City founded by Shiva / SAT 10-16-10 / Kahn of Broadway / Viola da old stringed instrument / ___ Meets Godzilla classic 1969 cartoon
Saturday, October 16, 2010
Varanasi (Sanskrit: वाराणसी Vārāṇasī, Hindustani pronunciation: [ʋaːˈɾaːɳəsiː], also commonly known as Benares or Banaras (Hindi: बनारस, Urdu: بنارس, Banāras [bəˈnɑːɾəs] ) and Kashi (Hindi: काशी, Urdu: کاشی, Kāśī [ˈkaːʃiː]), is a city situated on the banks of the River Ganges in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. It is regarded as a holy city by Buddhists and Jains, and is the holiest place in the world in Hinduism (and center of earth in Hindu Cosmology). It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and probably the oldest of India. (wikipedia)
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Wow, reading that information about VARANASI, I've suddenly become very embarrassed about Never Having Heard Of It Before. Needed every single cross, which made that NW corner one of two really thorny parts in today's puzzle. I had UTA ("Meryl's "Prime" co-star is UTA Hagen???") and ON THE TOP up there, but then eventually PASSIONFRUIT became undeniable (7D: It's also known as a maypop), and so ... ON THE TAP? No. ON THE ... CAP? No. Oh, ON THE MAP (14A: In a position of prominence). I *guess* that's a position of "prominence." Seems more like a position of general visibility, about equal to Every Other Place ON THE MAP, but idiomatically, perhaps it makes sense. Loved that NW corner otherwise. Good ole SEND and AMEND got me started, and most of the rest of it fell into place pretty easily—but the VARANASI crisis meant no easy turning the corner into the rest of the puzzle. The other rough spot: the SW, where all four of the "-MB-" words were unknown to me as clued (and GAMBA was just flat-out unknown—48A: Viola da ___ (old stringed instrument)). Worked my way into that corner with TWIN BILL (53A: It's more than just a game) and SATIATE (55A: Fill up), but didn't know "NOVEMBER" (50A: William Cullen Bryant poem that begins "Yet one smile more, departing, distant sun!"). Eked out that corner by guessing the somewhat awkward UNBELT (40D: Being disrobing, possibly), and then guessing BANE (44A: Unhappy influence), which allowed me to guess BAMBI (44D: "___ Meets Godzilla" (classic 1969 cartoon)). Finally, vaguely remembered GUS (39A: Kahn of Broadway), which is the only way I got the "S" in SEARLE, whom I've never heard of (41D: English illustrator who created the "St. Trinian's" cartoon series). Is he famous? N.C. WYETH famous??
After starting in the NW but failing to get out unscathed, I rebooted at 23D: VOIR dire and BOORS (26A: Insufferable guests) and SEINES (I remembered it, for once! 29A: Fish catchers) and STAT (29D: "At once!"), and then eased down smoothly into the SW (by far the easiest corner). Cut back up through the middle, where I finally got enough letters to infer the name PIERRE L'ENFANT (rings a bell only faintly) (15D: Architect interred in Arlington National Cemetery), and to figure out PUSSY WILLOWS (21D: Russian Orthodox substitutes for palm branches on Palm Sunday). Guessed NESTS up top (8D: Forest homes), which allowed me finally to see SEPTUPLET (20A: One in a crowded delivery room). Once that was in place, the NE was a breeze, despite my not knowing what TAILFANS were (fins yes, fans no) (11D: Crayfish features), and never having heard of a PONCE (30A: Puerto Rican seaport) that wasn't attached to a DE LEON.
Overall, an exemplary Saturday puzzle. Harrowing at times, but ultimately doable, and full of wide variety of interesting words and names. Good stuff.
[La ROUX—22A: Soup thickener]
- 16A: Hydrocarbon with two carbons (ETHANE) — off the initial "E," for the win! (I suck at science clues, so that was big for me)
- 27A: Mobile home dweller (SNAIL) — I think my opinion is that this clue needs a "?" Is a shell really a "home" in the way, say, NESTS are?
- 31A: Expressions of affection made with the eyes (BUTTERFLY KISSES) — brace yourself for some mid-90s treacle:
- 42A: 1940s musical innovation (BOP) — not a lot else that could be, especially once I got the "P" in there from TWOPENCE (3D: British coin introduced in 1971)
- 1D: Literary adulteress's surname (BOVARY) — PRYNNE fits.
- 3D: Father of Agamemnon (ATREUS) — Agamemnon and Menelaus are often referred to in the Iliad as the ATREIDES (sons of ATREUS). I wonder if the ATREUS / VARANASI crossing Naticked anyone?
- 12D: Creator of the Mayfair Witches (ANNE RICE) — I'd have guessed Shakespeare or Updike before ANNE RICE. Luckily, I had the ANNE in place before I ever saw the clue.
- 31D: Island nation with a trident on its flag (BARBADOS) — know nothing about its flag, but crosses made this easy.
- 47D: 1962 title film character played by Joseph Wiseman (DR. NO) — apparently there's some kind of context on to see who can come up with the most off-the-beaten-path ways to clue DR. NO (see also Thursday's puzzle).
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