Friday, October 12, 2007

New York Sun Crossword Puzzle 10-12-07

Just so I don't forget how, I thought I'd blog "Endnotes" by David Sullivan.
A tough puzzle but with a clever payoff that makes the work worthwhile. When you're faced with a toughie, it's best to fall back on the classic rules of puzzle solving. Rule #1 I think is "Fill-in-the-blank clues often give you the best chance of gaining a toehold." That was certainly true here where 41A: "____ Loves Mambo" (PAPA) and 27D: ____-Hartley Act (law governing unions) (TAFT) were the first two answers I was able to obtain. (I didn't do as well with the third fill-in-the-blank clue 58A: "House of Dracula" director ____ C. Kenton (ERLE) but when I finally did get that one filled in, I was amazed to find a third guy who can't spell the name Earl, with this guy joining "Oilman Halliburton" and "Perry's creator ____ Stanley Gardner")

It took me a long time to figure out the theme, and I really think there's a lesson in here somewhere but I can't quite put my finger on it. I knew that 34A: Film with a bat named Wonderboy was "The Natural" because it's one of my favorite movies, one of those rare instances where the movie was better than the book (with apologies to all those who prefer the pointlessly-depressing Bernard Malamud book) but I couldn't figure out how to make it fit in there. I figured that 21D: Parasite was LEECH and 31D: Docent's deg., perhaps was MFA but I didn't fill either of them in, because I didn't think there could possibly be a movie title like _HFF_ _ _ and of course I was right, there is no such movie, but I was wrong, I should have filled them both in anyway.

Anyway, without further delay, the theme here -- well, the theme is going to be hard for a musical illiterate like me to explain, but basically I think certain musical notes have more than one name , depending on what key you're in. In other words there is on difference between a E Natural and an F Flat, which is how "THE NATURAL" can become "THFFLAT" and in the same manner (A flat and G sharp being the same note) John Steinbeck's "Tortilla Flat" can become TORTILLGSHARP at 20A. Forgetting that there was a theme and filling in letters from the East side of the grid, I was trying to think of a book titled "Somebody-or-other's Harp". I'm glad it was "Tortilla Flat" though because I love that book and I love John Steinbeck. In this book, Steinbeck draws parallels between King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and some drunken paisanos near Monterey California.

The other note-able entry was 53A: Singer of the 1962 hit "Mashed Potato Time". Dee Dee Sharp recorded that classic, as well as its follow-up (and I'm not kidding) "Gravy (For My Mashed Potatoes)" In this puzzle Dee Dee Sharp becomes DEEDEFNATURAL.

Other entries of interest:

Once I stalled out on my fill-in-the-blanks, I gained a second toehold at 5A: City near Fatehpur Sikri (AGRA) Not that I've ever heard of Fatehpur Sikri, but it looks Indian and it's four letters so it must be AGRA. Then with that initial A I got 5D: Sea on the Kazakhstan border (ARAL) and I'd much rather have the first letter on this one than the last three cuz if I had _RAL, I wouldn't know if it was ARAL or URAL.

62A: Start of a few choice words? (EENY) I had _EN_ and I was sure it was going to be MENU. I wonder how many traps like that are purposely set by crossword constructors.

This is kind of embarrassing to admit, but I had the initial C at 9D: Alexandra, once and I, thinking of Alexandria, was trying to think of another name for the city in Egypt. Of course she was actually a CZARINA.

A couple of sports clues that briefly held me up: 16A: Court defense type (ZONE) where I thought first of judges and juries, then tennis, and finally basketball (not a big roundball fan) and 36D: Walks, for short (BBS) which I didn't even realize was a baseball clue till I had it filled in. BBs are "bases on balls."

19D: Subject of some searches (TALENT) and speaking of talent, I'm not sure how much BO DEREK possesses, but I love the title of the movie in the clue 39D: "Ghosts Can't Do It" actress.

In a September 29th 2007 edict Rex Parker, the King of Crossworld, said "if you are an adult who still reads the Sunday funnies for pleasure, there might be something wrong with you. Not necessarily ... just see your doctor." Well, I'm just a lowly serf in Crossworld, but I say if you're an adult and something gives you pleasure and doesn't hurt anyone else, then go for it. I love my comic strips -- or funnies, if you will -- but I didn't see a doctor, other than Doctor Zook, which allowed me to get 60A: Patient of Dr. Zook (HAGAR)
That was fun, let's do it again sometime soon. Have a nice weekend.

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