Thursday, February 16, 2012

Youth with Skull painter / FRI 2-17-12 / Lady Baltimore novelist 1906 / Graceful fairy / Postapocalyptic best seller of 1978 / Aquila's brightest star

Constructor: Ian Livengood

Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: none 

Word of the Day: OWEN WISTER (49A: "Lady Baltimore" novelist, 1906) —
Owen Wister (July 14, 1860 – July 21, 1938) was an American writer and "father" of western fiction. [...] He began his literary work in 1891. Wister had spent several summers out in the American West, making his first trip to Wyoming in 1885. Like his friend Teddy Roosevelt, Wister was fascinated with the culture, lore and terrain of the region. On an 1893 visit to Yellowstone, Wister met the western artist Frederic Remington; who remained a lifelong friend. When he started writing, he naturally inclined towards fiction set on the western frontier. Wister's most famous work remains the 1902 novel The Virginian, the loosely constructed story of a cowboy who is a natural aristocrat, set against a highly mythologized version of the Johnson County War and taking the side of the large land owners. This is widely regarded as being the first cowboy novel and was reprinted fourteen times in eight months. The book is dedicated to Theodore Roosevelt. (wikipedia)
• • •

My only complaint about this puzzle was that I blew through it like it was barely there. Also, not a lot in the way of really interesting fill—with the exception of "THERE, THERE" over "EASY DOES IT" (53A: "It'll be O.K." lead-in + 55A: "Whoa, not so fast!"), which makes for a somewhat interesting half of an imagined dialogue, and BABE MAGNET, which is great 1-Across material (1A: Stud, say). The fill is pretty smooth, just not very spicy. It's also very ANTLERS™ — ultracommon letters abound, and there's just the lone "X" to represent your minority letters. I enjoyed the trivia in the clues, which kept some very familiar answers hidden from me for a little bit, but there was a bit of a nagging blandness. But you can't fault clean fill + interesting fill too much.

I started a bit haltingly by putting in GAPE for 1D: Appear thrilled (BEAM). But I figured ALFA had to be right at 2D: Two before Charlie, and then, without even looking at 37-Down (37D: South-of-the-border bad guy), I knew 19A: More, to a 37-Down would have to be MAS. I don't think I ever saw "Godfather Part III," so that clue was a mystery to me, and stayed that way even after I got -LIW-... that is a letter combination so odd that my first instinct was "Error." But I kept it in and eventually uncovered ELI WALLACH (15A: He played Don Altobello in "The Godfather Part III"). Moved from there down to the SW, where CHADS, HALS (32A: "Youth With a Skull" painter), and ODS came very easily, and FALSE START then gave me all the traction I needed (27D: Reason for a track delay). I think I then went up to the NE and then down to finish in the SE, with only RAO (31A: 1990s Indian P.M.) and an initial "S" for "F"error at 44A: Grain, e.g. (FEED) holding me up at all. Not a record time, but still pretty fast. Mid 6s.

  • 18A: Hillbilly's plug (CHAW) — that has to be one of the most disturbing clues I've come across in a while. 
  • 20A: Eric of "Funny People," 2009 (BANA) — no idea what movie that is, but a four-letter Eric in the past decade or so is surely BANA. He's the Crossword Hollywood It Boy. I picked him up the same way I picked up DADO and BETEL—reflexively.
  • 6D: Aquila's brightest star (ALTAIR) — I'm no good at astronomical junk, but I had enough crosses to get ALTAIR, which I'd seen in other puzzles. 
  • 10D: Postapocalyptic best seller of 1978 ("THE STAND") — if you discuss postapocalyptic literature with anyone for very long, this title inevitably comes up. A massively popular example of the genre.
  • 22D: League division (EAST) — this wasn't hard, but it felt a little ... cryptically unspecific. Seems like it needs a qualifier, if only an appended "at times." Or maybe "Common league division." Phrasing makes it sound like the word will, absolutely, mean "league division."
  • 28D: "Faded Love" singer, 1963 (CLINE) — I'm gonna assume this is Patsy, even though I don't recall ever having heard this tune ... 

  • 30D: Film with the tagline "Borat was SO 2006" ("BRUNO") — I haven't seen either, but know both titles well. "BRUNO" doesn't seem to have had the cultural impact that its predecessor did.
  • 46D: Graceful fairy (PERI) — falls in the BANA / DADO / BETEL category of Instinctive Fill. Short Stuff You Just Know.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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