Thursday, April 17, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: CHARLTON / HESTON (17A: With 18-Across, "In the Arena" autobiographer)
Wow, you don't normally see Byron Walden's work on a Thursday. He's usually more of a torture-you-on-Friday-or-Saturday kind of guy. But I guess if you're going to do a tribute to Moses, you gotta bring out the heavy hitters. Byron's puzzles are almost always first-rate, and this is no exception. Like any good tribute, most of the attention here is on the honoree, the recently deceased Mr. HESTON, and his movies. I was very impressed not just at the number of movies Byron managed to squeeze in, but at the fact that the movies involved all featured iconic roles for HESTON. Luckily for us, Byron didn't plumb the dregs of HESTON'S oeuvre to get films that would fit. It would have been painful, for instance, to see "The Pigeon That Took Rome" or "Airport 1975" in this puzzle alongside the likes of "EL CID" and "BEN-HUR." Sadly, there was no room for "Soylent Green" or "Touch of Evil," but it's just one puzzle. It can only do so much.
- 27A: 1956 movie starring 17- and 18-Across, with "The" ("Ten Commandments")
- 39A: 1961 movie starring 17- and 18-Across ("El Cid")
- 44A: 1968 movie starring 17- and 18-Across ("Planet of the Apes")
- 58A: 1959 movie starring 17- and 18-Across ("Ben-Hur")
- 60A: 1971 movie starring 17- and 18-Across, with "The" ("Omega Man")
I could not get the applet at the Times's site to accept my grid this morning, which was completely maddening. Even checking my grid against another blogger's grid, I could not see my mistake. . . until I realized that I had a handwriting problem: I had written, correctly, YEW and OWES at 42D: Material for Voldemort's wand, in Harry Potter books and 47A: Isn't in the clear?, respectively. But I wrote the "W" so close to the left side of the box, that unless you look very closely, it looks only like the letter "N." Which gave me what appeared to be YEN and ONES, which, as you can see, are not words that stand out to you as wrong. I wonder if Sahra (my 7-year-old) knows what Voldemort's wand is made of - I'm going to bet 'no.' She knows her Harry Potter, but that's a bit arcane, even for her. I'm going to go ask her ...
And here's the transcript of that conversation:
Me: "Hey, Sahra honey, do you know what Voldemort's wand is made of?"
Sahra: "Phoenix feather."
Me: "Yeah, but do you know what the wand itself is made of?"
Me: "Do you know what kind of wood?"
Sahra, without hesitation: "Wand wood."
Then I explained to her that it was YEW and that that was an answer in today's crossword and then I think the conversation ceased to hold interest for her.
There were a few answers that were completely new to me today. Let's start with BEIGE BOX (1A: Run-of-the-mill computer, in tech slang). Never heard the phrase. It makes sense - i.e. it's very descriptive. I can visualize said computer very easily. Are the non-run-of-the-mill computers different colors? Like those early iMacs that came in (almost) every color of the rainbow? Next, there's TOO NEW (65A: Jarringly unfamiliar). Hey, you know what's TOO NEW? This answer. Zing! Seriously, folks, this is a phrase? I thought ALL NEW at first. Managed to get EDISON (16A: Town near Metuchen, N.J.) despite knowing nothing about it. Lastly, in the unknown category, is ALP, a supremely common crossword answer. I know what an ALP is, obviously, but the clue threw me: 62D: Jungfrau, for one. I had the AL- and put in ALE, certain that I had seen or heard of such a brand of alcoholic beverage before. Is it at least mildly ironic that a mountain named "Maiden" or "Virgin" has not only been climbed before, but has a railroad running through it? As for my thinking ALE instead of ALP, I think I had this fairly local brewery in my head, causing the interference.
- 9A: Part of a dirndl (bodice) - remembered "dirndl" as a skirt, thus did not consider BODICE as an answer for a while.
- 25A: Some scullers' trophies (oars) - kind of a bulky thing to keep in a trophy case.
- 36A: Barnaby Jones portrayer (Ebsen) - Get him confused with EPSOM - the salts and the English race track - all the time.
- 37A: "Taking Heat" memoirist Fleischer (Ari) - White House spokesman in Bush's early days. Man, my computer does not like the word "memoirist" at all. Angry red line underneath.
- 43A: Alternative nickname for the Gloved One (Jacko) - ew, did people really call him "the Gloved One?" I know he wore that silly solitary glove for a while, but ... something about that phrase is creepy.
- 49A: Transnational cooperation (axis) - wow, the clue sounds so positive, and the answer so negative. That disconnect threw me for far too long.
- 52A: Country with a five-sided flag (Nepal) - had a girlfriend once who studied there for a semester, so I know a few facts about NEPAL. This was not one of them. Whoa, I was expecting a pentagon, but no:
- 64A: Throw the flag on, so to speak (penalize) - just the gimme I needed in the SE, complementing perfectly (and symmetrically) the gimme I needed in the NW: ACT ALONE (15A: Not have an accomplice).
- 66A: Textbook offerings (examples) - stared at EXAMELES for a while because of the whole ALE-for-ALP debacle (see above).
- 1D: "English Suites" composer (Bach) - I own more music by Bach than by any other classical composer (save maybe Beethoven and R. Strauss). And yet, and I'm not kidding, it was not until I started this write-up that I realized BACH was the BACH. I figured he was some "English" guy I just hadn't heard of.
- 4D: Long-snouted fish (gar) - a great great crossword fish.
- 6D: Bench warmer? (bottom) - thought the clue was going to send me in the direction of Johnny Bench for a while.
- 9A: Like Sydney Carton at the end of "A Tale of Two Cities" (beheaded) - great clue / answer. Gruesome, but great.
- 63A: Tabitha's grandmother on "Bewitched" (Endora) - my favorite character on this fabulous show. ENDORA is the original drag queen.
- 13D: Masked critter (coon) - I guess "critter" tells you we're in the land of vernacular, hence the clipped COON.
- 14D: Elevated Sicilian city (Enna) - with a name like ENNA, you (and I) had better remember it for future crossword reference.
- 24D: Ellipsis component (dot) - tripped at first thinking the clue said "ellipse" - wanted ARC.
- 31D: Grading gamut (ABCDF) - cheap or genius? You be the judge.
- 33D: Little shaver's conveyance (trike) - "Little shaver," HA ha. Answer should be TRIKE ... IN THE 1950S.
- 39D: Like sushi fish, typically (eaten raw) - perfect. And tasty.
- 40D: German tennis star Tommy (Haas) - I'm more familiar with his American counterpart, actor Lukas.
- 46D: State capital originally called Crabtown (Helena) - possibly the best idea Montana ever had, this renaming. "We're thousands of miles from the ocean ... let's call ourselves Crabtown!" "Hurray! Yee haw! [gunshots into the air]"
- 49D: Support in skullduggery (abet) - ABET is exceedingly common, but this may be the best clue it's ever received.
- 53D: Ring of the Fisherman wearer (Pope) - something to do with Christ making his apostles "fishers of men," I'm guessing. Too lazy to look it up.
- 55D: Czech runner Zatopek (Emil) - shows up a surprising lot in xwords. I've even seen ZATOPEK in the puzzle once.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld