FRIDAY, Nov. 14, 2008-Brad Wilber (Ken McLaughlin's filly / Star of old horse operas / Mercutio speech subject / A&W offering)
Friday, November 14, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium
This puzzle is built around four sets of triple eights [correction: two sets of triple eights, two sets of triple nines], each of which (if you start in the NE) increases in loveliness as you move clockwise around the puzzle. The NW corner is the real gem - I love DORSAL FIN (15A: Worrisome sight at a beach) swimming in between CREAM SODA (1A: A&W offering) and COOP BOARD (17A: Screeners of would-be buyers), though I don't find DORSAL FIN "worrisome" - I've seen a DORSAL FIN at the beach before, a couple in fact; they belonged to porpoises. Very, very cool. CREAM SODA was tough to uncover, as its overly general clue could have been virtual any comestible (do drinks count as comestibles, and further, when will I see COMESTIBLE in a puzzle?). COOP BOARD seems quite original, and any answer that can work in an unusual consonant combo (here "PB") is alright by me.
My biggest struggle was definitely in the SW, where I learned a new word ... the hard way. What's the hard way, you ask? Well, that's when you are certain of a completely different word, and then crosses force you to realize that not only were you wrong, but the actual answer is not even in your vocabulary, you moron. In this case, when confronted with the clue 34D: "Lost Horizon" setting, I confidently, swiftly, even cockily (!) wrote in SHANGRI-LA. Why? Because it's right. What I didn't know - that SHANGRI-LA wasn't just some general location. The second sentence of the Wikipedia entry on "Lost Horizon" (novel) reads as follows:
It is best remembered as the origin of Shangri-La, a fictional utopian lamasery high in the mountains of Tibet.
LAMASERY!! It is hard to believe that is a word. It looks like Lame-assery, which is, I suppose, one way you could describe my attempts to fill this portion of the grid correctly. Then again, when I look at MONASTERY, I see the rather obvious correlation. A community of LAMAs, a community of monks. It wasn't all bad for me in this quadrant, however. FLAT IRON (33D: Monopoly token) was a real joy to uncover. Usually, I think of the Monopoly token in question simply as an IRON. But no, not here. Full name, bam. Very cool. The rest of this quadrant was highly doable, except FLICKA, which eluded me even after I had the "K" (33A: Ken McLaughlin's filly).
The SE had its own issues, with the very dated 1960s-70s-era throwback TV CONSOLE (59A: Piece of den furniture). Man, I remember when friends of mine had TVs in their family rooms / dens that were these enormous, self-standing, wooden monstrosities that housed the television (back when there were only 5 or so channels and no cable). Now, it seems, "console" simply refers to whatever piece of furniture you happen to keep your TV on. Anyhow, the CONSOLE option didn't occur to me until I had many crosses in place. And A.E. HOUSMAN (61A: Poet who's the subject of Tom Stoppard's "The Invention of Love")? Forget about it. I had, thankfully, heard of him, but never read him, not the Stoppard play about him. As HOUS(E)MANs go, I'm more of a John man, myself. Had a little trouble uncovering TAILGATER (55A: Menace in the mirror), as 1. I was imagining a hand mirror or floor-length mirror, and 2. the primary meaning of TAILGATER in my mind is "one drinking beer and eating hot dogs in the vicinity of their pick-up's TAILGATE before the beginning of a football game." Oh, and further, I realized that when I originally learned the term as a kid, I must have imagined that "GATER" was "GATOR," because that's the image I see when I think of the word. Two mysterious crosses down here - LOO (56D: Drawing-room game in "Pride and Prejudice") and ANGELA (44D: Pianist Hewitt who recorded the complete keyboard works of Bach) - mad kept this quadrant interesting. I have read "Pride and Prejudice" many times, and I own Bach keyboard works, and yet ... no help today.
The NE had the odd but interesting TRAWL NET (14D: A sole might get caught in it), but was otherwise fairly easy to unravel. I had one huge clue objection in this area, though. How in the world is a LULL a "gift" (26A: Gift to an overworked salesperson)? I can't wrap it? I can't buy it? Is it a "gift" ... from God? Maybe [Boon for an overworked salesperson] or [Relief to an overworked salesperson]. "Gift" does not compute.
- 18A: March site mentioned in "Eve of Destruction" (Selma) - couldn't recall anything but the chorus of this song, but that didn't matter, as SELMA was the site of one of the most famous "marches" in American history.
- 31A: He wrote "Hell is other people" (Sartre) - I'm not generally a quotes kind of guy. You know how some people just love quotes, and like saying quotes to you, and collect them, and put them in the sig files of their emails, etc.? I'm generally not that guy. But I love this quote - it's short, memorable, and neatly encompasses a certain atheistic vision of the world. Not my vision. A vision. One I occasionally sympathize with. The original quote: "L'enfer, c'est les autres" (from the play Huis clos ("No Exit")).
- 36A: "Eden Concert" artist (Seurat) - well, he's an artist, so I got him from crosses. Don't know this
paintingdrawing. It's kind of haunting.
- 37A: Locale for an outdoor party (lanai) - in Hawaii, or on an episode of "The Golden Girls," OK.
- 38A: _____ ripper (Historical romance) (bodice) - one of the great literary coinages of all time
- 50A: Land that's around 16% Muslim: Abbr. (Isr.) - I got this one instantly, knowing next to nothing about the Muslim population of ISR. Just a hunch.
- 52A: Eccles. dignitary (msgr.) - ugh, this one. I read "Eccles." as an abbreviation of Ecclesiastes, so the answer did not compute well. The answer is an abbrev. of "monsignor."
- 4D: Edible mold (aspic) - I'd rather eat mold, thanks.
- 5D: Mercutio speech subject (Mab) - just read "R&J" and still didn't get this right away.
- 26D: Star of old horse operas (Larue) - Lash LARUE. Hurray for Oaters!
- 29D: Legis. introduced into every session of Congress from 1923 to 1970 (E.R.A.) - a gimme. Something about "1970" tipped me off.
- 38D: Big pistol maker (Beretta) - BERETTA: Maker of oversized novelty pistols since 1877. Does BARETTA spell his name that way because the TV show producers were worried about accusations of copyright infringement?
- 51D: Cooper's co-star in "The Wedding Night," 1935 (Sten) - like the BERETTA, STEN is a gun to me.
- 54D: Sino-Japanese War statesman (Ito) - poor Judge ITO, passed over for some actual historical figure.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld