1968 novel set in Korea / FRI 7-19-13 / British P.M. when W.W. I began / How Congress might adjourn / Player of Sal in Godfather / What name Rhoda means / Republican who won Bentsen's vacated Senate seat / Joe who was retired in 1997 / Magna Carta's drafters
Friday, July 19, 2013
Constructor: Patrick Berry
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
Word of the Day: SINE DIE (37D: How Congress might adjourn) —
Adjournment sine die (from the Latin "without day") means "without assigning a day for a further meeting or hearing". To adjourn an assembly sine die is to adjourn it for an indefinite period. A legislative body adjourns sine die when it adjourns without appointing a day on which to appear or assemble again. (wikipedia)
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ASQUITH (1D: British P.M. when W.W. I began). Never heard of him. That's on me. Second, SINE DIE. Never heard of it. Had some Latin in grad school, so pieced it together. I think I like knowing what it means, but as fill goes, it is the weakest thing in the whole grid—here only because those letters are convenient, not because the phrase is wonderful. Third, EMBOWERED (49A: Surrounded with foliage). Actually, the more I look at it, the more it looks like a word. Not an everyday word, but a word. So that's three issues. That I have only three issues, and that they are barely issues, when the puzzle has a mere 66 words features so much open space and two amazing quad 9-stacks with clean-as-hell crosses ... I could go on, but won't. Or maybe I will. This thing is gorgeous. That NE corner alone is a work of art. I am serious about that. So much open space, and not a single flaw. Not a hitch or bend or compromise. It's disgusting. That it lacks Scrabbly letters is to its credit. Do you know how often stacks of longish answers have at least a few Down crosses that are junky or made-up or just plain ugly? Always. Always. Almost always. It's why *stacks* don't appeal to me much. Many of them are like club sandwiches, but instead of toothpicks holding the sandwich pieces together, you get rusty nails. So sorry. But not here. Down after Down, it's just real word after real word. This is hard to do. And by "hard" I mean "nearly impossible." But it doesn't look hard. Looks like a pleasant walk in the park. This is why constructors revere PB1—his genius is so deep, it doesn't need to be showy. He always seems to be chasing flawlessness above all other puzzle values. I admire that so much more than the puzzle with a mere six black squares and nine Js or whatever.
Had some trouble getting started. Had QANDA and TEA right, but a bunch of other stuff that wasn't. Tried TRAIT at 1A: Winning smile, e.g. (ASSET), and ALOE at 27A: Folk medicine plant (HERB) and TRITE at 15A: Too-familiar (STALE). So I had to get out of there. I think I finally got off the ground with EATS then CRATE then ALT then TARHEELS. After that, I buzzed around that grid at a pretty nice clip, moving fairly consistently in a clockwise direction. Took less than 30 seconds, I'm sure, to fill in the SE. EMBOWERED held me up a bit longer in the SW, but not that much longer. I ended up wrapping things up where I'd tried to begin—in the NW.
I have never heard of the Samnite Wars, but I had AP- and the clue had "Road" in it, so no problem (16A: Road built during the Samnite Wars => APPIAN WAY). I really like seeing Kay Bailey HUTCHISON in the grid for some reason. We don't have much in common, politics-wise, but she seems decent and you don't see female politicians in the grid that much, so I'm happy to see her. I didn't realize Joe CAMEL had been retired so long ago (26A: Joe who was retired in 1997). His mug is so familiar, I just think of him as eternal. Just finished "Mo' Meta Blues" by Ahmir "Questlove" Jenkins—a fantastic music memoir. His band The Roots has an album called "Things Fall Apart," named after the Chinua ACHEBE novel (34A: "Things Fall Apart" novelist). Loved "Rhoda" and had no idea it meant ROSE. Don't think I've seen a Clark Gable/LANA TURNER movie, but I like their cute little moniker (47A: She and Clark Gable were known as "the team that generates steam). I forgot that "MASH" was a novel (10D: 1968 novel set in Korea). I think of it as a movie that became a TV show. And it is. But it was a novel first.
Off to try to read myself to sleep in this oppressive heat. Good night.