Alloy of tin lead / FRI 3-11-16 / Tamarack trees / Quaint means of manipulation / Major tributary of Missouri / Grammy nominated blues artist in Louisiana Music Hall of Fame / City northeast of Kiev
Friday, March 11, 2016
Constructor: Martin Ashwood-Smith
Relative difficulty: Easy
Word of the Day: Gabriel FAURÉ (31D: Debussy contemporary) —
Gabriel Urbain Fauré (French: [ɡabʁiɛl yʁbɛ̃ fɔʁe]; 12 May 1845 – 4 November 1924) was a French composer, organist, pianist and teacher. He was one of the foremost French composers of his generation, and his musical style influenced many 20th-century composers. Among his best-known works are his Pavane, Requiem, nocturnes for piano and the songs "Après un rêve" and "Clair de lune". Although his best-known and most accessible compositions are generally his earlier ones, Fauré composed many of his most highly regarded works in his later years, in a more harmonically and melodically complex style. (wikipedia)
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RASHAD) can make a huge difference for a puzzle's overall difficulty. With RASHAD in place, most of those short Downs were a cinch, which then meant that I had the front ends of the two 15s. So I was forced to linger up there for something close to zero amount of time. The only issue was what the hell came after EZ PASS .... the only thing I could think of was LANES, but obviously I needed more letters. So I just followed HEAVY CASUALTIES over to the NE, worked the short Downs over there, and then eventually worked my way into the center of the top section, revealing *TOLL* to be the missing crucial ingredient in the EZ PASS stew. I don't love that answer. EZ PASS TOLL LANES doesn't hang together that neatly. Doesn't pop. Doesn't feel coherent. It's hard to argue against the actual existence of such lanes, but I'd just call them EZ PASS LANES, the whole "toll" business being implied.
So, Much too easy up top. But then a little resistance: Who (the &&$^%!@#!...) is TAB BENOIT (16D: Grammy-nominated blues guitarist in the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame)? I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that neither being "Grammy-nominated" nor being in the "Louisiana Music Hall of Fame" makes you crossworthy. In fact, being both those things might actually work against you. Wow. He seems very talented, but in this puzzle, he's the outlyinglest thing by far, familiarity-wise. Well, luckily, every cross was solid and gettable, so no harm done there. LOSS OF INNOCENCE went easily down the center and then PLAY FOR A FOOL went in at 25A: Deem to be dumb. I immediately thought "Hmm, that could be TAKE FOR A FOOL," then saw the clue at 21D: Husky cousins, and knew it was, indeed, TAKE (and AKITAS). And so, though the center was harder than the top, it wasn't that hard at all. I've seen that "Fine" misdirection at 34A: Fine source of humor, with "the"? (THREE STOOGES) a lot, including once recently, so the trick missed me. I didn't know AL'S Toy Barn or TERNE, but it didn't matter—all the other answers just washed right over the little things I didn't know.
About FEMININE WILES (31A: Quaint means of manipulation): is the term itself quaint? Are the wiles quaint? Is the notion that women use such wiles quaint? I'm not quite sure what's quaint here. It literally says "quaint means," but … so … women DO use them to manipulate? … and it's quaint? When you use your wiles, are you being quaint? And does the etymology of the word "quaint" play any role in this answer (just google [quaint Middle English] and see what comes up). Let's just say I'm making all kinds of uncertain, skeptical faces at this answer. The phrase is certainly valid—I'm just not sure about the clue. I used to call my cat WILES. His name was Wiley. It made a kind of sense.
["I'm suspicious and keeping notes..."]
ONE BOTTLE also has me looking skeptically at it, but for different reasons (27D: Order to a sommelier, maybe). I would look similarly at ONE WALL or THREE CANS or EIGHT VOLVOS. 47D: Kid's cry (MAA) is pretty cute, in that at first I thought it was a human kid crying, protractedly, for his MAA (MAA). But of course a kid is a baby goat. And MAA is the goat cry, just as surely as BAA is the sheep cry. I thought that as stack-oriented themelesses go, this one held up OK. Lots of long answers, and nary a "ONE'S" in sight. Unless you count BARIT ONE'S AXES, which you probably shouldn't, as BARIT is not a word. That I know of.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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