Saturday, August 20, 2011

Tom Mix vehicles /SAT 8-20-11/ 1822 Walter Scott novel / Hearts minds activities military slang / Carmen Sandiego cover-up We feel your pain sloganeer

Constructor: Byron Walden

Relative difficulty: I forget — Medium?

THEME: none

Word of the Day: HOGAN (1A: Indian home) —

A one-room Navajo structure traditionally built with the entrance facing east, used as a dwelling or for ceremonial purposes. Early hogans were made of earth-covered poles, with later models often built of logs, stones, and other materials.

[Navajo hooghan.]

• • •

This puzzle had two parts. First part: "Indian home? What the hell?" Second part: "N'SYNC ... ITALY ... hey, wait a minute, I've *done* this puzzle before." Turns out this is the puzzle that was used in the Finals of Lollapuzzoola 4, the crossword tournament I attended in Manhattan precisely two weeks ago. It's a really good themeless, but my favorite part of the puzzle was seeing the byline in the .pdf version, which I assume is the same byline as in the newspaper itself. "Edited by Brian Cimmet and Patrick Blindauer"! They were the tournament organizers. I cannot remember the puzzle being "edited" by anyone but Will Shortz. Ever. That's pretty cool. Patrick says that he thinks Will might have changed a small handful of clues, but that's it (normally, or at least in my case, he changes big handfuls of clues). I can tell you that the part that flummoxed the finalists most was the E and NE, with the most common problem being the understandable tendency to put in "YES WE CAN!" instead of "YES WE DID!" (14D: Celebratory chant at Chicago's Grant Park on 11/4/08). I know that's what I did when I was solving it. Worse, the "C" from CAN and the "L" from LAST gave me LILAC at 26A: Purple (LURID). That took some digging out. PART VI and PIÑERA (29D: Sebastián ___ (president of Chile beginning in 2010)) were hard to come up with as well. Otherwise, it's a nice, tough, thoughtful, interesting themeless. Hard all around, but very solvable.

HOGAN gave me trouble the first time I solved this, though I don't remember its clue. I also couldn't remember who Tom Mix was (bad crossword solver!), and so OATERS (2D: Tom Mix vehicles) didn't come very readily. Never heard of a QUADBIKE (32D: Certain ATV), but besides PIÑERA, that's the only unfamiliar term in the puzzle for me. No, wait, I've never heard of "THE PIRATE" (though I have heard of "THE" and "PIRATE") (16A: 1822 Walter Scott novel about Capt. Clement Cleveland). Movie questions threw me a bit. Had to piece EX-OUTLAW together pretty systematically (31D: Gary Cooper played one in "Man of the West"), and I completely forgot that PADME was Luke's mom (42D: Luke's mother in "Star Wars"). ART GUM is not a phrase I could've come up with on my own, but it was living in my brain somewhere—got it with a few crosses (39D: Kind of eraser). Love the clue and answer at 40D: "Hearts and minds" activities, in military slang (PSYOPS). What the heck is a GATEWAY CITY (46A: Miami or Amsterdam, for example). "Dude, don't try Miami, 'cause then you'll be hooked. Next thing you know, you'll be in Orlando, then Atlanta, and Charleston, and then eventually you're waking up in Nome going "What the @$#% happened?"" (that was my play on the phrase "gateway drug"—you can stop clapping now).

  • 18A: President Harding's Laddie Boy and others (AIREDALES) — "Laddie" told me "dog," and then it was just a matter of a cross or two. One of the easier long answers in this puzzle.

  • 19A: Elvis's and Mariah's record number of seeks at Billboard's #1 (SEVENTY-NINE) — Poor 79. Is this the only distinction you have?

  • 24A: Until June 25, 2011, its first three digits had geographical significance: Abbr. (SSN) — Cool trivia. I wrote in SSR at first :(

  • 25A: "Tempest" Golden Globe nominee Julia (RAUL) — he played Caliban in that. I know him better from "Kiss of the Spider Woman." He has one of those great crossword names where using his last name makes you sound like you're using someone else's first name.

  • 37A: Weapon that comes in easy-to-carry and hard-to-carry varieties (MACE) — ??? I know that a mace is a heavy medieval war club, and that mace is something you spray in a mugger's face, but ... I don't know which is being referred to here. I hope not both, since they are completely different "weapons."

  • 11D: Constellation between Scorpius and Triangulum Australe (ARA)ARA should be your reflex answer for any "three-letter constellation" clue.
  • 22A: Carmen Sandiego cover-up? (TRENCHCOAT) — another excellent clue. If you are not familiar with the children's geography-oriented show "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?" then this clue/answer will be nonsense to you.

  • 33D: Dickens character whose first name is Wilkins (MICAWBER) — As a Professor of English Literature, I of course learned the name of this character ... from crosswords. I've barely touched Dickens. The only novel of his I remember reading is Our Mutual Friend (gigantic! required! Thanks, Prof. Reed). I liked it, but shortly thereafter it was all medieval, all the time. Then it was crime fiction and comics. Maybe I'll get back to Dickens, some day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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