Joseph C. Lincoln novel" is supposed to help me; I have no idea who Joseph C. Lincoln is. He was an early 20th-century writer whose work was set in Cape Cod. "Cap'n ERI" was turned into a 2009 (or 2008, or 2007, depending on whom you listen to) film called "The Golden Boys," starring Rip Torn, David Carradine, Bruce Dern and Mariel Hemingway. Had you heard of "Cap'n ERI"? Joseph C. Lincoln? My ignorance of WYCHELM is my own, but I'm giving serious side glance to this ERI fellow. Yawp yawp.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld