THURSDAY, Feb. 5, 2009 - D.J. Kahn (Funnyman Robert / Moviemaking lamp / Bovine in old ads / Sister of Clio)
Thursday, February 5, 2009
1. A carbon-arc lamp for producing light, used in moviemaking.
2. The center of public attention. (wordsmith.org)Hey, look, black people! It must be February.
I am guessing that this puzzle was fairly easy for some (wife was done quickly, and Thursdays often break her) - but for others, it was likely a disaster. I mean, the NYT-solving crowd ... we don't talk about it a lot, because why would we, but we're pretty white. Or, I should say, we're pretty not black. And many of us do Not like pop culture with our morning puzzle. So when the puzzle not only dives deeply into popular culture, but dives deeply into the black end of it (i.e. deeper than, say, Aretha and Stevie and Bill Cosby), I'm guessing (guessing!) that there are a number of solvers who are going to drown. Then again, maybe I'm way off on the NYT solver demographics and you all listen to ASHANTI every morning. I'm not pointing any of this out by way of critique. We are who we are, and I am very much the liberal-arts-educated white guy the puzzle seems custom-made for. It's just that sometimes I have to check myself when I talk about how the puzzle has broadened its base of knowledge under Shortz (which it has) and remember that this hobby has race and class dimensions to it. If you've been to the tournament, you know what I'm talking about. It's very white, and it costs a lot to attend. This is all a long way of saying that I like when the puzzle branches out, fill-wise, in ANY way, and today, it's in a black way. Is Change coming to America? We'll see.
The puzzle was a cinch for me, though I had no idea La CROSSE was a national sport of Canada (11D: Piece of equipment used in a national sport of Canada). I was looking for BROOM or STONE - i.e. I was thinking CURLING, which I never do unless I'm forced to think about particularly Canadian sports that aren't hockey.
- 18A: Actor who received a 7-Down (1998, 2002, 2005-06) (Jamie Foxx)
- 30A: Singer/songwriter who received a 7-Down (2002, 2004-06, 2008) (Alicia Keys)
- 36A: Singer who received a 7-Down (2003) (Ashanti)
- 45A: Singer/actress who received a 7-Down (1996-2002) (Della Reese) - she must have got all those for "Touched by an Angel"; here she is in other circumstances:
- 58A: Comedian who received a 7-Down (2003-06) (Bernie Mac) - the only one of these winners who's no longer alive; this has profanity, FYI:
- 3D: Singer who received a 7-Down (2005) (Fantasia)
- 39D: Director who received a 7-Down (2007) (Spike Lee) - "Inside Man" was a good movie
71 squares of theme entry coverage = a hell of a lot. The architecture is interesting, as FANTASIA and SPIKE LEE are neatly isolated in the NW and SE corners, while the other names are staggered from NE to SW with the central answer NAACP IMAGE AWARD driven right through them. Isolating a theme answer like that makes it easier to build the grid around it.
I can't gripe about small fill in a puzzle when the theme coverage is that deep. The good thing is, I have very little reason to gripe today - D.J. Kahn knows how to fill a puzzle with a high degree of smoothness and a minimum wince-factor. Only one that made me grimace was LIN (64A: One-dimensional: Abbr.); what's interesting on this clue is that the Abbr. appears to be part of the difficulty factor, by which I mean it's harder to get with this clue than it would be with the more standard [Vietnam Memorial architect Maya] clue.
- 11A: Year St. Pius I died (CLV) - I like when random Roman numerals are at least afforded the decency of a clue identity more precise than, say, [Mid-second-century year]
- 14A: Sister of Clio (Erato) - first thing in the grid. If it's a muse, check ERATO first.
- 15A: Subject of the 2007 documentary "An Unreasonable Man" (Nader) - had a lot of respect for him. Voted for him in 2000. He said some dumbass stuff in the last campaign (which no one noticed because people were focused only on One Man - cue the choir of Angels!). So NADER is kinda dead to me now.
- 22A: Bovine in old ads (Elsie) - a gimme. "Bovine" makes me laugh. "Ovine," on the other hand, does not. Weird.
- 29A: Orient (east) - the only reason I like this is because someone commented, perhaps even just yesterday, about how happy they were that the clue for ORIENT had nothing to do with The East. This use of "orient" does have a kind of eurocentric vibe, but unless something is patently offensive, the puzzle is not apt (INAPT? - 6A: Not fitting) to let it go.
- 34A: One with a long face? (moose) - Me: "It's a play on words" Wife: "What words?" Me: "To have a long face means to be sad" Wife: "... that's not a play on words." Me: "Well, it's a familiar phrase, and they're trying to do clever misdirection." Wife: "..." Still, of all the ways you could clue MOOSE, the relative length of the face seems pretty weak. Arbitrary. An elephant's face is probably longer. I'm just sayin'.
- 40D: Like some hair (oily) - more arbitrariness. LONG would have worked. As would have FINE. As would have a jillion other adjectives. Plus ... I'd rather not contemplate somebody's OILY hair while solving my puzzle.
- 42A: Moviemaking lamp (klieg) - see Word of the Day. Wife had KRIEG ("but I got the "K" right!").
- 53A: Terrier type (Skye) - love this word / name
- 56A: "Steamboat _____," first Mickey Mouse cartoon ("Willie") - makes me think only of the "Simpsons" parody, "Steamboat Itchy"
- 65A: Bob Cratchit's occupation (clerk) - this was harder than it should have been for me. "He's a ... he's cold ... he's working late ... scribbling ... what the hell does he do!?"
- 6D: Next to Connecticut Avenue, say, on a Monopoly board ("In Jail") - fantastic, elaborate, crazy, daring clue
- 9D: Bank of China Tower architect (Pei) - a crosswordy answer. Sometimes shows up as I.M. PEI. ERATO, KLIEG, PEI, SKYE, and EEL (49D: Sea slitherer) are all essential crossword answers.
- 10D: Logician's drawing (tree) - I like this; a very late-week clue for the innocent-seeming TREE.
- 12D: Looseness (laxity) - If there is not a laxative tea on the market right now called LAXITEA, there really should be. TM Rex Parker, 2009.
- 33D: Hacienda room (sala) - thankfully, this is roughly equivalent to the French "salle," which I know.
- 42D: Funnyman Robert (Klein) - misspelled his name KLINE at first. Not sure how I know him, but I definitely do. He's just ... on stuff. Talk shows? Maybe he's famous from when people used to be famous just from doing standup. Here's something:
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
PS Jim Horne's interview with me is out today over at his NYT "Wordplay" blog
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