Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Solving Time: 5:20
16A: Kitt who played Catwoman on "Batman" (Eartha)
This is a great clue (much better than "Actress Kitt" or something similarly terse) because it conjures up a vivid image - in this case, the image of a sleek woman in a tight-fitting outfit who had the honest-to-god ability to purrrrr.
59A: Gary Cooper film of 1928 (Lilac Time)
Before I read this clue, the only "Lilac Time" I had ever heard of was the band. I have two of their albums. I like this one a lot:
64A: Architect I.M. _____ (Pei)
I.M. Pei always makes me think of my mom. I'm not sure why. I think she was the one who first pointed out to me, back in the mid-late 80s, that Pei had designed the newfangled pyramid contraption that graces / profanes the grounds of the Louvre in Paris. Anyway, in my mind, Pei is the pyramid guy. I'm sure he's done other stuff. He's a very handy (and not uncommon) 3-letter word in crossword puzzles (See also 9D, below).
66A: Sporting sword (epée)
If it were not for crosswords, I don't know that I would know this word. This will be the first word in my Pantheon of Crossword Answers. I will add more as they come to me.
5D: Pizazz (élan)
Another one for the Pantheon. And it too has an accent (I mean, originally ... accents, umlauts, and other letter-enhancers do not, of course, carry over to the Crossword world -- or CrossWorld, as I will now call it).
9D: Norma _____, Sally Field role (Rae)
First, this answer is super-common. Any word that can get frequently-occurring letters together like this must make crossword constructors very happy. Second, this is a good example of a clue's being overwritten for a Monday audience. The "Sally Field role" part is fairly redundant. The only word that will ever follow "Norma" is "Rae" or "Jean" ... maybe "Desmond." Three- letter answer can mean only one thing: Rae. Monday puzzles are the easiest of the week (they get progressively harder, with Saturday's being the hardest ... Sunday's can be hard, but it's mainly the bigness of Sunday that's the problem). Third, has anyone actually seen Norma Rae? Could you make a movie today about a female labor activist? I mean, one that people would pay to see? On a sidenote, my personal favorite movie about female labor activists: Night Shift.
19D: President's foreign policy grp. (NSC)
I did not know this one, and as of this second ... OK, I can guess that it means "National Security Council," but who can tell all the damned governmental abbreviations and acronyms apart? The only one I could come up with was "NSA" (because it's in the news a lot these days, what with all the governmental spying, wiretapping, and whatnot), which is what I had written until "24A: Emergency PC key" turned out to be "Esc," thus changning the "A" in in "NSA" to a "C" --> "NSC" - Ta da!
28D: Robust (hardy)
This threw me for a bit, because I was thinking "hearty" (which doesn't fit!). What the hell is the difference between "hardy" and "hearty"? Help me OED, you're my only hope:
1. Bold, courageous, daring. a. Of persons, their manner, etc.
A. adj. Full of heart.
1. a. Full of courage; courageous, bold (obs.). In later use coloured by senses 4 and 5: Zealous; energetic or thorough in one's support or action.
So their primary definitions mean nearly identical things! In fact, if you go down the list to other definitions of these words, you will find that both could have been the answer to this clue (er, that is, if there weren't the annoying fact that only one of them actually FITS)
4. a. Capable of enduring fatigue, hardship, rigour of the weather, etc.; physically robust, vigorous.
7. In sound health, having good appetite and spirits; vigorous, hale. Also euphem. tipsy (Sc.). [you gotta love the Scots and their enhanced drinking vocabulary]
OK, it's a close bout, but "hardy" wins in a unanimous decision. The clue, "robust," actually appears in the fourth of "hardy"'s definitions, whereas, with "hearty," you've got to wait til the eighth definition, and even then you only get near "robust," not right on top of it. Still, these words are pretty close in meaning and clearly their definitions have wound themselves around each other over time. To me, "Hardy" is a name, as in "The Hardy Boys" or "Thomas Hardy" (my hero), and "hearty" is an adjective, one particularly apt for describing soups:
29D: E pluribus _____ (unum)
When I began timing myself at crossword solving, I took a tip from someone (I forget who) that your eye should look quickly for the clues w/ blanks in them (like this one, or 9D, above), first because they are easy to see with your quickly scanning eye, and second because you can often get them quickly. They tend to be (at least early in the week), the "you know it or you don't" type of clue -- not the type you have to ponder over. This clue is a good example of how Monday's puzzles sucker you in with implicit ego flattery: "oooh, you know some Latin. Good for you, buddy!" You know you don't know Latin (most of you), and yet you get a little frisson of intellectuality from filling this baby in. When you get to Friday's puzzle, some clue will help you to realize exactly how much Latin you know (answer: you know "e pluribus unum." This phrase. That's it. OK, maybe you know "ad infinitum," and "veni, vidi, vici" - but unless you've taken Latin, your knowledge pretty much ends there).
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld