Friday, December 2, 2011

Tasseographer's bit / SAT 12-3-11 / Other Side of Oz autobiographer / East End abode / County NE of El Paso

Constructor: David Quarfoot

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: Mission Santa INÉS (55D: California's Mission Santa ___) —
Mission Santa Inés (sometimes spelled Santa Ynez) was founded on September 17, 1804 by Father Estévan Tapís, who had succeeded Father Fermín Lasuén as President of the California mission chain. The Mission site was chosen as a midway point between Mission Santa Barbara and Mission La Purísima Concepción, and was designed to relieve overcrowding at those two missions and to serve the Indians living east of the Coast Range. Despite its name, the Mission is located at 1760 Mission Drive, Solvang, California. (wikipedia)
• • •
Well, this was solid, but ... there were no great seed answers and only two high-value Scrabble tiles in the whole thing; which is to say, it wasn't very Quarfooty. When your own name is more visually interesting than every word in your grid, that's not the greatest sign. I breezed through this, helped along by having owned at least one pair of Timberlands in my life—[something] BOOTS was my first guess, and SNOW seemed the most likely lead-in. I also know very well that the UC Irvine athletes are ANTEATERS (63A: UC Irvine athletes). I grew up attending Fresno State basketball games, and UC Irvine was at that point in our conference (the bygone PCAA conference), and so we played the ANTEATERS a lot. UC Santa Cruz is the BANANA SLUGS, by the way. My stepbrother went there. I don't think they have a Div. I basketball team. SNOWBOOTS and ANTEATERS gave me enough purchase to dismantle their respective corners, and everything else was ust very easy to piece together.

I figure that being a constant solver helped me with at least a half dozen words, most notably OTERO (6D: County NE of El Paso) and MUONS (words I would never have encountered were it not for crosswords). Other stuff that came easy through force of habit was ALEROS, DEANE, NCO, SNEE, REUP, ELAL and 'OME (26A: East End abode). Strangely, the one significant hang-up I had in the puzzle was a result of a tiny answer (also the puzzle's weakest answer): -OTE (61D: Taxonomic suffix). I had -ITE. This kept SORE LOSER hidden for an embarrassingly long time. I think I had SO-ELISER and thought "???" But I figured it out. Only other real WTF answer was JUD (50A: "Pore ___ Is Daid" ("Oklahoma!" song)). Had the "J" but that helped just about not at all. JOE? JIM? I figured it would be something close to gibberish, otherwise why go this backwoods idiomatic route in the cluing. The "D" (from RED ROSE40D: Aid when going to court), was probably the last letter I wrote into the grid. Did this one on paper, for a change—a skill I'm going to have to improve on if I want to have any hope of doing better than 31st at next year's American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, which you can now register for. Details here.

  • 17A: Grammy-winning pianist born in the U.S.S.R. (EMANUEL AX) — needed a bunch of crosses, but eventually figured it out. I have a few CDs on which he plays. That's one hell of a last name. 

  • 38A: Saqqara attractions (PYRAMIDS) — now there's a crossword answer for you: SAQQARA (featuring the rarely, i.e. never, seen double-Q)
  • 3D: Song that ends "Protégera nos foyers et nos droits" ("O CANADA") — which, roughly translated, means "protect our foyers and our rights"; it's all about preventing home invasions, that song.
  • 7D: Group that sang the 1962 hit "The Wah Watusi," with "the" (ORLONS) — how did I know this??? I got it off the "O"; I think it must be the Rolling Stone rock & roll trivia magazine that's sitting in our bathroom right now. I remember staring at some question that asked me to guess which of a set of groups *wasn't* a real '60s singing group, and I feel like the ORLONS was on the list.
  • 8D: Tasseographer's bit (TEA LEAF) — thought maybe this had something to do with tessellation, but no.
  • 12D: 2000 terrorist target (USS COLE) — I'm a bit surprised this clue is in here. NYT tends to steer clear of downers like terrorism (and disease, many body parts, etc.). I think it's a perfectly good clue. 
  • 39D: Company sold in 2006 for $1.65 billion—21 months after it was founded (YOUTUBE) — I love their work. 
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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