Turkish bigwig — SUNDAY, Oct. 18 2009 — Old credit-tracking corp. / Jewelry firm since 1842 / School popular in 1920s / Lepidopterist's study
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Constructor: Elizabeth C. Gorski
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: THE SOLOMON R. GUGGENHEIM / MUSEUM (23A: With 29-Across, holder of the works named in the nine starred clues, celebrating its 50th anniversary on 10/21/09)
Word of the Day: "'DEED I DO" (108A: Jazz standard whose title is repeatedly sung after "Honey...") — "''Deed I Do" is a 1926 jazz standard composed by Fred Rose with lyrics by Walter Hirsch. It was introduced by vaudeville performer S. L. Stambaugh and popularized by Ben Bernie's recording. It was recorded by influential clarinetist and bandleader Benny Goodman as his debut recording in December 1926 with Ben Pollack and His Californians. Ruth Etting's rendition of the song became a top ten hit in 1927. (wikipedia)
Lovely, imaginative puzzle from Liz Gorski, who specializes in that sort of thing. Make grid shape relevant to theme and then execute it nearly flawlessly — no one does it better. The James Bond martini glass puzzle from last year comes to mind. This one may be better. Only down side was how phenomenally easy it was, and that was largely the function of the (necessary) abundance of three-letter words. The SPIRAL SHAPE is a brilliant conceit, and the theme density is astonishing — nine artist names and then long explanatory theme answers running nearly the length and width of the grid on all sides. Really, truly beautiful. It is currently my 9-yr-old daughter's life dream to go to the Guggenheim (it's good to have achievable goals), so when we showed her this grid, her mind was quite seriously blown.
Theme answers — the artists:
- 1A: *"Before the Mirror" (MANET)
- 14D: *"Seated Woman, Wiping Her Left Side" (DEGAS)
- 34D: *"Tableau 2" (MONDRIAN)
- 68A: *"Green Violinist" (CHAGALL)
- 51D: *"Mandolin and Guitar" (PICASSO)
- 97A: *"Composition 8" (KANDINSKY)
- 103A: *"Peasant With Hoe" (SEURAT)
- 101D: *"The Antipope" (ERNST)
- 112D: *"Head and Shell" (ARP)
38D: With 43-Down, what 23-/29-Across was (Final major work of / Frank Lloyd Wright) — my only trouble with this grid was that I wanted BY instead of OF in this answer.
The GUGGENHEIM is the first place I saw more of these artists' work. ERNST stands out the most because I was like "WTF is that!? Is that a lady or a bird or ...?" Alberto GIACOMETTI was the artist that grabbed me most — simultaneously beautiful, thoughtful, and horrific. I really gotta get back there sometime soon.
One complaint about the grid, and it's a clue complaint: what the hell is with the clue on NOR (10D: "... should I"). How / when do you say that? That just feels like the randomest of random phrases, and RIGHT at the initial in GUGGENHEIM's name. Everyone knows GUGGENHEIM, some people know SOLOMON, but few people know that middle initial offhand, so please, everyone who makes puzzles, when you are crossing initials, make the clue ... not easy, necessarily, but solid. Solid. Worst clue for NOR I have ever seen, at the worst possible place. I wanted to put "W" in there because I could hear someone saying, emphatically, "... NOW SHOULD I?" way more than I could hear "NOR should I." I know the "NOW" version technically needs a comma, but since it's a rhetorical question (no one saying it would expect an answer), I thought maybe the question mark wasn't needed. Briefly. Then I went with the "R."
Some inventive fill today in order to accommodate this odd grid shape. Never heard of "DEED I DO," but as you can see, it's not just the Word of the Day — it's the first ever Song of the Day. A solid standard, so can't complain. SEMITRAILER, odd as it was, was highly inferrable (90A: Vintage Tonka toy). POTATIONS is butt-ugly, but legal (47D: Drinks of liquor). Always hate to see LAR, but whaddyagonnado? (113D: Roman household god). I had to look up TRW (98A: Old credit-tracking corp.) when I was done to see what the hell it stood for. By the time I started worrying about my credit score, TRW had already become Experian, apparently. TRW comes from Thompson Ramo Wooldridge, Inc. for reasons that are far, far too dull to relate.
- 20A: Westernmost avenue in Santa Monica, Calif. (Ocean) — that's just a Great clue. You can infer it even if you've never been there. West of Santa Monica is, in fact, OCEAN. Shout-out to my best friend Andrew, who lives there.
- 21A: Rewards of a political machine (patronage) — a word with serious art implications, thus appropriate for this puzzle.
- 39A: 2000s TV family (Sopranos) — ah, TV. You make things so easy for me (usually). No problem here, or at MTM (66A: 1970s TV production co.) or at 74A: "Frasier" role (Daphne), and I didn't even watch "Frasier."
- 49A: Game in which players subtract from a starting score of 501 (darts) — how did I not know this? I thought for sure it would be a card game.
- 99A: Clytemnestra, to Agamemnon (spouse) — I believe I lectured about these two only yesterday, so you're welcome. I also believe that SUMAC was in the puzzle very very recently (78D: Shrub that may cause a severe allergic reaction). No?
- 106A: Subject of the Joni Mitchell song "Amelia" (Earhart) — I didn't know this, and then was surprised/embarrassed by how spot-on / obvious the answer ended up being.
- 1D: Lepidopterist's study (moth) — "lepidopterist" is one of those words that looks difficult but now (to me) seems rather common. Maybe because Nabokov was a lepidopterist, which I've known since I was about 20. For a while I thought "lepidopterist" was the word in that Orwell title I can never remember, "Keep the ASPIDISTRA Flying."
- 19D: Gospel singer Franklin (Erma) — learned, and then forgot, her from xwords.
- 40D: Site of Spain's Alamillo Bridge (Seville) — never quite sure if this is going to be spelled SEVILLE or (Sp.) SEVILLA. Latter would require Sp. word in clue, but ... again, still unsure sometimes if something like "Alamillo" counts.
- 42D: Jewelry firm since 1842 (Fabergé) — I don't think of FABERGÉ as a company. I always thought of those eggs as ... almost mythical. Not named after a company, but maybe after some exotic folklore backstory involving princesses and dragons and what not. On "The Simpsons," now-dead bluesman Bleeding Gums Murphy once had a FABERGÉ egg addiction.
- 89D: School popular in the 1920s (Bauhaus) — nice architectural tie-in. I wanted this answer to be ASHCAN.
- 100D: Turkish bigwig (pasha) — a favorite word of another crossword blogger. What was her name again? I forget. :)
- brutalreality finishing the crossword in five minutes makes me feel smart. walking in with a kitten umbrella makes me feel like a geek.
- stuckinsanity I love the girl that comes to my stats class every day and does a crossword puzzle...everyday!
- ninja_naj Allergic to this lecture hall. Analyzing my prof's lecture voice and disliking it. Done with crossword. Planning my day to be productive
- aaron_j_lewis Baguette toast, coffee, fireplace, and the crossword puzzle. I am addicted to cozy.
- raford3 @rexparker You're the most hip-hop crossword blogger/English professor I know...
- Paschspice Cant believe im making a marijuana crossword. oh lord.
- MasOvaltinePls I'm so good at crossword puzzles. Wait. Shouldn't I be napping? Jesus. I need to set my priorities straight.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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