Sunday, December 31, 2006
Solving time: 28:45
THEME: "Film Parade" - Ten theme answers are movie titles with numbers TEN through ONE in them; two more theme answers explain the theme - 13D: COUNTDOWN IN / 81D: TIMES SQUARE - and then a final theme answer puts an exclamation point on the whole thing: 131A: 1987 Peter Falk Crime Caper (Happy New Year)
Before I begin - a question. Why is there almost always a disparity between the solving time shown over my puzzle and the solving time shown on the leaderboard? The board usually has me one second slower than the reading the applet gives me directly over my solved grid. This is not a serious issue - unless I am within one second of my imaginary nemesis - but I expect consistency and accuracy from my computers, and when they don't deliver, I feel compelled to investigate.
My time today was good for me, but about 4-5 minutes slower than it would have been if I hadn't had a very very very elusive typo! I scanned every single Across answer, to no avail, changed some iffy squares around, to no avail, and then checked the Downs and finally saw the glaring REVPNUES where 1D (ONE DOWN!!! - why didn't I check the Downs first!?): Incomes (revenues) should have been. Oh, and then I had to change TZAR to TSAR at 14D: Bygone despot, because I had never ever heard of the cross, 21A: Red fluorescent dye: Var. (eosine) - ugh, just typing that clue / answer makes my head hurt. And now, the puzzle...
I declare this to be my favorite Sunday puzzle in recent memory. The only down side is that there are 13 theme answers, and who wants to start the New Year on such an unlucky number. That said, I'm astonished at how much cleverness went into this puzzle's construction. My favorite feature is 76A: 1983 Charles Bronson Thriller (Ten to Midnight), for a number of reasons. First, I love Charles Bronson, as he is the king of all Revenge Movies, and you know I love Revenge. More salient to the puzzle, however, is the fact that this movie title not only has TEN in it, but could itself function as the title of the puzzle, as the numbers in the movie titles do in fact count down from 10 through 1 to Midnight - HAPPY NEW YEAR! OK, it would have been better if the movie had been titled Ten Seconds to Midnight, but nonetheless, this answer, sitting in the puzzle's Dead Center, is amazingly creative - and apt. Apt!
Today, I'll take the puzzle in three parts. I. The Movies, II. Awesome Fill, III. Crap I Didn't Know
I. The Movies
- 62D: 1932 Romance with Maurice Chevalier (One Hour With You) - Never heard of it - Didn't help matters that I had ONE__HRWITHYOU for a while because I reasonably but mistakenly believed that 90A: Roman man (uomo) was HOMO.
- 97A: 1990 sequel to "Chinatown," with "The" (Two Jakes) - Never saw it, but knew of it. I think Chinatown is fabulous. Mathematician Andrew disagrees.
- 86D: 1999 film set in the Persian Gulf (Three Kings) - saw it, liked it. Clooney. Ice Cube. Dig it.
- 37A: 1981 Alan Alda comedy, with "The" (Four Seasons) - Vivaldi! This movie was an HBO staple of my young adulthood. I've seen it many, many times. It is one of the many messed up ways that I came to understand what adult relationships were like. "So ... they get to have sex ... but they're not happy ... I don't get it."
- 15D: 1970 Jack Nicholson picture (Five Easy Pieces) - this is the first theme entry I got. I don't think I've seen this movie, though it's superfamous, part of that 70's movie renaissance that Ebert likes to go on about from time to time (see also Chinatown). Jack gets two movies in the countdown. Good for him.
- 51A: 1982 Dudley Moore tearjerker (Six Weeks) - really? Dudley did a "tearjerker?" I know him only from 10 and Arthur. Yikes, it's about a 12-year-old girl dying of leukemia. No WAY I'm going near that movie ... though I have some vague memory of her getting to dance with the NY Ballet or something ... like a proto-Make-a-Wish thing ... Not a Happy New Year movie! Happy Thoughts!
- 22A: 1954 film set in 16th-century Japan (Seven Samurai) - that's more like it. Kurosawa makes me happy. Incredibly influential movie - as I've said, Clint Eastwood does not have a career if not for the model that Kurosawa's films (and Toshiro Mifune's performances) provided. Badass.
- 112A: 1988 baseball flick (Eight Men Out) - Black Sox + Cusack + Sayles = awesome.
