St Louis Blues composer / WED 9-3-14 / 2013 Tonto portrayer / 1960s TV show featuring cross-eyed lion Clarence / Worked on trireme / Get Smart adversary / Mobster's gun
Wednesday, September 3, 2014
Constructor: Peter A. Collins
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
THEME: HEAD STARTS (59A: Race advantages … or a hint to 17-, 23- 38- and 49-Across)— theme answers start with words that can also mean "bathroom" or "restroom" or "toilet" or what have you:
- CAN OF WORMS (17A: Metaphorical mess)
- PRIVY COUNCIL (23A: Monarch's advisers)
- W.C. HANDY (38A: "St. Louis Blues" composer)
- JOHN F. KENNEDY (49A: Only president to win a Pulitzer)
Lantana is a genus of about 150 species of perennial flowering plants in the verbena family,Verbenaceae. They are native to tropical regions of the Americas and Africa but exist as anintroduced species in numerous areas, especially in the Australian-Pacific region. The genus includes both herbaceous plants and shrubs growing to 0.5–2 m (1.6–6.6 ft) tall. Their common names are shrub verbenas or lantanas. The generic name originated in Late Latin, where it refers to the unrelated Viburnum lantana.
W. C. HANDY before, but only from puzzles, and I certainly couldn't remember his first initials. And [Scares a cat, in a way] made no sense to me initially. Required me to run the alphabet until I hit the dog noise, WOOF(S). One other proper noun ("DAKTARI"), and the Word-of-the-Day plant genius I'd never heard of, helped keep this one well on the tough side. I thought I knew what "DAKTARI" was, but it turns out I was thinking of "Hatari," a John Wayne movie set in Africa. When I saw [1960s TV show featuring the cross-eyed lion Clarence] all I could conjure up in my mind was Lamb Chop and Sheri Lewis and … wait, no, I was thinking of Kookla, Fran & Ollie. But somehow in my mind those three hang out with Lamb Chop and Sheri Lewis. Anyway, my point is I clearly never saw any of these puppet shows as I was not alive in the '60s much, and the time I was alive (about 35 days) is not terribly memorable. It occurs to me now that perhaps the show "DAKTARI" didn't involve puppets at all–that I just assumed that, based on the deep unlikelihood of an actual cross-eyed lion's existing, let alone auditioning for TV roles. Anyway, it turns out I know the "word" "DAKTARI" as a 10,000 Maniacs song that appeared on an album I used to (and maybe still) own called The Wishing Chair. It was the album just before In My Tribe, i.e. just before they became college rock royalty. Anyway, I never understood what she was saying on the song—how was I to know it was about a cross-eyed lion.
I like the theme—it's tight and has a nice revealer. The fill is a bit wobbly for my tastes. ASAN CANTI TROI EVAC OSHA SOYA DEE SDS NEAPS (plural!?) EDEMA YADA OCTA SRTA OARED YETI ATIT (!) ETAS OCULO PENH ENTS … there's just a *lot* of dull and/or subpar stuff. But KAZAKHSTAN does ease the pain a bit (28D: Former Soviet republic). That's a spectacular long Down. This puzzle is all about the theme, and the theme is good.
I'm quite tired from my first day of teaching. I am not in match shape, as they say. So I'm off to bed. Until tomorrow...