Silent screen vamp Naldi / WED 1-28-15 / Simple ragtime dance / Classic violinmaker / Gustav whose music was banned by Nazis

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Constructor: Gary Cee

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: I bet you think this song is about YOU — Songs that have YOU in their titles, arranged in pieces, symmetrically, such that the YOU at the center of the puzzle is shared by every title:

Theme answers:
  • I'VE GOT / YOU / UNDER MY SKIN (1A: With 38- and 46-Across, 1966 4 Seasons hit) (I had no idea they did a version of this song; I don't associate with them At All)
  • I WANT TO TAKE / YOU / HIGHER (26A: With 38- and 67-Across, 1970 Sly & the Family Stone hit)
  • ALL / YOU / NEED IS LOVE (10A: With 38- and 50-Across, 1967 Beatles hit)
  • JUST THE WAY / YOU / ARE (21A: With 38- and 65-Across, 1977 Billy Joel hit)
Word of the Day: ODAS (39A: Harem rooms) —
Oda (Turkishoda, "a room, chamber") is a room within a harem found in the Ottoman Empire. // During Ottoman period the harem division of the Topkapı Palace was home to the Valide sultan (Sultan's mother); the odalisques and wives of the Sultan; and the rest of his family, including children; and their servants. There were nearly 300 odas in the harem and it housed as many as 500 residents, which sometimes amounted up to 300 women, their children, and the eunuchs. (wikipedia)
• • •

They all share that YOU, and they are symmetrical. But I don't see what's enjoyable about any of it, except if you happen to like some or all of the songs involved. Remembering songs can be nice. But as a crossword, it's just fussy. Multiply cross-referenced clues, chopped up answers … no pleasure there for me. It's architecturally interesting, in its way, but mainly it seemed messy. Titles smashed to bits. Interesting upon reflection, but not very pleasant to solve. The fill (once again) is remarkably poor in places. It's a 76-worder w/ cheaters, so why the RIV / IPSO, why the AWET / ODAS, why the ERES / ILO / AAU / KAI, why the EHLE / AROW / LOGY, and why the THE JETS? It all felt so terribly unpolished. Yes, everybody likes these songs. They are popular, they are old, they are going to play well with the NYT's core demographic. And there's definitely some decent longer, non-theme stuff in there (weirdly, unusually, that may be where this puzzle is strongest—RUN ALONG, GRAPE NUTS IMPOSTOR! You can have HAIR COMB (?) back, but the other longer stuff is pretty decent. But the short stuff is too often unbearable, and the theme has no appeal except nostalgia.

  • 14A: Scope (ROOM) — strangely, this little nook in the north caused me the most difficulty. Took me a while to get ROOM, in part because 7D: Makes a wrong turn seemed so … turn-specific. Took me a while to consider the general ERRS. Also ELK was well (and pretty nicely) hidden at 7A: Popular game? Is it popular? Really? Well, at any rate, I like the play on "game."
  • 48A: U.K. neighbor (IRE) — that is a nice attempted save, emphasis on "attempted": still no good to have IRE and IRATE in the same grid.
  • 47D: "6 Rms ___ Vu" (1972 play) ("RIV") — Honestly, I went with "WIV." Thought we were doing baby talk play on a Forster title. "Me want woom wiv vu!" I have never heard of this "play." It was probably a big deal when these songs were (more) popular. 
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Noted French encyclopedist / TUE 1-27-15 / German WWI admiral / Indian state whose name means five rivers / President who lived at Oak Hill /

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Constructor: James Tuttle

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (**for a Tuesday**) 

THEME: Er .. Oh …  — all theme answers end with final syllable that rhymes with "roh"

Theme answers:
  • KILIMANJARO (17A: Africa's highest peak)
  • DENIS DIDEROT (24A: Noted French encyclopedist)
  • SUCH SWEET SORROW (38A: Parting, to Juliet)
  • CENSUS BUREAU (48A: Group you can rely on when it counts)
  • JAMES MONROE (60A: President who lived at Oak Hill)
Word of the Day: LOT (64A: Polish airline) —
Polskie Linie Lotnicze LOT S.A. (Polish pronunciation: [ˈlɔt]Flight), trading as LOT Polish Airlines, is the flag carrier of Poland. Based in Warsaw, LOT was established in 1929, making it one of the world's oldest airlines still in operation. Using a fleet of 55 aircraft, LOT operates a complex network to 60 destinations in Europe, the Middle East, North America, and Asia. Most of the destinations are served from its hub, Warsaw Chopin Airport.
As Poland made the transition to democracy from 1989, the airline began a transformation from a Soviet-controlled carrier to a European flag carrier. LOT started a process of fleet renewal with the purchase of Western aircraft to replace old Soviet models. With the arrival of the first Boeing 767-300ER, LOT started inter-continental services to ChicagoNewarkToronto, and New York City. These four main routes have been some of the most popular flights that LOT operates, especially during the summer season when many Poles seek to come back to their homeland for vacation.
LOT found itself undergoing constant management change in the late 2000s due to worsening financials and reductions in market share. After placing orders for several Boeing 787 aircraft and taking delivery of two, the carrier has found itself "nearly insolvent" due to the January 2013 grounding of the 787. (wikipedia)
• • •

This is an odd, loose theme, but I don't mind it. That is, I don't mind the idea. I mind, slightly, DENIS DIDEROT on a Tuesday—his relative obscurity makes him a massive outlier in this line-up. And I mind somewhat more SUCH SWEET SORROW, since it's essentially a partial. It's easy, and hence likely welcome to solvers trying to move through this harder-than-usual puzzle, but it's not good as stand-alone fill. Not at all. So the theme idea is just OK and the execution is a bit wobbly. The fill is quite bad. Demonstrably bad. I count eight (!) entries that I'd consider "Fill Of Last Resort," and that *doesn't* include the more typical crosswordese like AGAR, ONO, ROO, ETAS, OER, etc. On a Tuesday, fill should be *much* much cleaner than this. OLEA? (40D: Olive genus) Bad enough on its own, but somehow worse in a puzzle that already has LEA. Then there's EMER ETH SSE RUS ELUL NOI and SPEE (the last of which I botched because I confused it with that other crosswordese gem, SMEE). And what the hell is up with the clue on LOT? I've been doing puzzles a long, long time, and I'm not sure I've ever seen LOT clued as a Polish airline. I just checked the database: of 253 LOTs, precisely zero have been clued via the airline. None. None. Again, it's Tuesday. I have no idea what that clue was all about.

Scouts earn merit BADGES, so MERITS (?) slowed me down (28A: Scouts earn them), as did my inability to get the vowels right in KIL-M-NJARO. Misread [Part of a televised movie review] as [… movie crew] and so had trouble with CLIP (had GRIP at some point). My SMEE-for-SPEE troubles mean PUNJAB was pretty tough to come up with (46D: Indian state whose name means "five rivers"). Everything else was fairly straightforward, though not necessarily instantly gettable. I was over four minutes today, which is pretty rare for me on a Tuesday. The relatively slow time matters not at all to me. The uneven, ultimately unsatisfying solving experience—that matters.

Hope all you New Yorkers are surviving the alleged End Times Snowstorm. We're only getting an inch or three here in central upstate NY.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


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