- 10D: 1995 Hugh Grant farce (Nine Months) - I assure you that "farce" is the very nicest thing this movie has ever been called. In the mid-90s I saw virtually every movie that came out (the deep pit of mid-gradschool depression) - unfortunately, that meant that not only did I get to see awesome movies like To Die For (mmm, Kidman), but I also had to sit through crap like this. "Oh, I'm going to be a father, but I'm so stammering and boyish and I don't know how to be a responsible blah blah blah." My respect for Julianne Moore (Grant's far more appealing co-star here) started to ebb right about here - not because of her lack of talent, but because of her horrible choices. See also the stupid make-up and/or hair ads she does. I still love her, though. See the awesome Far From Heaven (2002) and her very, very, very memorable performance in Short Cuts (1992).
- 76A: 1983 Charles Bronson Thriller (Ten to Midnight) - my love for all things Bronson is a matter of public record.
- 2D: Pause in verse (caesura) - Right up my alley. Did you know that every single line of Anglo-Saxon verse features a caesura? It's true. Virtually all lines also alliterate - no end-rhyme to speak of.
- 32A: Most broad? (hammiest) - aah ... this took me a few beats to figure out. If you play a role broadly, then you HAM it up, I guess. A HAMMY performance is a broad one. OK. I think HAMMY was the name of the ... ferret? Squirrel? Whatever - Steve Carell's character in Over the Hedge (one of the few 2006 movies I have actually seen - Sahra loved it, and got it on DVD for Xmas).
- 71A: "Yeah, that'll happen!" (Dream on!) - I would say the clue, not the answer, because I prefer sarcasm to outright derision, but different strokes etc. I think "Dream On" was a horrible sitcom on HBO or something .... at some time ... OMG, It Ran for SIX YEARS (not Six Weeks or Nine Months). You know, I would have dropped dead from ecstasy if Ms. Gorski had somehow managed to fit 9 1/2 Weeks into the puzzle, in a non-theme position. Oh, and why not "Two and a Half Men"? Aside from the ick factor (which we've already had to endure with Nine Months).
- 27A: Elite groups (oligarchies) - just a wicked cool long word, and a nice highbrow complement to its low(er)brow symmetrical twin -
- 122A: Subscription card option (Bill me later)
- 67A: More manly-chested (hairier) - a nice complement to HAMMIER. Super dueling comparative H-adjectives! If you are HAIRIER than you'd like, why not see a 19A: Worker with a chair (barber)?
- 26A: Low digits (toes) - hot. I had ONES here for a while.
- 116A: In an odd way (quirkily) - way to pick up the "Q"!
- 43A: Diplomat Silas (Deane) - who?
- 50A: Stockholm flier (SAS) - this crosses at the "A" with 18D: Original title of Beethoven's "Fidelio" (Leonora) - which, embarrassingly, I did not know. And so I changed that "A" to an "E" and god knows what else a few times before settling on the correct "A." SST, yes. SAS, no. It is the abbr. of Scandinavian Airlines. Aha. I see ... now.
- 73A: "All the Things You Are" composer (Kern) - he has become a safe bet for me when I get a four-letter composer of something standard- or popular-sounding, but I still know little to nothing about him.
- 94A: Pang (throe) - OK, so I know this one, but man does this word look weird in the singular. Is it ever used in the singular? You're supposed to be in the THROEs of something (e.g. passion). 151K hits on Google, but many of those are definitions or more about THROES plural than singular. THROE looks like a typo.
- 9D: Last month (ultimo) - uh, I don't get it.
- 103D: Horse handler (ostler) - rustler, maybe. Whisperer, possibly? But ostler ... seems a word I should know, especially considering my fondness for westerns and my current subscription to the new comics version of The Lone Ranger. And yet, no. Reminds me of "osprey," somehow, or "otter," neither of which is a horse.
- 118D: Jewish orgs. (YMHA's) - this sounds terribly made-up. What does the "H" stand for? Hillel? Oh, it's "Hebrew," duh. Question: Is it fun to stay at the YMHA?
- 128D: Junk bond rating (ccc) - No idea. This was a guess. This means 300 to me. It also reminds me of 70's pop sensation 10cc, whose hits "I'm Not In Love" and "The Things We Do For Love," like The Four Seasons (see above), formed the basis of my childhood understanding of adult relationships: "... like walking in the rain and the snow and there's nowhere to go and you feel like a part of you is dying" - Why would you willingly pursue such an arrangement? Where's the upside? My eight-year-old brain Needs to Know.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld