Classic sound effect in action film when someone is badly injured / FRI 8-23-19 / Title locale in Hercule Poirot mystery / Military drudges for short / fighter for Moors in Zaragoza in 1080s

Friday, August 23, 2019

Constructor: Evan Mahnken

Relative difficulty: Easy (5:10) (one-handed) (eating late-night pb sandwich)

THEME: none

Word of the Day: WILHELM SCREAM (35A: Classic sound effect in an action film when someone is badly injured) —
The Wilhelm scream is a stock sound effect that has been used in at least 416 films and TV series (as of July 2015) beginning in 1951 for the film Distant Drums. The scream is often used when someone is shot, falls from a great height, or is thrown from an explosion.
Voiced by actor and singer Sheb Wooley, the sound is named after Private Wilhelm, a character in The Charge at Feather River, a 1953 Western in which the character gets shot in the thigh with an arrow. This was its first use from the  Warner Bros. stock sound library, although The Charge at Feather River is believed to have been the third film to use the effect.[4]
The effect gained new popularity (its use often becoming an in-joke) after it was used in the Star Wars series, the Indiana Jones series, animated Disney and Pixar films, and many other blockbuster films as well as in many television programs, cartoons, and video games.
• • •
WILHELM SCREAM is, admittedly, a flashy answer, so it's in the right place (dead center), but there's not much else that's exciting here. The other longer Acrosses are OK, but nothing else really snaps, crackles, or pops, and there's a lot of regrettable short fill and forgettable mid-range stuff. The puzzle lost me at BABAS / RETIP / SAPOR :( and never quite got me back. I honestly can't stand SAPOR, which is one of those words that exists in crosswords and nowhere else. If you see it ... it bodes ill. Defensible, sure, and you could use it in a pinch to hold some very challenging-to-fill part of a grid together, but just sitting there is a non-challenging area of a Friday themeless? Bah. GAO also yuck. KPS?? I've heard of being ON KP, but plural KPS is bizarre. That little area could be easily refilled in a much cleaner and less weird way. The "K" is not that valuable. KPS = not worth it. ISNO and ACTV aren't helping. ONE ON and AWS, same. Other stuff is passable, but Fridays should bounce and hum and sing and this one just screamed once and then died.

I'm very tired after my first day of teaching in the new semester. I'm painfully out of practice. Didn't eat, didn't hydrate, didn't *quite* get one of my syllabuses finished, couldn't solve my tech problem in one of my classrooms. Took a long walk after work to a bar downtown and then had a drink and took the same long walk home, so this sentence is probably going to be my last. Luckily there's just not that much to write about. OK, this sentence will be my last. Bye! (damn it!). This one is the last!
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    P.S. the clue on WENCESLAS (11D: Carol king) is very good and deserves polite applause, at least.

    [Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


    1971 title role for Charlton Heston / THU 8-22-19 / Outdoor section of zoo / Versatile offensive football positions, for short / Often abbreviated outburst

    Thursday, August 22, 2019

    Constructor: Emily Carroll

    Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

    THEME: DIVE BAR (40A: Seedy hangout ... or a hint to finishing four Across answers in this puzzle) — four Across answers end by taking a "dive" downward; the part that dives is also a kind of "bar":

    Theme answers:
    • SNAIL/SPACE (1A: Extremely slow speed)
    • GE/MINI (11A: Sign of spring)
    • TRAN/SPORTS (49A: Conveys)
    • ES/CROW (62A: Something to hold money in)
    Word of the Day: "OMEGA MAN" (18A: 1971 title role for Charlton Heston, with "the") —
    The Omega Man (stylized as The Ī©mega Man) is a 1971 American science fiction film directed by Boris Sagal and starring Charlton Heston as a survivor of a global pandemic. It was written by John William Corrington and Joyce Corrington, based on the 1954 novel I Am Legend by the American writer Richard Matheson. The film's producer, Walter Seltzer, went on to work with Heston again in the dystopian science-fiction film Soylent Green in 1973.[2]
    The Omega Man is the second adaptation of Matheson's novel. The first was The Last Man on Earth (1964) which starred Vincent Price. A third adaptation, I Am Legend, starring Will Smith, was released in 2007. (wikipedia)
    • • •

    This is a really lovely puzzle. The theme is impeccably executed. I've seen "words that shift up / down / diagonally" themes before but this one has a novel rationale for the veering, and a themer that is both lively in its own right and perfect as a revealer. Here's how you know the theme has been very well crafted. It's the little things—the fact that the Across parts of the themers look just like ordinary crossword fill, so it's not just that "bars" "dive," but that the Across answer at first appears to be a real answer that just isn't quite right ("How is a GEM a sign of spring!!!?"). Further, the bars are all different from one another. That is, they all take the meaning of the word "bar" differently—there's one you drink at, but then there's the small fridge in your hotel room, a key on your keyboard, and a lever for ... prying or jimmying or whatever. The grid isn't overly dense with theme stuff, so the fill can breathe and therefore Be Interesting. There's a few things I would wish away if I could (ELIELI, TES, ATOB), but most of it is, at worst, solid. I don't think of LITERATI as "scholarly," perhaps because I work with scholars and LITERATI seems far too broad and fancy a term to describe most of them (15A: Scholarly sorts). LITERATI sounds urbane and sophisticated, whereas "scholarly" evokes "professorial" to me. Also, LITERATI sounds superficial, somehow—like it's more about the fame (?) of the person than the actual erudition. I am clearly overthinking this. The point is that LITERATI evokes Tom Wolfe to me, whereas "scholarly" evokes someone you've never heard of writing things you'll never read. Fame v. obscurity.

    Loved the double dose of Women's World Cup (champions Team USA and coach Jill ELLIS). Also loved 29D: One crying "Uncle!" for NIECE. Totally got me. OMIGOD is weird, in that it is clued as an [Oft-abbreviated outburst] when it, too is an abbreviation (isn't it?). "Oh my God" --> OMIGOD --> OMG. I feel really bad for whoever inspired the clue for FLIRT (26D: Use goo-goo- eyes and make small talk, say). The latter strategy has too much in common with "passing time at some dumb job thing you don't want to be at" or "talking to your mom's friends," whereas the former strategy sounds sad, desperate, and possibly predatory. *Use* goo-goo eyes? Not *make*? "Use" makes it sound like a weird strategy. "Use the goo-goo eyes, Luke..." Anyway, I don't know if I know how to FLIRT, but I feel like this clue is not giving you good flirting advice.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    P.S. anyone else SLOP when they should've GLOPped??? (7D: Hardly Michelin-star fare). I had SUCK for 7A: Have a sudden inspiration? (GASP), and I was really, really happy with that answer. Oh well.

    P.P.S. TES today is short for "tight ends" (71A: Versatile offensive football positions, for short)

    P.P.P.S. This exchange made me laugh


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