Hip-hop producer Gotti — THURSDAY, Nov. 19 2009 — Hearers of Jonah's prophecy / Titan who fetched apples for Hercules / Spanish chess piece
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Constructors: Tyler Hinman and Jeremy Horwitz
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: Directors of Movies with Single-Letter Titles ("Z," "M," and "W.," respectively)
Word of the Day: Eugène IONESCO (13D: "Le Rhinocéros" playwright Eugène) — Eugène Ionesco (born Eugen Ionescu, Romanian pronunciation: [e.uˈd͡ʒen i.oˈnesku]; November 26, 1909 – March 28, 1994) was a Romanian and French playwright and dramatist, one of the foremost playwrights of the Theatre of the Absurd. Beyond ridiculing the most banal situations, Ionesco's plays depict in a tangible way the solitude and insignificance of human existence. (wikipedia) [I picked him because his 100th birthday is a week from today ... also the birthday of Charles Schulz, Tina Turner, and me]
Wow, this was weird for a Thursday, or any day of the week where we normally see a themed puzzle. This must set some kind of record for least amount of real estate occupied by theme squares in a themed puzzle: a mere 32 squares. But when you use the non-restrictive nature of the theme to create an Incredibly wide-open grid crammed full of entertaining and lively answers and almost completely devoid of yucky stuff, then who cares? Not sure how the puzzle managed to still come in feeling almost perfectly Thursday-level, given that it's got so much white space and one theme answer that I completely blanked on, but it did. I could have done without GIRD UP (8D: Encircle with a belt), a phrase I've never heard and one in which the "UP" seems entirely redundant, but that's about the only thing to NAG (53A: Tiresome sort) about today. An unequivocal success.
17A: "Z" director, 1969 (Costa-Gavras)
[This looks cool...]
32A: "M" director, 1931 (Fritz Lang)
51A: "W." director, 2008 (Oliver Stone)
COSTA-GAVRAS!!!! [Shakes fist at sky]. Aaargh! Couldn't come up with that name to save my life, and even after I pieced it together, it wasn't terribly familiar. I've clearly heard it before, but I've never seen "Z" or anything else he's directed. His fame (in this country, at any rate) belongs entirely to a previous generation. Couldn't name another COSTA-GAVRAS movie if I tried, and yet I could name multiple movies by both FRITZ LANG (an even older but far, far, far more important director) and OLIVER STONE. So I had to work the crosses like crazy in the NW. In fact, the NW and SE together were easily the hardest parts of this puzzle. So much white space!
In the NW, I wanted ANGRIER for 1D: More Irish? (luckier). Nothing up there really wanted to budge at first — US ONE is not a road I travel (14A: It joins I-10 in Jacksonville and I-90 in Boston) and 23A: "Totally" ("I agree") seemed like it could be anything. Finally started to hem that section in when I guessed STAX for 6D: Record label whose house band was Booker T & the M.G.'s, which gave me the "X" I needed to (eventually) get KLEENEX. Finally got the longish Downs up there to go by working their back ends with REY (29A: Spanish chess piece) and then ETAS (25A: Some honor society letters).
OLIVER STONE was a gimme and I still had to work for the SE. Forgot what "Taken" even was, so needed help with NEESON (46A: "Taken" star, 2008). Thought 47D: Breeze on a college campus (easy A) might be DREW (even though he's in the pros now and doesn't spell his name that way). Got "First Blood" confused with "True Blood," though it wouldn't have mattered if I'd had the right picture in mind because I never saw "First Blood" and forgot Brian DENNEHY was in it, if I ever knew it (40D: Brian of "First Blood"). So the puzzle provided me nice mini-battles in the NW and SE corners. The rest, I tore up no problem.
This puzzle is a pangram.
- 6A: Symbol in a Riemann sum (sigma) — I've either been doing puzzles long enough, or known math professionals long enough, that despite the phrase "Riemann sum"'s meaning nothing to me, I got this no problem.
- 24A: Spats (quarrels) — most amusing wrong answer of the day: I had FLARE-UPS! (from the "AR"). When that didn't work, I thought "spats" might have something to do with shoes ...
- 34A: El Paso neighbor (Juarez) — I didn't know this, but guessed SUAREZ off the "-EZ," and then adjusted for the Disney princess JASMINE.
- 42A: Italy's L'_____ Vogue magazine (Uomo) — means "man"; such a cool-looking word.
- 7D: Hip-hop producer Gotti (Irv) — no relation to *that* Gotti.
- 9D: Anne whose real-life husband played her ex on "Rhoda" (Meara) — yay! Great clue.
- 10D: Hearers of Jonah's prophecy (Assyrians) — ??? really wanted whatever the inhabitants of NINEVEH are called.
- 45D: Titan who fetched apples for Hercules (Atlas) — not the first, or last, thing I think of when I think of ATLAS. Apple-fetching = slightly less manly than holding the entire world on your shoulders.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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