Filmmaker Martin — SUNDAY, Nov. 22 2009 — White-tailed movie star / Sex symbol once married to Vadim
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Constructor: Patrick Merrell
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: "Career Day Speaker Schedule" — theme answers are jobs that are clued via other jobs that sound identical or at least similar if you take them as puns
Word of the Day: Martin RITT (36A: Filmmaker Martin) — Martin Ritt (March 2, 1914 – December 8, 1990) was an American director, actor, and playwright who worked in both film and theater. He was born in New York City. [...] With work hard to find and the Depression in full effect, many WPA theater performers, directors, and writers became heavily influenced by the radical left and Communism, and Ritt was no exception. Years later, Ritt would state that he had never been a member of the Communist Party, although he considered himself a leftist and found common ground with some Marxist principles. [...] Although not directly named by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), Ritt was mentioned in an anti-communist newsletter called Counterattack, published by American Business Consultants, a group formed by three former FBI agents. [...] He was finally blacklisted by the television industry when a Syracuse grocer charged him with donating money to Communist China in 1951. [...] In 1976, Ritt made one of the first dramatic feature films about the blacklist, The Front, starring Woody Allen. [He is probably most famous for directing "Norma Rae" (1979)] (wikipedia)
Some Sundays are exciting, some are simply endurance tests. Today's was definitely the latter. Clue jobs with other jobs. Clue asks us to reimagine the job as a pun. OK, done. But these are worth a slight chuckle at best, and there's a Ton of them, so in essence what I'm doing is filling my grid with job titles, more of which are dull (in sound and look, if not in practice) beyond belief. Meanwhile, the kind of fill I'm having to endure is startlingly subpar. STERS (130A: Dump and road endings)? IES (57A: Suffix with pant or aunt)?! ARCHI (59D: Prefix with -tect)!?! ENARM (76D: Equip with weapons, old-style)? EYERS (89D: Spectators)?! It was like being bludgeoned. I'll accept some bludgeoning if the puzzle has some sweet payoff, but today, there wasn't any. I don't know what to make of the final theme answer? NOVEL WRITER? How does that fit the clue, 119A: Career of the parent who typed up the Career Day schedule? Is it that he or she has written the jobs in new (i.e. NOVEL) ways? Talk about forcing the issue ...
- 23A: Career Day Speaker #1: Meter maid? (ticket agent)
- 28A: #2: Tea server? (social worker)
- 38A: #3: Golf pro? (driving instructor)
- 58A: #4: Tree surgeon? (branch manager) — few things less exciting in the world than the phrase "BRANCH MANAGzzzzzzzz..."
- 70A: #5: Manicurist? (file clerk) — sorry, spoke too soon. FILE CLERK trumps even BRANCH MANAGER.
- 82A: #6: Justice of the Peace? (union official)
- 103A: #7: Grocery store owner? (marketing director)
- 111A: #8: Disc jockey? (record keeper) — seriously, it's as if this is a list of the 9 most boring-sounding jobs on the planet.
.. and then there's NOVEL WRITER. That's your punch line.
I'm guessing that there are several people out there who had an experience like my wife at the CIRÉ / RITT crossing. She'd never heard of either and just stared at the place where the "I" was supposed to be. It's an obscure fabric, and a not-exactly-household-name director (longtime solvers will know it, as it pops up in the grid from time to time, but with a vague clue like [Filmmaker Martin], it's bound to throw some people off). I didn't know the fabric — or, rather, I had that same feeling I always have with fabrics in the grid, i.e. it seems vaguely familiar but any number of letters seem interchangeable or variable. [Glazed fabric] = CIRÉ? SOIE? TOILE? TUILE? etc. I don't understand why this "I" wasn't an "A." You may never have heard of RATT, but they are a completely puzzle-worthy rock band from the 80s. Further, and more importantly, CARE is a word you know and might have a hope of getting from any number of clues. CIRÉ, like RITT, is know-it-or-you-don't. I did. Doesn't mean I liked it.
- 1A: White-tailed movie star (Bambi) — nice gimme right out of the box.
- 19A: Literary work in which Paris is featured (Iliad) — tricksiness. Paris as in the guy who abducted / ran off with Helen...
- 30A: Blues musician Baker (Etta) — I think I know ETTA as a Jones, not a Baker. Here's a video/interview with her at age 91.
- 63A: Sex symbol once married to Vadim (Bardot) — VADIM is a first name to me, so I got thrown a bit here, but a few crosses let me know the "sex symbol" in question. Brigitte BARDOT was married to Roger Vadim. Wikipedia tells me she has been convicted five times of "inciting racial hatred." Sexy!
- 74A: Reeve or Reeves role (Kent) — as in Clark KENT, as in Superman!
- 75A: Gambler's holy grail (system) — hmmm ... SYSTEM is just not a word that pairs well with a high-falutin' phrase like "holy grail."
- 94A: "Aunt _____ Cope Book" ("Erma's") — as in Bombeck. I only recently learned what the hell this "Cope Book" thing was. If you really need ERMAS in your puzzle, I guess your cluing choices are limited.
- 96A: Play byplay (aside) — Is "byplay" a word? I see that it is. "Action carried on aside, and commonly in dumb show, while the main action proceeds." News to me.
- 98A: _____ Chao, only cabinet member to serve through George W. Bush's entire administration (Elaine) — that is a long, not terribly exciting way to go for a common name like ELAINE.
- 10A: Dillinger's derringer, e.g. (gat) — one of my favorite bits of short fill.
- 106A: 2007 Steve Carell title role (Evan) — from "EVAN Almighty."
- 116A: "_____-A-Lympics" (old TV cartoon series) ("Laff") — now we're talking. This was a staple of my childhood. I think I used to actually root for one of the teams. I was geeky enough that I might have kept some kind of score. Any excuse to list, tally, or arrange statistics.
- 4D: Honeyed pastry (baklava) — maybe my favorite answer in the grid. If nothing else, it's tasty.
- 7D: Bouillon cube ingredient, usually (MSG) — a. I didn't know this and b. shouldn't the clue cue an abbrev. here.
- 18D: Club that began as the Colt .45s (Astros) — Change it back! Clearly this name isn't working.
- 31D: Fountain in front of the Palazzo Poli (Trevi) — one of only Italian fountains I know, lucky me.
- 77D: Mell Lazarus comic strip ("Momma") — She is Big and you do Not want to go near her House.
- 85D: Break in a building's facade (ledge) — oh ... that kind of "break." A visual "break." OK.
- 92D: Beatty and Sparks (Neds) — both actors of note. Not related.
- 120D: One likely to have pet peeves? (vet) — just too clever for its own good, this clue. VETs will hear about said peeves, but will not "have" them in any but the most attenuated sense of the word.
- 123D: Human body part with vestigial muscles (ear) — I had no idea.
And now your Tweets of the Week — puzzle chatter from the Twitterverse...
- @penelopeshaw How ironic, today's crossword clue: Bored with life = world weary - the only one I got...
- @ffchels926 I don't want to walk to class in the rain when I'm just going to sit there working on a crossword puzzle for 50 minutes. Skipping... again.
- @Catf1sh The lady driving next to me is doing a crossword puzzle. Yes, that's how slow Atlanta morning rush hour traffic is.
- @davemunger Do you ever use the term "enote"? I mean, other than in crossword puzzles?
- @mrcheapskate Fella on the train is just putting random letters in his crossword. Unless he's Polish. Yeah, maybe that's it.
- @AlexRihm WTF is prexy and why is it in my crossword?
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]