Broadway columnist Wilson — SUNDAY, Sep. 20 2009 — End of a ballade / Retailer beginning 1867 / Deadly 1966 hurricane / Beat poet Cassady
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Constructor: Michael Ashley
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: "CLOSING BELL" — theme answers are familiar phrases with "DING" tacked onto the end. Wacky phrases, "?"-cluing.
Word of the Day: OTRANTO (93D: Town on the SE tip of Italy that's the title setting for a Horace Walpole novel) — Otranto is a town and commune in the province of Lecce (Apulia, Italy), in a fertile region once famous for its breed of horses.
It is located on the east coast of the Salento peninsula. The Strait of Otranto, to which the city gives its name, connects the Adriatic Sea with the Ionian Sea and Italy with Albania. The harbour is small and has little trade.
The Castle of Otranto is a 1764 novel by Horace Walpole. It is generally regarded as the first gothic novel, and it was indeed the first novel to describe itself by that term. Castle is thus generally credited with initiating the Gothic literary genre, one that would become extremely popular in the later 18th century and early 19th century. Thus, Walpole is arguably the forerunner of such authors as Matthew Gregory Lewis, Charles Robert Maturin, Ann Radcliffe, Bram Stoker, and Daphne du Maurier. (wikipedia)Basically, you will never see OTRANTO in a puzzle unless it is clued via the Horace Walpole novel "The Castle of OTRANTO," a work (as I've said before) many of my grad school friends had to read. My best friend was a Restoration/18th Century scholar, so I am familiar with scores of names and titles from this period. Whether I've read them or not ... OK, I probably haven't read them.
If Italy were grinding you under her heel, OTRANTO would be doing most of the dirty work.
Seven DINGs and and ODIN (doesn't quite ring, but I wouldn't tell him that — 16D: Ruler of th Aesir). Oh, and NYSE, which originates in a DING and is a cute tie-in (43D: Closing bell place). A bit too much of the same thing. Once I copped the theme, and saw that the same word would be added over and over, I meandered through the puzzle, dutifully filling in squares, but not very hopeful of any great surprises. The damn bell just keeps ringing. Couldn't you do different tones? Like BING, DONG, TING. I guess it would be hard to tack DONG (ha ha, DONG) onto the end of a preexisting word and get anything that makes much sense. Still, Sundays should, if anything, have a higher standard than other days for the freshness of its themes. 21x21's a lot of ground to cover. Give me something to look forward to besides a repetitive noise.
Wanna see something weird? Google [Broadway columnist Wilson]. There are a battery of sites with that exact title, in all caps. The whole first page of search results when I checked. DON'T CLICK on any, though; I tried to go the first hit and it tried to show me a "free movie" (same thing's happening with [Ruler of the Aesir] searches). It appears that someone has a bot that can generate page titles that match highly searched terms over a given stretch of time. Can that really be good for business if you are not a. a crossword site or b. a NEAL Wilson / Broadway site? I think about all the porn and self-help bots that spam my Twitter account, or the Chinese bots lately that have been spamming my comments sections with adverts for, among other things, mail-order brides (if the person who helpfully translated that one comment is correct in his translation). You may often wonder, as I do, "Who in this day and age is actually clicking through, let alone responding?" Harper's Index this month offers this stat: Number of spam emails sent for every one that receives a response: 12,414,000. I have to believe at least Some of that 1-in-12 million group is mentally impaired and/or not particularly solvent, with their "responses" yielding nothing for the spammer. Who are these people ordering women and seeking penile enhancement? If you're industrious (and shameless) enough to contact a spammer to ask for assistance, surely you have what it takes to meet a female human on your own.
- 23A: Goal of Sun-Maid's marketing department? (Raisin Bran DING)
- 39A: Salad bar activity? (greens fee DING) — I was going to complain about not knowing what the hell GREEN'S FEED was ("a horse feed company!? Really?"). Then I put the "D" back on the "DING," where it belongs.
- 52A: Book on how to repair rodent damage? (Of Mice and Men DING)
- 69A: Reason that nothing's growing on the farm? (long time no see DING)
- 88A: Question from a campaign committee? (Ain't We Got Fun DING?)
- 98A: Exercise for beginning yoga students (Gentle Ben DING) — too spot-on. That is, the resulting phrase is a very plausible, real phrase, so the zing of the DING is lost.
