Brother Antonio Girolamo in music history / THU 5-26-16 / Foe of Ottomans / Nursery bagful / 1777 battle site / When shortened topic in sexology / 1836 battle site / white one said to symbolize I'm sorry

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Constructor: Andrew Zhou

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium


THEME: transformative compressions — two-word phrases are clued as if they were "[first letter of first word]-second word" words, "[w]hen shortened." Thus, for example, [When shortened, June 1944 offensive] might clue the answer DORIS DAY (because "when shortened," "DORIS" becomes "D"...). And so:

Theme answers:
  • VITAL SIGNS (4D: When shortened, winning symbols)
  • QUICK TIPS (18A: When shortened, ear swabs)
  • FOXHOLE (24D: When shortened, violin feature)
  • ONION RING (11D: When shortened, rocket seal)
  • GUEST SPOT (34D: When shortened, topic in sexology)
  • TAPAS BARS (58A: When shortened, ski lifts)
  • BLINDSIDES (one-word verb? two-word plural noun?) (31D: When shortened, lesser-played songs) 
Word of the Day: PAAVO Järvi (50D: Conductor Järvi) —
Paavo Järvi (Estonian: [ˈpɑːvo ˈjærvi]; born 30 December 1962) is an Estonian conductor.
Järvi was born in Tallinn, Estonia, to conductor Neeme Järvi and Liilia Järvi. His siblings, Kristjan Järvi and Maarika Järvi, are also musicians. After leaving Estonia, the family settled in Rumson, New Jersey. He studied at the Curtis Institute of Music with Max Rudolf and Otto-Werner Mueller, and at the Los Angeles Philharmonic Institute with Leonard Bernstein. // From 1994 to 1997, Järvi was principal conductor of the Malmö Symphony Orchestra. From 1995 to 1998, he shared the title of principal conductor of the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra with Sir Andrew Davis. Järvi was music director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra from 2001 to 2011. The orchestra made a number of recordings for the Telarc label during Järvi's tenure. In May 2011, he was named the orchestra's Music Director Laureate. Since 2004, he has been the artistic director of the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie, Bremen and an Artistic Advisor to the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra. In 2006, Järvi became the principal conductor of the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, and served in the post until 2014. In 2010, he became music director of the Orchestre de Paris. He is scheduled to conclude his tenure with the Orchestre de Paris at the conclusion of his current contract, at the end of the summer of 2016. In June 2012, the NHK Symphony Orchestra named Järvi its next chief conductor, beginning in the 2015–2016 season, with an initial contract of three years. Järvi recently starred in the documentary Maestro, directed by David Donnelly, which followed Järvi and an array of brilliant musicians as they performed across the globe. (wikipedia)
• • •
Wow, this was not an easy theme to describe succinctly. It's kind of bizarre, in that there's no connection at all, meaning-wise, between the answer in the grid and the "shortened" answer that's actually being clued. There's just this clever bit of wordplay going on, over and over (and in intersecting answers—nice). I found it oddly delightful. Wacky in a way I somehow appreciated. I can even forgive the Absurd Scrabble-f*cking in the SW corner—why is that "J" there? TAJ really really limits cluing possibilities, leaving you only with proper noun / fill-in-the-blank cluing options (here, the banal 58D: ___ Boston (luxury hotel), yawn). TAN or TAB or TAG or TAP beats TAJ any day. Any. Day. It is *bizarre* that there is no "Y" in this grid, because the only way I can understand that corner "J" is if the constructor was actually going for a pangram (i.e. a puzzle with every letter in the alphabet represented at least once). But there's no "Y". There's no Y!!! It's so weird. I feel like there must've been one that got edited out. Wait, where was I? Oh, right. I actually enjoyed this theme, and most of this grid.


TAPAS BARS was both my favorite answer and the hardest (for me) to get. This is partly because of TAJ (?) [shakes fist], partly because I don't think of a BOT as a "harvester," partly because that [Remover of dirt...] clue was doing nothing for me, partly because I wasn't *entirely* sure of the spelling on PAAVO. But I just hacked at it wildly and finally things fell into place. Two other trouble spots were a. in the north where ETAS and SALE were not at all apparent to me. The latter really looked like it would be OPEN, and the former was just inscrutable; and b. in the east, where the BILGE / ASTER / LILT / DEBRIS mash-up was mildly befuddling. Clue on DEBRIS was particularly vexing (30A: Refuse). Other than that, I had TOYS for 10A: Nursery bagful (LOAM) at first, but not many other hiccups. Finished in somewhat under my average Thursday time.


