Allow me to introduce myself: My name is Danny Glasser and Jim has asked me to guest blog about today's Tuesday puzzle (answers) by David Kwong and Emily Halpern. I'm not sure why, as whenever Jim and I engage in a Peer-to-Peer Voice Chat Over Ambient Air Network — what in pre-Interweb days was called a "conversation" — about the daily NY Times puzzle, I express my disdain for this style of puzzle. Furthermore, my active days as a NY Times puzzle-solver are in the distant past, dating roughly from 1978 through 1984. But those are both stories for another day.
I did indeed finish this puzzle and was able to complete all but one letter in one go. For a solver of my modest abilities, this is quite good, even for a Tuesday. I suspect that I was able to do this because I was tired; generally instinct triumphs over deep thought at this sort of puzzle solving. Case in point: When I read 66 Down, "Arthur of Maude", I thought of the character of her neighbor, played by Conrad Bain, and wondered how he could fit into three letters. Of course the correct answer is far more straightforward: The actress who played the title role is BEA Arthur. While we're on the subject of Bea Arthur, I note that she was mentioned in the NY Times last week in Estelle Getty's obituary: "In The Golden Girls, Sophia [Getty's character] was the mother of Dorothy Zbornak, played by Bea Arthur who, in real life, was older than Ms. Getty." I also feel compelled to put in a plug for her brief but stunning cameo as Larry David's mother on Curb Your Enthusiasm.
64 Down has to be my least favorite clue in the entire puzzle. "Trotsky of Russia?" Of Russia?! Is that all you can say about one of the most influential and controversial political operatives of the 20th Century? I think he deserves at least "Lenin ally" or "Bolshevik leader" in the clue; being mortally wounded by having an axe buried in your head should merit some measure of posthumous respect. Or you could go in a completely different direction for this clue and use "Retro singer Redbone."
I am trying to imagine the celebrity poker game that the answers to this puzzle conjures. Of course Arthur is holding court, telling incredibly filthy jokes and goading Trotsky about what a putz he was for letting Stalin take charge. For his part, Trotsky and ITALO Calvino (70 Across) are trading shots of vodka and grappa and commiserating about how "true Communism" went awry when the wrong people took charge. GREG Kinnear (3 Down) tries to keep up on both fronts but is hopelessly outmatched. LEEZA Gibbons (21 Across) flirts with Kinnear but keeps getting interrupted by Arthur's zingers and Trotsky's advances. ARLO Guthrie (63 Down) tells IONE Skye (7 Down) about all the crazy stuff he and her dad did before she was born; none of it is true, and she knows it. Who walks off with the big pot at the end? "Barbie's beau" KEN Carson (69 Across) -- What? You didn't know he has a last name? -- courtesy of the perfect poker face. And he takes Leeza Gibbons home, but sadly nothing happens due to their mutual lack of genitalia.
You may still be wondering how I could complete all but one letter of a puzzle. Well, I didn't know the answers to two intersecting clues: 37 Across and 31 Down. I had S-K-E-_-N and R-_-A_T_A. There aren't many options for this box, and I guessed the correct answer on the first try, but it was the one letter where the guess was based completely on linguistic probability and not at all on the meanings of the words.