- 120A: Tardy illustrator's assurance? (drawing pen DING)
Nothing much to hold me up today. I failed to spell OTRANTO correctly (no surprise — I tend to spell it like TORONTO, not MONSANTO). FELDSPAR is utterly unknown to me (91D: Mineral that crystallizes from magma). Sounds like the world's worst production company name. "Look Who's Talking VII ... a FELDSPAR Production." If Marty Feldman and Caspar Weinberger started a production company, that's what it would be called. Got a little worried at the INEZ (42D: Deadly 1966 hurricane) / AMORTIZES (61A: Pays down incrementally) crossing, first because the word AMORTIZES just scares me. Like MULCT or AMERCE, it epitomizes the ugliness of business-speak. Bigger problem was brief suspicion that the "Z" was an "S." But reasoned that I'm not British, so no, zed, I mean "Z." Wondered briefly what EDDERS was until I realized that 105A: Push too hard, maybe wasn't RIDE but RILE, and thus the EDDERS were merely ELDERS (99D: Council members). Proper name mash-up at NEAL (50A: Beat poet Cassady) and RENE (33D: Haitian president Préval) required common sense inference from me, as I don't know either of those guys. FERLINGHETTI, yes, NEAL Cassady, no (though those two knew each other, apparently, and FERLINGHETTI wasn't technically a "beat" poet). Had a student who once wrote to FERLINGHETTI once (part of a class assignment) and he wrote her back: a lovely City Lights postcard telling her he couldn't possibly answer all of her questions. Awesome.
I enjoyed the ARNE / BRITANNIA and the ALI G (25D: Alter ego of Borat and Brüno) / SACHA Baron Cohen tie-ins. And that is all I have to say before ... Bullets:
- 19A: Gasteyer of stage and screen (Ana) — haven't seen her since SNL. Always liked her.
- 32A: Willow twigs (osiers) — I always think of OSIERS as the enemy of RAFFIA. Like they're street gangs. I am an OSIER, for sure.
- 59A: Dwellers on the Strait of Hormuz (Iranis) — first, they're IRANIANS, and second ... I just imagine them all, standing there on the shore ... do they really dwell Right On the Strait? Waving at oil ships to pass the time?
- 68A: "Drat!" ("Darn!") — wanted "Dang!"
- 92A: Old Apple laptop (iBook) — I'm about to buy a new Apple laptop (tho' I've been saying that for months ...)
- 96A: Company founded in 1940 as Standard Games (Sega) — no idea the Hedgehog was that old.
- 112A: Porous kitchen utensils (colanders) – staring at COLON-DERS made me realize I'd spelled OTRANTO wrong.
- 118A: Eight-time Canadian skating champion (Orser) — Brian. Right there is most of my knowledge of men's figure skating.
- 125A: Up time (at bat) — didn't enjoy this.
- 131A: Lead character in "Pushing Daisies" (Ned) — o come on.
- 12D: Science fiction author A. E. van _____ (Vogt) — Old skool! I own many of his books — part of my vintage paperback collection. My favorite cover is the one for "SLAN!"
- 24D: Retailer beginning in 1867 (Saks) — Like SEGA, older than I'd imagined.
- 49D: End of a ballade (envoi) — a very handy terminal "I" word. Frenchness gets you the "I" instead of the "Y"
- 54D: Something often thought of as impending (doom) — probably don't want "impending" in your clue and PENDING in your grid.
- 72D: Sport of a rikishi (sumo) — I've been doing this long enough that some of these once-exotic sounding terms ("rikishi") are starting to feel familiar. Although if the answer here had turned out to be JUDO, I doubt I would have blinked.
- 74D: San Francisco mayor Newsom (Gavin) — Youngish, handsome, pro gay marriage, somewhat scandal-ridden.
- 93D: Pulitzer playwright of 1953 (Inge) — also All-Star Tigers' third-baseman Brandon. That's a clue I want to start promoting.
- 102D: Meaning of the emoticon :-D (grin) — I wrote GASP. Why not just have the emoticon itself as the clue?
- 109D: Broad style of cuisine (Asian) — dang broads and their Asian cuisine. I just want a hamburger and fries, woman!
Puzzle Tweets of the Week! (xword chatter from the Twitterverse)
- LeslieLeonard Happiness is: doing the crossword puzzle with my sister in Chicago via text message. :)
- corblimey Crossword that I attempted to do while inebriated at 5am last night makes for interesting reading. It's absolute nonsense.
- 29accaciaroad according to the crossword in the work lunchroom, another word for clairvoyant is "phyicits" ...haha
- rebcon1102 crossword puzzles + a blankie + the goonies = best day ever.
- michelehumes Today's crossword is a bad joke: 'A horse walks into a bar, and the bartender says, "Go to hell, Will Shortz."'
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]
P.S. all the women up for Best Actress in a Comedy Series at tonight's Emmy Awards are genuinely funny and worthy, but if (crossword enthusiast and all-around sweetheart) Christina Applegate doesn't win there will be much yelling at the screen this evening. It will pain me to boo Tina Fey, but I'll do it.