I think QUICK TIPS is the weakest themer here, in that I don't really know what those are. Or, I do, probably, but that answer just doesn't stand alone as well or seem as snappy as the others. I mean, yes QUICK TIPS are a thing the way GREEN PAINT is a thing, but ... HELPFUL TIPS googles twice as well, and no one in their right mind thinks *that's* a great phrase (HELPFUL HINTS, however, would be good ... but I (really) digress). I'm not faulting the answer so much as noting its wobbliness vis-a-vis the other answers. It's good enough—not much else you can do to pick up the Q-TIP reference. Weird, inventive, interesting. FINE!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Bonkers in modern lingo / WED 5-25-16 / Eastern mediterranean port since ancient times / Dough in hand redundantly / Acronym on Beyonce records

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Constructor: Andrew J. Ries

Relative difficulty: Easy


THEME: JOHNNY ON THE SPOT (38A: Person who's ready and able to help ... or a literal description of four occurrences in this puzzle)— theme answers start with words that are also the last names of famous JOHNNYs, and each of those first words sits on top of an "AD" (aka a radio or TV "SPOT"):

Theme answers:
  • CASH MONEY (17A: Dough in hand, redundantly)
  • CARSON CITY (25A: State capital near Lake Tahoe)
  • BENCH PRESS (52A: Gym activity that works the pectorals)
  • ROTTEN EGG (64A: Last one in, say) (this clue isn't right—it's "Last one in, in a familiar expression," not "... say"; ROTTEN EGG is not a synonym for "Last one in"—in fact, "Last one in" is only a ROTTEN EGG in that one expression) 
[For other possible theme dimension, see P.S. below]
Word of the Day: DARYL Hannah (69A: ___ Hannah of "Blade Runner") —
Daryl Christine Hannah (born December 3, 1960) is an American film actress. She is known for her performances in the films Blade Runner (1982), Splash (1984), Roxanne (1987), Wall Street (1987), Steel Magnolias (1989) and Kill Bill (2003). She is also an environmental campaigner who has been arrested for protests against developments that are believed by some groups to threaten sustainability. (wikipedia)
• • •

The constructor is on social media now bragging (I think) that no one seems to be fully understanding his theme. I have no idea if I have or if I have not, but if I have not, and so many others have not, then maybe the problem lies not with the solvers. At any rate, this puzzle was interesting in that it took a rather pedestrian concept (first words are also last names over various JOHNNYs) and gave it not only a snappy revealer but this unexpected "AD" twist. What's funny / not funny is that the "AD" thing explains / causes some of the grid's crappier (i.e. crosswordesier) moments: ADEE, ADLAI, ADA. I don't understand why JOHNNY itself is not on top of an "AD"—seems like, conceptually, that would've been more consistent / elegant. Instead you've got ATTA under there, which is as bad as anything in the grid (see ADEE). But I think the theme works and I like the little "AD" twist and so it seems like a fine Wednesday puzzle overall.

[DARYL]

I blanked on DRAKE (9A: "Take Care" rapper, 2012), even *with* the "K" in place. I own two DRAKE albums. So that's oddly embarrassing. "Hotline Bling" rapper, I'd've gotten. Had TWIST CAP for TWIST TOP (40D: Resealable bottle feature). I also didn't get FEED at first go round (61D: Farm store purchase) and took a couple passes to back my way into the SW corner (BENCH PRESS and OH COOL not coming immediately to mind). That is the full tally of all my problems. Otherwise, this one was just see-clue-write-answer fast. Bam bam bam (3:36). Faster than yesterday, which was a pretty easy Tuesday. So the whole week is running super-simple so far.


Looks like we got EDINA back, after having to endure that not-famous Minneapolis suburb whose name I've already forgotten this past Sunday. DEANE? Oh, no, right: EAGAN. Blargh. The constructor is a Minnesotan, so EDINA is this puzzle's version of a home-state shout-out, I imagine. See also OH COOL, both because Minneapolis / St. Paul is a cool place to be (I visit my best friends there whenever I can) and because it's *&#^%ing cold there, but if you live there, you're used to it, so when you walk outside in January, you're like, "OH ... COOL. Better put on pants."

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. it occurs to me that you can SPOT someone MONEY (a ten-SPOT, perhaps) and you SPOT someone on the BENCH PRESS and ... I don't know, a CITY (like CARSON CITY) is a SPOT (i.e. a location), and EGG ... uh, something to do with spot? SPOTted egg? Honestly don't see the egg angle. But maybe that's the elusive theme element the constructor is crowing about.

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