Friday, November 18, 2011

Flying Cloud maker / SAT 11-19-11 / Old shippable shelter / Sea bream in sushi bar / Faux amateurs / For Laughing Out Loud memorist / Brand of literature

Constructor: Allan E. Parrish

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: McPeople — A pair of intersecting Mc- names in each quadrant of the grid

Word of the Day: ETESIAN (13D: Like some annual Mediterranean winds) —
Occurring annually. Used of the prevailing northerly summer winds of the Mediterranean.

[From Latin etēsius, from Greek etēsios, from etos, year.]
etesian e·te'sian n.
• • •

This played Easy-Medium for me, but I can tell from the times at the NYT website that I'm in the minority, and I understand why. If I didn't teach a course on comics, and thus have at least a passing familiarity with the name George MCMANUS, I don't know what would've happened to me in that (deathly) NE corner. That thing was its own puzzle. Both Mc's were phenomenally obscure / old. Old-timey intersecting Old-timey coupled with ETESIAN intersecting NISI (!?!?) (22A: Like some divorce decrees) coupled with "The CID" ("The" When is it ever not "El"!?!?!) (10D: Alfonso VI exiled him, with "the") coupled with TAI (31A: Sea bream, in a sushi bar) — that's a recipe for trouble. I was bailed out several times in this puzzle by personal and/or puzzling experience. I'd seen [Flying Cloud maker] in puzzles before (REO). I know NISI is a Latin legal word, so even though the context here was baffling to me, I got it ("S" = last letter into the grid). IPO and CLU and EMU (33D: Noted six-foot runner) were all gimmes (cluing / answer length on IPO and EMU were dead giveaways). Biggest luck-out, besides the MCMANUS thing, was QUONSET (40D: Old shippable shelter), which I know about only from stumbling on it in some other crossword. Misspelled it QUINSET, but figured LOINS was probably not another word for [Fruitcakes], and fixed it. I thought figuring out the MC- theme would make this thing a piece of cake, and it certainly helped, but the cluing got ratcheted up enough to offset the McHelp.

Theme answers:
  • MCGWIRE (1A: Cardinal making many round trips) — nice clue
  • MCCOURT (1D: 1997 Pulitzer-winning memoirist)
  • MCCAREY (?) (8A: "Going My Way" Best Director winner)
  • MCMANUS (8D: George ___, "Bringing Up Father" cartoonist)
  • MCQUEEN (38A: The King of Cool)
  • MCCLAREN (?) (38D: Formula One racing legend Bruce)
  • MCMAHON (42D: "For Laughing Out Loud" memoirist)
  • MCBRIDE (42A: Martina with five #1 country hits) — by far the easiest of the Mc's to get

[29D: 1978 Grammy winner for the jazz album "Friends"]

Not that fond of CARSON'S or its clue (17A: "___ Comedy Classics" (syndicated TV series)); I've never seen / heard of this alleged series. Is it still on? I assume it's something to do with Johnny Carson. Yes, here you go. It's a terrible partial, is what I'm saying. MADAMES isn't the greatest plural, but it saved my neck in the NE, so no complaints (18A: Pompadour and others). I was frustrated that I couldn't get the second half of either ICE- or RAIL- during my first pass at them (28A: Producer of a chilling effect + 47A: Track team member?). My brain actually went to COLA and CONE (?) before CUBE. The "Carmen" clue is mean-spirited, of course, but once I got the "CE-" I figure out what it was after. TAI was rough, though I know I've seen it before. BECCA, also rough (30D: Daughter on ABC's "Life Goes On"). That's going way back for a secondary TV character from a never-that-popular show. No idea who Baal Shem Tov is, but I had enough crosses to make HASIDIC pretty easy (61A: Like Baal Shem Tov's sect). Can't for the life of me remember who ETHAN Brand is. I wanted ELTON, but he plays basketball. Well, I guess I can be forgiven, since it's from a Nathaniel Hawthorne short story. One that I didn't read in college, apparently (20A: Brand of literature). My favorite clue / answer of the day was RINGERS (24D: Faux amateurs). I don't have a good explanation for why.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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