Tuesday, January 3, 2012

1980s Salvadoran president / WED 1-4-12 / Detroit rapper a-Che / Org whose logo features letter pi with arrow through it / Courtier who invites Hamlet to duel with Laertes

Constructor: Brendan Emmett Quigley

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: Quip puzzle18A: Start of a quip by 44-Across [Brendan BEHAN]: "I SAW A NOTICE / WHICH SAID / DRINK CANADA DRY AND I'VE / JUST STARTED"

Word of the Day: Brendan BEHAN (44A: Writer Brendan) —
Brendan Francis Behan ([...] 9 February 1923 – 20 March 1964) was an Irish poet, short story writer, novelist, and playwright who wrote in both Irish and English. He was also an Irish republican and a volunteer in the Irish Republican Army. (wikipedia)
• • •

So he's Irish, but he was in Canada once, I guess? Or he's drinking Canadian whiskey? I like the quip, but the fact of his not being Canadian is slightly confusing to me. I don't know BEHAN at all—doubt it would've helped much with this difficult puzzle. Quote puzzles are notoriously time-consuming (compared to other themed puzzles) because there is no pattern to pick up and no way to know where the quip is going (unless you've heard it before or it's moving in some very predictable direction I guess). I am not familiar with the use of "NOTICE" in this quip, though I'm guessing it simply means advertisement. Once I got the quip as far as CANADA DRY, I knew vaguely what the joke would be. I like the punchline's terseness. As for the rest of the grid—it is eye-popping. Very tough, but very light on junk. Enjoyable, but much more a Thursday than a Wednesday puzzle. Combine BEQ's sensibility (which involves tricky, often very contemporary cluing) with a quip puzzle, and you have a recipe for toughness. My near downfall was the FSIX / SIM CARD crossing. I never use F keys so that clue meant nothing to me. And I can't remember the last time I saw or used the phrase SIM CARD (26D: Data holder on a cellphone). Scary, but that "S" was (in the end) inferrable via F-SIX (25A: Key in the middle of the top row), though I'm sure there are people out there right now wondering what an AIM CARD and a FAIX key are. Or a LIM CARD and a FLIX key. Etc. 

I'd completely forgotten the name DUARTE (1980s Salvadoran president). Was totally flummoxed by ONE DOWN (1D: You are here). Had BEYONCÉ for BELUSHI (2D: Only person to have the #1 movie, #1 album and #1-rated late-night TV show all in the same week) (really should've read the clue all the way to the end...). Clue on CIG was rough (22A: Parliament, e.g., in brief). Wanted ZIT to be NIT at first (51D: Small blemish, in slang). Briefly wondered why Eisenhower would've been the [Subj. of the 1948 Nobel in Physiology or Medicine]. "Ohhhhhh ... DDT! Yeah, that makes more sense." JEEZ and ANAL seem borderline profane, so I like that they are symmetrical.

  • 14A: Org. whose logo features the letter pi with an arrow through it (NEA) — I think this is my wife's union. I've never seen their logo.
  • 24A: Courtier who invites Hamlet to duel with Laertes (OSRIC) — minor character, but I used him in a puzzle once, so he's an easy pick-up. The word "courtier" (as well as the 5-letter length) is a give-away.
  • 4D: Feature of Dr. Frankenstein's lab (SWITCH) — a great but (again) very tough clue for SWITCH

  • 21D: Detroit rapper ___-a-Che (RIC) — sounds like "ricochet." Don't think I've ever heard him, but I've definitely seen the name before. Possibly in another BEQ puzzle. 
  • 37D: ___ Kitchen (organic frozen food company) (AMY'S) — wow, do people know this company? I do, but only because I shop in the little "healthy" ghetto in Wegman's (where all the whole grains and loose leaf teas and soy milk and gluten-free junk is). I enjoy some of AMY'S veggie burgers. The pot pies, not so much. Too much crust.
  • 48D: Thing watched while driving through a speed trap (NEEDLE) — it's hard to shoot heroin and drive at the same time.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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