Major media event of '95 / FRI 12-19-14 / Almost any character in Jon Stewart's Rosewater / Never-seen neighbor on Mary Tyler Moore / Novel subtitled Parish Boy's Progress / Scimitar-horned creature / Fictional school bully with henchmen named Crabbe Goyle / Dr. Watson portrayer on CBS's elementary

Friday, December 19, 2014

Constructor: Brad Wilber and Doug Peterson

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium



THEME: none

Word of the Day: LINE CUT (41D: Black-and-white engraving) —

NOUN

An engraving from a drawing consisting of solid blacks and whites, without gradations of color. (oxforddictionaries.com)

• • •

This is stunning work. This is what the "best crossword in the world" should look like All The Time—or at least most of the time. Fresh fill, vibrant phrases, clever cluing. There's a host of suboptimal fill—NEC SST ANI AMO ETD ENE DIR—but it's largely innocuous and it's holding together these gorgeous banks of longer answers. Looping, cascading, dancing—the lovely, crafted quality of this grid stands as a sharp visual rebuke to most recent NYT puzzles. Now, it's not really fair, as today we have not one but two of the very best constructors working today. No exaggeration. Can't remember the last time I did a puzzle by either of these guys where I was like "[frowny face]." At worst, good; mostly, great. Haven't seen a lot of their work in the NYT of late. They have been working other venues, for a variety of what I'm sure are very good reasons. But it's great to see them here. OJ TRIAL! Even their dated stuff sounds fresh!

Fast start on this as SPA TON and ELK went in 1 2 3, and those long Downs were not far behind. Had trouble rounding the corner up into the NE, as LITERS was not an intuitive answer for me to 5D: Some bottled water purchases (I was looking brand name). But I got STANDS ALONE from just the S-A- and things came together from there. TULLES is not a word I know. I confuse it with TUILES and TOILES and other things that are all jumbled together in my mind in a closet marked "Fabrics." Looks like each successive quadrant got a bit harder for me in this one. Easy NW, Pretty Easy NE, Mediumish SE, and Medium-Challenging SW, where not (exactly) knowing LINE CUT and not getting how SAGA is a good answer for 53D: Novel format and not being completely certain of SPIREA (45A: Flowering shrub whose name comes from the Greek for "coil") had me struggling a little. Also, I thought the "T" in SALT was "treaty" :( It's TALKS (49D: Part of SALT).


Best little surprise of the day was OPEN MRIS (23A: Tests that accommodate claustrophobes) Plural doesn't thrill me, but the term is very current, very common, and yet nothing I've ever seen in puzzles before. I also liked SENIORITIS, as it is timely (you'd know what I mean if you could see some of the student work on my desk right now…). My biggest hiccup of the day was 43A: Find a spot for, say. I had ADOPT. Later, I had ADMIT. Neither of those was right.

Gonna go watch the last "Colbert" now and then be sad.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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    Defunct G.M. division / THU 12-18-14 / Ingolstadt-based automaker / Pharaonic symbol / Stannite cassiterite / TV channel with slogan Get Smarter Now / Dialect in ancient Greece /

    Thursday, December 18, 2014

    Constructor: Timothy Polin

    Relative difficulty: Medium


    THEME: PIG LATIN (62A: Hint to interpreting the five starred clues) — clues are all real words / names that, when heard, can be interpreted as PIG LATIN renderings of other words:

    Theme answers:
    • 17A: *X-ray [i.e. Wrecks] (JALOPIES)
    • 24A: *Ashtray [ i.e. Trash] (RIP TO PIECES)
    • 32A: *eBay [i.e. Be] (LIVE AND BREATHE) (not STINGING INSECT?)
    • 41A: *Outlay [i.e. Lout] (KNUCKLE-DRAGGER)
    • 48A: *Airway [i.e. Wear] (DETERIORATE)

    Word of the Day: George SEATON (67A: George who directed "Miracle on 34th Street") —
    George Seaton (April 17, 1911 – July 28, 1979) was an American screenwriterplaywrightfilm director and producer, and theatre director. […] Seaton joined Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer as a contract writer in 1933. His first major screen credit was the Marx Brothers comedy A Day at the Races in 1937. In the early 1940s he joined 20th Century Fox, where he remained for the rest of the decade, writing scripts for Moon Over Miami, Coney Island, Charley's Aunt, The Song of Bernadette, and others before making his directorial debut with Diamond Horseshoe in 1945. From this point on he was credited as both screenwriter and director for most of his films, including The Shocking Miss Pilgrim, Miracle on 34th Street, Apartment for Peggy, Chicken Every Sunday, The Big Lift, For Heaven's Sake, Little Boy Lost, The Country Girl, and The Proud and Profane.
    But Not Goodbye, Seaton's 1944 Broadway debut as a playwright, closed after only 23 performances, although it later was adapted for the 1946 film The Cockeyed Miracle by Karen DeWolf. In 1967 he returned to Broadway to direct the Norman Krasna play Love in E Flat, which was a critical and commercial flop. The musical Here's Love, adapted from his screenplay for Miracle on 34th Street by Meredith Willson, proved to be more successful.
    Seaton won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay twice, for Miracle on 34th Street (which also earned him the Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay) and The Country Girl, and was nominated for Oscars three additional times. He received The Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in 1961. He directed 1970's blockbuster hit Airport, which earned 10 Oscar nominations, including one for Seaton's screenplay. (wikipedia)
    • • •

    Not much time to give to this one, as I had to sit here and wait nearly an hour for the NYT's website to behave. So now it's late. Anyway, the puzzle was mostly worth the wait—very clever. I don't usually like the whole answers-as-clues genre of puzzle, but the weird way this puzzle revealed itself made the answer phrases delightful, in a "what the hell?" kind of way. In retrospect, they can seem a bit forced (esp. LIVE AND BREATHE as an answer for the simple word [Be]), but the phrases are colorful and bouncy and I have no problem with them. I do think [Bee] would've been a better clue angle than [Be], but with the theme answers this densely packed, you gotta go with whatever works. The good thing about all the theme answers is that they are all good stand-alone phrases—unlike STINGING INSECT, which would make a fine clue for [Bee], but is no good on its own in the grid. All of these themers are plausible fill—not just clues posing as fill. Yes, this makes a big difference to puzzle quality / enjoyment, at least for me.


    Fill is pretty nice, especially considering theme density. TINORE makes me squish my nose up a bit, but nothing else made me flinch even a little. OK, maybe GSN, which seems to be a casualty of trying to redeem ADEAL (45D) with the cross-reference IT'S (65A). If that's a problem, it's a small one. Favorite clue is probably 30D: Attribute of the 1%? (REDUCED FAT). It's bold, just this side of far-fetched. But that's why god invented "?" clues—to give leeway to boldness. I didn't know SEATON, but the rest of this was pretty much over-the-plate. Approved.

      Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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