Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Relative difficulty: Medium-Hard
THEME: BEVERLY (@#$#-ing) SILLS (21A: With 28-Across, a late, great entertainer) - theme entries aplenty relating to her opera career
What better way to ring in August than with a little Wrath of Kahn. I mean no disrespect to the recently departed Ms. SILLS (died last month of lung cancer, age 78), but I can't find my way around opera with a map and a guide, and so I was Slow today. If "Fresh Air" (NPR) hadn't rerun an interview with SILLS recently, this puzzle might have taken me even longer. I didn't know there was even a category called LYRIC SOPRANO (29D: with 39-Across, 21-/28-Across, for one - that is an instant nominee for ugliest clue of the year). So, the puzzle is fine - it's a very Kahn-esque puzzle (he does these little topical ones well - I own / enjoy his book of baseball puzzles, as I may have mentioned before). But as single-person-themed puzzles, this is the roughest one I've done in my blogging career (the Rita Moreno puzzle being the easiest, and most enjoyable, and Sidney Poitier ranking ... somewhere in between; actually, I think I may have enjoyed this puzzle more than the Poitier one, if memory serves). ANYway...
- 17A: 1966 Lincoln Center role for 21-/28-Across (Cleopatra)
- 11D: "La Traviata" role for 21-/28-Across (Violetta)
- 48A: 1970 Covent Garden title role for 21-/28-Across (Lucia)
- 58A: Childhood nickname of 21-/28-Across (Bubbles) - that is the best SILLS factoid of all, by far
- 62A: 1955 "Die Fledermaus" debut role for 21-/28-Across (Rosalinde)
- 38D: Stage wear for 21-/28-Across (costumes) - this one stands out like a very sore, profoundly lame thumb
Oh, there's also 40D: "Sempre libera" e.g. (aria) in the grid, though I have no idea if it's something Ms. SILLS ever sang or not. Why is there not a comma between "libera" and "e.g." in that clue, btw, as there is in 5D: Earl Grey, e.g. (tea)?
Hardest part of puzzle was NE, where brazen (wrong) entry of CCIII for (ugh) 9A: Early third-century year (CCVII) slowed me way up on VIOLETTA (no "V," no way to make much sense of name ... ISOLETTA? 16A: They make green lawns (rains) and 19A: Grind down (erode) look really easy in retrospect, but without CREEP (9D: Unlikely candidate for Mr. Right) or INDY (12D: May race, familiarly), they didn't want to show their faces. INDY also looks easy in retrospect. I was thinking the answer was something beginning in "I," ending in "Y," that was somehow short for the Iditarod. It's true.
Also had a bit of trouble in the NW, with the intersecting ARCANA (1D: Mysteries) and ANSE (27A: "As I Lay Dying" father). Plural ending in "A" + insane Faulkner name I can never remember = stall. Speaking of crazy names, it's a virtual pageant today, with the never-before-seen (by me) 26A: Silas Marner's adopted daughter (Eppie - !?) and the familiar and yet oddly-named 41D: Linguist Chomsky (Noam) accompany Mr. ANSE. Give me a nice, simple name like Linda EVANS (60A: "Dynasty" actress) any day - mmmm, her shoulder pads went on forEver.
Two cute "?" clues intersect in the SW - the good 44D: Flying home? (airbase) and the great 61A: Stretches out? (comas). Paul Ryan came out of his COMA today on my soap opera ("ATWT"). I really Really wish he were still in it. Another interesting pair in the puzzle are CROAT and SERB, both clued [Balkan native].
Lastly, I have never heard of "PIN money" (18D: _____ money). Money for bowling? Any other explanation will likely be dissatisfying.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld