Leader in electronic music with multiple grammys / SAT 4-25-15 / Bonus round freebies on Wheel of Fortune / Beacon of wise per Shakespeare / Notable features of David Foster Wallace books / Brand name with 2/3 capital letters in its logo / Group with motto self above service / 17-time all-star of 1960s-80s

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Constructor: James Mulhern

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: none

Word of the Day: György LIGETI (62A: Composer György whose music was featured in Kubrick films) —
György Sándor Ligeti (HungarianLigeti György Sándor [ˈliɡɛti ˈɟørɟ ˈʃaːndor]; 28 May 1923 – 12 June 2006) was a composer of contemporary classical music. He has been described as "one of the most important avant-garde composers in the latter half of the twentieth century" and "one of the most innovative and influential among progressive figures of his time".
Born in TransylvaniaRomania, he lived in Hungary before emigrating and becoming an Austrian citizen. (wikipedia)
• • •

Very hard, but a weird kind of hard. The kind of hard that was mostly easy but then dead-stop. Then medium and then Dead-Stop 2: The Revenge. The dead-stops came, not surprisingly, in the dead-end alleys in the NE and SW. Those were like completely separate, self-contained, wholly different experiences from the broad swath of puzzle from NW to SE. Just brutal. And things started out so well. Here's what my puzzle looked like just 5 seconds in:

OK, yes, it's SKRILLEX, not SKRILLAX (1A: Leader in electronic music with multiple Grammys), but the fact that I was 87.5% right on that answer right out of the gate meant that I had traction galore. I figured this would just be one of those days where the constructor and I were on the same pop culture wavelength, and I would sea voyage to victory. This was before I enter chamber of horrors 1: the NE. I had the bottom part of that section from STRATEGO and SAME-SEX, but DFW clue (12D: Notable features of David Foster Wallace books) meant nothing to me and -AGE was zero help with 'ROID RAGE and … something BOX. I wanted SMALL. I then wanted SWEAT, but couldn't convince myself that was a thing, or a metaphor based on a thing. But the real super duper horrible problem for me up there was the horrible quicksand I fell into with a pair of wrong answers: LODGES for 9A: Elks and others (ORDERS) and LOP for 9D: Cockeyed (OFF). Yes, it's ALOP (if it's anything). I see that now. But it *really* felt right. So I sat a long time. Keep in mind that LODGES got me the "D" for DROOP, which only hardened my commitment to LODGES. Gah. Finally tore everything out and tried END NOTES for the DFW clue. From there, I brought back SWEAT BOX and everything worked out. Sigh.

Back to the fun middle! Sailed almost too easily around the bend in the SE and over to the entrance to the SW corner, which, like the NE, didn't want to let me in. Here, I have to quibble with the clues on the gateway answers (i.e. those Acrosses across the top of the SW section). [Space racers] is screaming for a "?" The U.S. and the SOVIETS were indeed involved in a Space Race, but no one in the world, let alone outer space, would call either party a "racer." Come on. That's nuts. And bananas. Banana nut bread, that is, without the deliciousness. And then "CHOCOLAT" (42A: 2000 film set in France that was nominated for five Academy Awards) … oh, actually "CHOCOLAT" is fair. Arcane, to me, but fair. It's the clue on ATLAS that irked me—34D: Global superpower? How? I get that it contains maps, which makes it kin to a globe, but what is this "superpower" of which you speak? It's a big book. It can't fly and doesn't have heat vision. In fact, it has no powers, beyond the powers that any books have. "?" is not saving that one [Ed.: Whoops. My bad. It's ATLAS the guy mythologically holding the "globe" on his back … clue is fine, brain is not. Carry on].

Even after I got the top part of the SW: trouble. If it hadn't been for the outright gimmes of AYN (45A: First name in Objectivism) and VONNEGUT (39D: Author who created the fatalistic optometrist Billy Pilgrim), I'd never have finished. Even with them: trouble. A bygone Secretary of Energy? A bygone movie music composer? A SCAPULAR?! And AD UNIT? Nixon memoir? I really wish the payoffs had been stronger in these tough spots. Instead of the exhilaration I felt early on, I ended up feeling exhausted. It was also unfortunate to finish up in the weakest part of the grid (which wasn't terribly weak, but still—no joy but VONNEGUT down there). I love the buzz and energy (and relative cleanness) of most of this puzzle, but ultimately found it slightly too proper-noun heavy overall. Still, it's only truly faulty in the SW. There are different kinds of hard. NE was Hard-Good. SW, Hard-Mean.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    P.S. Should "notable" be in the clue for an answer that contains the word "NOTES?"

