Thursday, December 1, 2011

1953 film with Swahili title / FRI 12-2-11 / Studio with Pegasus logo / Master of Disaster's ring rival / Birdcage drag queen player

Constructor: Ed Sessa

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: BATISTE (12D: Fine, soft, sheer fabric) —
Batiste is the softest of the lightweight opaque fabrics. It is made of cotton, wool, polyester, or a blend. (wikipedia)
• • •

Felt pretty easy, but "MOGAMBO" was a gimme for me, so I feel like maybe I started out with a momentum not everyone shared (1D: 1953 film classic with a Swahili title). I went through a powerful Grace Kelly phase when I was in grad school, and watched every one of her films that I could get my hands on (VHS—not easy). Speaking of grad school, I got my Ph.D. in medieval English literature and never saw the word ANGLIC used to mean [Old English]. It was "Old English" or "Anglo-Saxon" and that's about it. So I honestly didn't know what to do after ANGL-.  Was able to slide down the west coast of the grid fairly easily, with another big, lucky gimme at TRI-STAR (36D: Studio with a Pegasus logo). Went OMIGAWD at first, until OMIGOSH became the clear choice. I got stuck down here somewhere around Twain's "celebrated" frog (DAN'L), and so rebooted in the NE, just going after short answers trying to get some traction. At first all I had was ELS (11D: Hollow center?), but once I changed SHRUNK to SHRANK, things got moving a little. That corner is by far the ugliest thing about this otherwise decent grid. BATISTE / ANODIZE (13D: Coat by electrolytic action) / BENEFIC (?) is a triad one would rather not look at for too long. Anyway, I finished up, took it on faith that SNCC was something (5D: Grp. organizing '60s sit-ins), and went and mopped up things in the S and SE. Had a residual mistake in the NE because I thought the (ultra vague) 22A: Chemical ending (-IDE) was -ANE or -ENE and I neglected to fix it. Then I fixed it. Done.

Lots of pop culture today. In addition to the two aformentioned filmic gimmes that helped me make short work of the west coast, there was NATHAN LANE (16A: "The Birdcage" drag queen player), Goldie HAWN, MITZI Gaynor, Apollo "The Master of Disaster" Creed and Rocky "The ITALIAN STALLION" Balboa (7D: Master of Disaster's ring rival), and the famous line from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," "She turned me into a NEWT!" ("... I got better").

I think the CANNIBALS clue is also from pop culture, since the idea of someone being put in a pot of hot water as part of some cannnibal feast seems straight out of the cartoons (42A: Ones who may get you into hot water?). And then there's MARMS! (41A: Quaint ladies with buns, often) Has there really ever been more than MARM in one place at one time (and has there really ever been a MARM whose name wasn't prefaced by "School"?)? I wonder how many ladies James DOLE picked up with the line "... they call me the Pineapple King" (48D: James who was known as the Pineapple King).

Lastly, I love the clue on MORNING (28D: Eastern daylight time?).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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