Resistance leader in Woody Allen's Sleeper / FRI 1-1-10 / Abductor Sabine women / Play set entirely beauty parlor / Coin depicting Louis XVI
Friday, January 1, 2010
Constructor: Brad Wilber
Relative difficulty: Challenging
Word of the Day: NICOL Williamson (25A: Williamson who played Hamlet and Macbeth on Broadway) —
Nicol Williamson (born September 14, 1936) is a Scottish-born British actor who was described by English playwright John Osborne as "the greatest actor since Marlon Brando". [...] Williamson's Hamlet for Tony Richardson at The Roundhouse caused a sensation and was later transferred to New York and made into a film, with a cast including Anthony Hopkins and Marianne Faithfull. Faithfull later stated in her autobiography "Faithfull" that she and Williamson had had an affair while filming Hamlet. [...] When Williamson appeared in the 1981 film Excalibur, director John Boorman cast him as Merlin opposite Helen Mirren as Morgana over the protests of both actors; the two had previously appeared together in Macbeth, with disastrous results. It was Boorman's hope that the very real animosity that they had towards each other would generate more tension between them on screen. (wikipedia)
[Speaking of Marianne Faithfull, her recent album "Easy Come, Easy Go" is fabulous. I got it for my wife for Christmas.]
Bloodbath. Slaughter. Not a pretty opening to the new year. I struggled not at all in the NE, a little in the SE, a lot in the SW, and an eternity in the NW. If I had only remembered the name of the damned horse part, my time could have been cut in half; without it ... freefall. Horrible, nauseating, I'm-never-going-to-finish free fall. Without the "W" from WITHERS (1A: Part of a horse between the shoulder blades), I could think of only HOODIES for 1D: Some winter wear (woolens). For the Longest time I had ONE O'CAT (14A: Quaint game with a giver and a striker) and OF NO USE and virtually nothing else in that NW corner. NICOL was nobody to me. ERNO was nobody to me (22A: Resistance leader in Woody Allen's "Sleeper"), IN FOR IT was invisible (2D: Sure to be grounded, say), HOODOO was ... DOOM something? I don't even remember (4D: Bring bad luck to). My one good guess (which I was completely unsure of) was STY at 29A: Foul territory? Otherwise, just horrible. Embarrassing. Here is a very, very fitting song for my bout with this puzzle...
But leaving the NW aside, the puzzle was clearly Saturday-hard throughout. I'm not sure who thought it was a Friday. Only a couple people have times showing at the NYT website that seem Fridayish. Mostly, it looks like a toughish Saturday rolled through there. As I look through the grid, there's not much that is utterly unfamiliar to me: ERNO, NICOL and AL RITZ are about it (23A: Eldest of a trio of comic brothers in 1930s-'40s films). It's the vague, terse, or deliberately misleading cluing that made it so hard to get traction anywhere. Guessed PFIZER right away (8A: Xanax maker) and the NE fell shortly thereafter. "Z"s are so handy! But when I tried to come across ... I had 19A: Pot cover. This is an example of what I'd call a "slant clue." In poetry, a "slant rhyme" is a rhyme that isn't one. Not really. Only in the most tenuous sense of the word. A slant clue is defensible, but groanworthy. "Covering," I might have bought. "Cover" is just ridiculous. So TEFLON didn't show up. Took some hacking, but eventually got the long Downs to fall, starting with POLITICAL ... something at 15D: City hall, often (ended up being ARENA). After much cogitation, "STEEL MAGNOLIAS" sprang to mind for 7D: Play set entirely in a beauty parlor — I had the "STE" to start. Didn't know it was a play.
But over and over, there was stuff that just refused to come easily. Figured answer to 34D: With 35-Down, Mocha is on it would be an island. But no. RED SEA. Thought 39A: Dieter's concern might be WEIGHT. No. INTAKE. As with STY, ADAGIO came to me but I never did trust it until I got several crosses (this also happened with OR ELSE and IMBUE). I "malapopped" at 32D: One of Iowa's state symbols (oak) — wrote in OWL, which was wrong, but ended up being Right later on at 44A: Notable head-turner. Einstein's a what? He could be a billion things. I listed half a dozen off the top of my head, and none of them were EMIGRÉ (53A: Einstein, notably). You eat AIOLI with bouillabaisse?? (45A: Bouillabaisse go-with). An ALIMENT is ... a thing? 41D: Sustaining stuff — I know the adj. ALIMENTARY, but have never seen ALIMENT. Over and over the clues were far from forthcoming. FILIAL is not among my top ten love types (48A: Like some love). Which ENID are we talking about here (43A: She's a paradigm of patience)? ENID of Eric (Geraint?) and ENID? Yikes. Plantation makes me think "slavery" — also cotton and sugar. So I had CANE where BALE was supposed to go (36A: Plantation creation). How the bleepity bleep am I supposed to know the first Across word in the world's first crossword?? (52A: FUN!).
To continue: Had DOB for DUI (31D: Police blotter abbr.). LAZARUS came like a bolt from the blue (59A: New Testament miracle recipient) after I struggled to remember his damned name for what felt like ever; but then ... that juicy "Z" led me straight to the obvious (to me) IDOLIZE! Only ... it's somehow not IDOLIZE. LIONIZE!?!? Come on, you're killing me! My favorite clue/answer pair of the day was one that gave me fits: 36D: Mix on the range (beefalo). There are many meanings of "range." And many meanings of "Mix." I went through all of them. Still didn't get BEEFALO until I was staring at -EE-ALO. I honestly thought KALE might be the [Plantation creation], which was going to give me, what, KEEBALO? Uncle! ("Uncle Keebalo" = trickster god of puzzles; he hates you).
- 27A: Its chapel was designed by Eero Saarinen, briefly (MIT) — I actually held a picture of EERO in my hand earlier in the evening. Three letters? I considered JFK, LGA ...
- 33A: Dostoyevsky's exile city (Omsk) — -MS- made this obvious.
- 51A: Time of Obama's swearing-in (MMIX) — more slant cluing. True, but you would say "year," not "time."
- 54A: Elk's enemy (puma) — I had WOLF.
- 60A: Great Dark Spot locale (Neptune) — not sure I knew this, but had so many crosses that it was obvious.
- 5D: Coin depicting Louis XVI (ecu) — had SOU.
- 8D: Choate ran with him in 1996 (Perot) — I know Choate as a prep school.
- 9D: Half of a recurring "Saturday Night Live" duo (Franz) — other half = Hans.
- 10D: N.Y.C. transportation debut of 1904 (IRT) — just one of those answers I know from doing so many crosswords.
- 11D: Movement Herman Wouk called "a single long action of lifesaving" (Zionism) — Thank you, PFIZER.
- 20D: Clown's over-the-top topper (fright wig) — great answer. Clue ... a little too cocky.
- 40D: Abductor of the Sabine women (Romulus) — my mythology plumb gave out on me. I could see the painting of "The Rape of the Sabine Women," but couldn't recall who was doing the raping (which here, yes, means "abducting").
Happy New Year everyone. Talk to you tomorrow.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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