Saturday, December 17, 2011

Actress Rue of Rules of Engagement / SAT 12-17-11 / English explorer who named Lake Victoria / TV title lawyer Stone / Scandalous 1980s inits. / Old Testament outdoorsman

Constructor: Tom Heilman

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: none 
Word of the Day: John SPEKE (38A: John ___, English explorer who named Lake Victoria) —
John Hanning Speke (4 May 1827 – 15 September 1864) was an officer in the British Indian Army who made three exploratory expeditions to Africa and who is most associated with the search for the source of the Nile. (wikipedia)
• • •

Not a lot of time this morning, so this will have to be short.

Fell asleep last night before getting to the puzzle (it happens). Woke up at 5-something and immediately sat down to solve. Even in my early-morning stupor, I solved this in under 9 minutes, which is fast. Not record fast, but fast. Might have been record fast under normal (i.e. fully awake) conditions. Did the first 3/4 lightning-fast, but then slowed a bit around the, let's say, Missouri section of the grid. Stupidly wrote in ORS instead of ERS and ended up having real trouble seeing TELETYPES (39A: Fax forerunners), despite the fact that I had the first "T" *and* the "Y." Real "D'oh" moment when I finally figured it out. Also elusive in that region was LISSOME (41D: Easily bent)—I wanted FISSILE ... is that a word? ... yes:
  1. Possible to split.
  2. Physics. Fissionable, especially by neutrons of all energies.
  3. Geology. Easily split along close parallel planes.
[Latin fissilis, from fissus, split. See fissi-.]

Easily bent, easily split. You can see my confusion. Or I can see it, at any rate. Also had trouble seeing GET TIRED, as I wanted TATTERED (37D: Run down). Everything else was a snap. Oh, I wrote in PANAMA pants at 18A: Kind of pants. So that happened.

To be brief: this is a very nice grid. High word count (70) means a very smooth grid. Grid is anchored by some lively long answers: QUICK FREEZE (23D: Way to preserve food freshness) and "I'M JUST SAYIN'" (11D: "That's my two cents"). To be clear, the latter is Great as an answer, but truly horrendous as a thing to say. It's worst when the "I'M" is dropped and it appears at the end of whatever it is you are just saying. It reads like a "f#^% you." You aren't "just sayin'," you are saying whatever you're saying in a way that is smug and condescending and cowardly. The phrase (particularly as a sign-off) is the hallmark of the person who has no ability to fashion a legitimate argument and is afraid of confrontation. It's absolutely false humility. You should never use it. See also "'Nuff said," also revolting.

  • 20A: Winner over NYY in the 2001 World Series (ARI) — first answer in. Huge gimme. That series is legend—one of the best ever played.
  • 26A: Old Testament outdoorsman (ESAU) — that's a new way of describing him. "Let's finish our pottage and then ... fly flishing!"
  • 44A: Heroince of Bulwer-Lytton's "The Last Days of Pompeii" (IONE) — Between Bulwer-Lytton and SPEKE and DISRAELI (6D: Powerful friend of Queen Victoria), this puzzle has a very Anglophilic vibe.
  • 53A: TV title lawyer Stone (ELI) — Good to be able to rack up these 3-letter gimmes. Never saw this show, but know that it's an ELI clue. As for the SARA clue ... ???? (1D: Actress Rue of "Rules of Engagement")
  • 57A: Rum-flavored desserts (TORTONIS) — Never had one. Not a big rum-flavored dessert fan. Rum-flavored rum, on the other hand ...
  • 54D: One guilty of pseudologia (LIAR) — sounds like a bad disease.
  • 45D: Dos for dudes (STAGS) — thought "Dos" referred to hair and so had SHAGS (?!).
  • 8D: Scandalous 1980s inits. (PTL) — another very early entry. Got it without crosses. Considered SDI, but didn't think that was "scandalous" enough. This is a clue that will be much easier for the over-40 set. If you didn't live through the whole stupid PTL scandal, how in the world would you know about it? They're not teaching that *$&% in school, are they?
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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