East of Eden girl / SAT 3-3-12 / Wheelset piece / Garment originally made from caribou sealskin / Symbiotic partners of clownfish / Monkey ladder vine / Guru follower / Ramadi resident
Saturday, March 3, 2012
Constructor: Byron Walden
Relative difficulty: Medium
Word of the Day: LOUIS NYE (53A: Steve Allen sidekick with the catchphrase "Hi-ho, Steverino!") —
Louis Nye (May 1, 1913 – October 9, 2005) was an American comedy actor. [...]
He made numerous appearances on The Jack Benny Program and The Jimmy Durante Show. He also appeared on The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom. He found fame with Steve Allen. As a regular on The Steve Allen Show, he took part in the weekly "Man on the Street" sketches, performing with Allen, Don Knotts, Dayton Allen, Tom Poston and Bill Dana. // Nye was a popular sketch comedian who primarily played urbane, wealthy bon vivant types. His characterization of the delightfully pretentious country-club braggart Gordon Hathaway, his catchphrase, "Hi, ho, Steveorino," and Allen's inability to resist bursting into hysterical laughter at Nye's ad-libs during gags, made Nye one of the favorite performers on Allen's show. When production was moved to Los Angeles, Nye went along and became a character actor in Hollywood. (wikipedia)
• • •I enjoyed this. I got a bit psyched out by the constructor's name—Byron on a Saturday can be an intimidating experience—but this one ended up being very doable. Thorny, but doable. There were enough sections of short fill that I was able to get toeholds in lots of different sections of the grid—ESSES and PAS MAL (16A: Not bad, in Nantes) in the NW; ADMS, OLEO, OKAY, and YAYS in the E; YSER, YELL, ENDE, and LENT in the SE; TET in the center; RYNE in the W (27D: Hall-of-Fame Cub Sandberg). The cluing is tricky and clever (and precise) throughout. I don't think I've ever heard of HAIR LACQUER or ARMY GROUPS, so that wasn't my favorite part of the grid, but otherwise I like most all the 8+-letter fill from the NW all the way down to the SE. Mostly worth the (largely inoffensive) crosswordese you see here and there. I'm also fairly impressed with the stacks of 6s in the NE and SW. I like 'em all. Great words and phrases, interesting and varied letter combinations ... a carefully constructed grid from stem to stern. I like when constructors treat sections of short fill like they matter, like they're as important a part of the puzzle as the flashy stuff.
Despite the fact that Aquarius is the water-bearer, I somehow "knew" that 1A: Gemini, Libra and Aquarius was AIR SIGNS. I mean, they're signs ... and AIR fit in the remaining squares. I confirmed that answer with RAKE (which was wrong; it's RACK, 3D: Pool accessory) and INC, but couldn't do much else, so moved on to the NE, which was the first section I completed. Then I sat and admired it, all neatly filled in and sequestered from the rest of the grid. Filled in what I could in the E, but that went nowhere, so I dropped down to the SE and from there worked my way up into the center. The rest of the solving process was just a matter of moving out from the center hub into the remaining four spokes and picking them off one by one.
I honestly don't know how I knew LOUIS NYE and Reverend IKE. I had NYE and just knew that the first name was LOUIS, though I couldn't tell you anything about him. I know IKE Turner, but the Reverend IKE is just a name I encountered somewhere, at some time. Just a name kicking around my head. And today, out it came. ABRA (1D: "East of Eden" girl) somehow never made it into my head. Neither did ALEXA (36A: Vega of "Spy Kids"), whom I had as ALANA (despite the fact that this exact ALEXA has been in grids before). SEAMUS, however, was a gimme; coincidentally, I am right in the middle of teaching his translation of Beowulf (40D: Nobel-winning poet Heaney).
- 18A: Promotional description for a coming show ("IT'S BIG!") — Feels right, but I kind of want to see an example.
- 21A: "Green Book" org., familiarly (THE I.R.A.) — my first instinct, with no crosses yet to guide me: THE E.P.A.
- 22A: Home of the Dostoyevsky Literary Museum (OMSK) — off the "K" in STEAK QUESADILLA, no problem (8D: Taco Bell offering).
- 34A: Monkey ladder vine (LIANA) — brain hiccuped and gave me RIATA the first go round. Monkey with a lasso ... that would be kinda funny.
- 40A: Symbiotic partners of clownfish (SEA ANEMONES) — got this (finally) when I got the "AA" and knew that that was where the phrase had to break.
- 41A: "She is more precious than ___": Proverbs 3:15 (RUBIES) — this may be one of the first biblical quote clues that I got instantly. I think there was a movie many years ago called "A Price Above Rubies." Starring RENEE Zellweger? Does that sound right? Maybe I know the phrase from elsewhere too.
- 46A: Garment originally made from caribou or sealskin (ANORAK) — this one was a gimme for my wife. Not for me. Her logic: "Well, PARKA didn't fit ..."
- 4D: Guru follower (SIKH) — My favorite "guru," as of just this past week, is "gary the guru":
- 9D: Dogs that ought to be great swimmers? (SPITZES) — after Olympic multi-medalist Mark Spitz. I forget that the spitz was even a breed, so this one just came together from crosses (and quickly).
- 13D: Old country name or its currency, both dropped in 1997 (ZAIRE) — knew it was no longer a country name, didn't know anything else referenced in the clue. Again, thankfully, I had many helpful crosses, so I didn't really struggle too long with this.
- 32D: Wheelset piece (AXLE) — finished the puzzle with this as ANLE and its neighbor as KARN (because of my "Spy Kidz" error). Didn't know what a "wheelset" was.
- 44D: Ramadi resident (IRAQI) — knew it started with "I," thus felt pretty sure that it ended in "I" ... just a matter of "Q" or "N" ...
- 47A: "___ Back" (2004 Kenny Chesney hit) ("I GO") — my first stab: "HE'S"; this gives you some sense of the depth of my knowledge about modern country (though I did just see Chesney cover Springsteen's "I'm On Fire" on Jimmy Fallon the other night—pretty good).