Avant-garde saxophonist John / SAT 3-27-10 / Soles of her shoe hamlet / Faddish disk of 1990s / Magic practiced native Guianans
Saturday, March 27, 2010
Motown is a record company founded by Berry Gordy, Jr. and incorporated as Motown Record Corporation in Detroit, Michigan, USA, on April 14, 1960. The name, a portmanteau of motor and town, is also a nickname for Detroit. Now headquartered in New York City, Motown is a subsidiary of Universal Motown Republic Group, itself a subsidiary of Universal Music Group, and now operates as Universal Motown. Motown Records was also the name of Gordy's second record label; the first, Tamla Records, began on January 12, 1959. [...] Berry Gordy got his start as a songwriter for local Detroit acts such as Jackie Wilson and The Matadors. Wilson's single "Lonely Teardrops", written by Gordy, became a huge success; however, Gordy did not feel he made as much money as he deserved from this and other singles he wrote for Wilson. He realized that the more lucrative end of the business was in producing records and owning the publishing. // In 1959, Billy Davis and Berry Gordy's sisters Gwen and Anna started Anna Records. Davis and Gwen Gordy wanted Berry to be the company president, but Berry wanted to strike out on his own. On January 12, 1959, he started Tamla Records, with an $800 loan from his family. Gordy originally wanted to name the label "Tammy" Records, after the popular song by Debbie Reynolds. When he found the name was already in use, he decided on Tamla instead. // Gordy's first signed act was The Matadors, a group he had written and produced songs for, who changed their name to The Miracles when Tamla signed them. Miracles lead singer Smokey Robinson became the vice president of the company (and later named his daughter "Tamla" and his son "Berry" out of gratitude to Gordy and the label) ... (wikipedia)
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This is a solid, if mostly forgettable, puzzle — loaded with gimmes that gave me important footholds. Only real problems I had were all in the vicinity (shocker) of proper nouns: names I just didn't know. The rest of it was very doable (with a little Saturday elbow grease) and, in parts, even easy (see the entire SE, which went down in something under a minute, once I finally changed BACKSLIDE to BACKSPACE at 30D: Move to your previous place). I started with EDNAS, clued today in what is currently its crosswordesiest incarnation: 10A: "Hairspray" mom and others. I've seen that ["Hairspray" mom] clue a million times now. OK, probably 6-10 times, but that's a lot of times. When you put a gimme in a place that gives me the first letters of a bank of long Downs ... well, it's probably going to be a good day. The super common DOONE is also up there (18A: Blackmore heroine), and the obvious ASNER (13D: Actor who won comedy and drama Emmys for the same role), so NE = no sweat. Problems arose when I tried to get out of the NE, however. I got smug and a little cocky when I got ST. MARK off just the "K" (28A: Donatello sculpture subject), but that attitude disappeared when I tried to get into the middle of the grid. Couldn't remember TAMLA, and certainly had no idea what I was dealing with at 34A: Capital on the Buriganga River, old-style. MECCA? No, that's not "old style." The fact that this was crossing TAMLA (which I didn't know yet) was giving me a minor puzzle panic attack. "That cross better be an 'A'..." By the time I was done with that part of the grid, I had everything right (it turns out), but I didn't know why. Honestly, when I was done, I thought DACCA was "old-style" for DAKAR, the capital of Senegal. Most humiliating fact of the day — turns out I don't know the capital of Bangladesh. In fact, have never heard of it. It's DHAKA (which apparently was spelled "DACCA" back in the day — at least I wasn't forced to come up with DHAKA's other former name: JAHANGIR NAGAR).
Other major sore spot was the far SW, which really is the ugliest part of the grid. Any random Roman numeral longer than three letters tends to irritate me. Today's was five (41D: Last full year of St. Julius I's papacy: CCCLI), *and* intersected a name I'd never heard of: CRAIN (50A: "Pinky" Best Actress nominee Jeanne). Jeanne CRAIN was a popular actress of the '40s and '50s, and "Pinky" was directed by Elia Kazan. The only movie CRAIN I know is Marion CRANE of Alfred Hitchcock's (see 54A) "Psycho," which stars Janet Leigh, whom I often confuse with Debbie Reynolds, who sang "Tammy," which is what Berry Gordy wanted to name his record company before settling on TAMLA.
Had some trouble in the west when I figured 29A: Outcast was LONER or LOSER and 25D: Foot part? was PODI-. Answers turned out to be LEPER and PEDI-, respectively. Also tried ICON before IDOL at 2D: Massive star, resulting in temporary befuddlement. Otherwise, not too hard. I'd like to thank OBEAH (7D: Magic practiced by native Guianans) for being a very handy piece of crosswordese. I'm pretty sure that without it, I'd have found the NW a good deal harder to get into. The "B" gave me the suffix -ABLE, which gave me ULAN (8D: ___ Hot (city in Inner Mongolia)), which allowed me to guess GINORMOUS (1A: Massive). And that's that.
- 20A: Ezio Pinza's "Mr. Imperium" co-star (LANA TURNER) — and another clue takes us back to mid-20c. Hollywood. Never heard of this movie, but had -URNER by the time I looked at this clue, so getting the answer was a cinch. Figured Ezio (xwordese!) and Tina's careers probably didn't overlap much.
- 35A: Avant-garde saxophonist John (ZORN) — didn't know this, and then somehow did, but didn't know why. Jim ZORN was the quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks in the '70s-'80s. He's the ZORN I know best.
- 40A: Subject of the 1997 biography "Woman in the Mists" (FOSSEY) — another gimme. This once confirmed what I suspected: that NO ONE KNOWS was the answer to 12D: "It's anybody's guess"
- 54A: Hitchcock trademark (CAMEO ROLE) — another easy one. These banks of long Acrosses traversed by many short Downs are usually relative easy to solve. Even if the Acrosses aren't easy, chances are you'll be able to crack a couple of the Downs and start to open things up.
- 3D: Launcher launched in 1958 (NASA) — I'm trying to understand why my first thought involved NERF balls and some kind of toy ball-launcher they might have produced...
- 6D: Youngest Best Actress Oscar winner, 1986 (MATLIN) — wow, that's a surprising stat. O'NEAL and PAQUIN both won Supporting Actress Oscars. My first guess here was FOSTER.
- 22D: "___ the soles of her shoe?": Hamlet (NOR) — really strange and unfamous quote to use as a clue for "NOR"; from Act II, scene ii:
- My excellent good friends! How dost thou,
Guildenstern? Ah, Rosencrantz! Good lads, how do ye
- As the indifferent children of the earth.(235)
- Happy, in that we are not over-happy.
On Fortune's cap we are not the very button.
- Nor the soles of her shoe?
- Neither, my lord.
- Then you live about her waist, or in the middle of her(240)
- Faith, her privates we.
- In the secret parts of Fortune? O! most true! she is a
strumpet. . .
- 37D: 1982 Grammy-winning song by Toto ("ROSANNA") — a gimme handed to me on a silver gimme platter with "gimme" engraved on it. Though, to be honest, my first thought was "Africa."
- 52D: Faddish disk of the 1990s (POG) — though I was too old for these to be truly in my pop culture sweet spot — still a gimme. This"fad" sticks in my head because of an episode of "The Simpsons" — one of the greatest episodes of all — where Bart sells his soul to Milhouse for $5 and then when Bart wants to buy it back, he can't because Milhouse has traded it in for ... POGs. "Alf" POGs. The line about POGs and "Alf" is the first thing I think of whenever I see a reference to POGs:
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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