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    Albanian cash / FRI 4-24-15 / Gershwin musical whose name sounds like approval / Bank with landmark tower in Dallas / Charley who caught Warren Spahn's 1961 no-hitter / Three words that best describe Grinch in song / French Facebookers connections / Queen Revenge Blackbeard's ship / Otto's preceder / South American rodents / Rosa lilla tulipano

    Friday, April 24, 2015

    Constructor: Joe Krozel

    Relative difficulty: Challenging

    THEME: none

    Word of the Day: Charley LAU (41A: Charley who caught Warren Spahn's 1961 no-hitter) —
    Charles Richard Lau (April 12, 1933, in Romulus, Michigan – March 18, 1984) was an Americancatcher and highly influential hitting coach in Major League Baseball.
    He was signed by the Detroit Tigers as an amateur free agent. After spending three seasons with the organization (1956, 1958–1959) he was traded (with Don Lee) to the Milwaukee Braves for Casey WiseDon Kaiser, and Mike Roarke. After the Baltimore Orioles purchased him from the Braves in 1962, he adopted a contact hitter's batting stance (feet wide apart, bat held almost parallel to the ground). That season he had a .294 batting average with six home runs and thirty-seven runs batted in.
    After hitting .194 in 23 games, he was sold by the Orioles to the Kansas City Athletics on July 1, 1963, hitting .294 in Kansas City and having a batting average of .272 in 92 games. On June 15, 1964, he was traded back to the Orioles for Wes Stock. On May 31, 1967, he was purchased by the Braves, now located in Atlanta, and on November 27, 1967, he was released by the Braves.
    On April 28, 1961, Lau caught the second of Warren Spahn's two career no-hitters. (wikipedia)
    • • •

    [opens puzzle] [sigh "stunt grid" sigh deep sigh pffffffffff … OK, shake it off, Rex. Shake It Off. You can do this. Clear eyes, full heart, solve puzzle!]

    Some good things did happen. After falling flat with DOGWOOD at 1A: Tree with white flowers, I got LEKS (not proud) and PDS and remembered that CATALPA was a kind of tree (that I've seen only in crosswords, but still…). So crossword info retrieval system was in nice working order today. Also, very early on, things looked very promising when out of the blue, what did I see but a genuinely interesting, bold, entertaining 15: STINK, STANK, STUNK! (17A: "The three words that best describe" the Grinch, in song). I liked that so much, I took a picture:

    This ended up being the highest of high highlights in the puzzle, but at least it happened. Ironically, the answer that STINK, STANK, STUNK the very least in this puzzle was … this one. After that, I just had to hunker down and fight my way through what I knew was coming: odd names, old names, weird plurals, foreignisms, and whatever VETOER is. Oh, and I played a little game with myself called "Where's the ONE'S"—any time you get a ton of 15s in a puzzle, there's a good chance you're gonna get yourself at least one ONE'S, and today did not disappoint. "Where are you ONE'S … I know you're out there … come on out, I won't hurt you …" And then bam! There it was:

    Good ole ONE'S.

    What did I learn? I learned that CONDIMENTS come in AISLEs now, and that Juli INKSTER spells her first name without an "e" (which makes me stunned that she hasn't appeared more as four-letter fill).  I learned that "OH, KAY!" … exists. I learned the Italian singular for "flower" (39D: Rosa, lilla or tulipano) (FIORE). I don't think I learned anything else. But I did get the chance to test my seldom-used run-the-alphabet skills, which was the only was I managed to finish this puzzle. You see, I came to a crashing, screeching, seemingly terminal halt at the very end when it came time to sew things up in the SW. Neither of the 15s computed and mystery names and "?" clues were conspiring to keep me baffled. Here's what I was staring down:

    Now, you can see that I've got an error in the crosswordese plural name (ugh Ugh UGH) at 28D: Writing brothers Leon and Abraham (EDELS). So that's problem 1. Problem 2 is failure to parse TRINITR-T… I'm thinking "trinitron" … which was a Sony product, maybe? A television brand? But that makes no sense. Problem 3 is Charley who? and problem 4 is the inscrutable (to me) "?" clue on 2D: One doing the rounds very quickly? Eventually I figure out the EDERS/EDELS problem, but that just leads to Problem 1B: making sense of the "?" clue at 35A: Subtractions from divisions? Nothing makes sense. I finally figure out that 3D: Something to level with is TNT, and I think it's TRINITROTOLUENE, but since that doesn't result in immediate finishing of puzzle, I'm not sure. In the end, I have to run the alphabet at the second letter in 35A: A--LS. And just as I'm despairing, as I near the end of the alphabet, the "W" slips in and my brain goes "nope, nope, nope ... WAIT A MINUTE!" And then AWOLS WEAPON LAU the end. I assume anyone who struggled struggled in this same place or not at all, but maybe you got stuck around MITA and PACAS or up in "OH, KAY!"-ERMA'S-land. Who knows? Well, you do. Anyway, I struggled, I won, now I move on.
      Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

      PS Hey check out this nice newspaper profile of my monthly guest blogger, Annabel Thompson.

      [Follow Rex Parker on Facebook and Twitter]


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