Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Constructor: Peter A. Collins
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: RED AND WHITE (18A: Like the Canadian flag ... and a hint to the first names of 24- and 48-Across) — turns out that VIVIEN LEIGH (57A: See 24- and 28-Across) won OSCARs (38A: See 24- and 48-Across) for playing both SCARLETT O'HARA (24A: 1939 role for 57-Across, for which she won a 38-Across) and BLANCHE DUBOIS (48A: 1951 role for 57-Across, for which she won a 38-Across)
Word of the Day: Orvieto (22A: Where Orvieto can be found — BAR / 51D: Where Orvieto can be found — ITALY) —
Orvieto is a city and comune in southwestern Umbria, Italy situated on the flat summit of a large butte of volcanic tuff. The site of the city is among the most dramatic in Europe, rising above the almost-vertical faces of tuff cliffs that are completed by defensive walls built of the same stone. (wikipedia)
Orvieto is an Italian wine region located in Umbria and Lazio, centered around the commune of Orvieto. It is primarily known for its white wines made from a blend of mostly Grechetto and Trebbiano, which is sold under the Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) Orvieto and Orvieto Classico. Blended red wine and eight varietal reds are sold under the Rosso Orvietano DOC. The region has been producing wine since the Middle Ages, when Orvieto wine was known as a sweet, golden yellow wine. Today's white Orvieto is dry, but a semi-sweet style, known as Orvieto Abboccato, and dolce (sweet), are also produced in small quantities.(wikipedia)
First, I received the following message last night from an insider at the NYT (for those who solve the puzzle right on the NYT puzzle website):
Argh. It looks like the Java applet version of the Wednesday puzzle has a bug. Some updates didn’t make it in. The Across Lite file is correct. You might want to tell your readers. I’ll add a note to Wordplay.
Apologies for the error.
Turns out the downloadable (AcrossLite) version is just fine. As for the puzzle ...
Honestly, this one was kind of like death to solve. Super-choppy and loaded with short fill. Felt like I was being bombarded by short names at one point — I think that point was when BECK (40A: Fox News star), (non-TERI) GARR (46A: Ralph who was the 1974 N.L. batting champ), and DRU (43D: Actress Joanne) were having their little meeting in the S and SE there. The theme was probably very exciting to discover ("Hey, she won Oscars for playing a woman whose name [kinda] means RED *and* a woman whose name [kinda] means WHITE! And they have the same number of letters!"). Not so exciting to solve, however. First, REDANDWHITE as an answer? It's descriptive, but not it's not a self-standing, cohesive phrase (the way, say, RED WHITE AND BLUE or BLACK AND TAN would be). Second, in America, we spell SCARLET (meaning "red") with one "T" and we BLANCH[E] vegetables. Thus, in English, SCARLETT does not mean "RED" and BLANCHE does not mean "WHITE" (you gotta go to QUEBEC for that meaning of BLANCHE). Third, all I could think, as I was solving, was "... is it VIVIEN LEIGH's birthday? Why am I doing a puzzle about VIVIEN LEIGH? Wait, is this a puzzle about CANADA, 'cause of the Olympics? ... is VIVIEN LEIGH Canadian?" So there was almost zero joy for me today. I kind of like PHILANDER (11D: Fool around). That's it.
I had never heard of "Ovieto" as either a place or a wine, so while guessing ITALY was easy, guessing BAR, not so much. Wanted to spell HAMELIN (44A: Town that failed to pay the piper) like the actor Harry HAMLIN, so had some hesitation figuring out where an extra letter went. DELANEY (29A: Kim of "NYPD Blue") and CARNES (63A: Kim who sang "Bette Davis Eyes") just added more bygone names to this puzzle, though I at least mildly enjoyed both of their work when they were still working. Maybe they're both still working and I just don't know about it.
- 14A: Former Yankee pitcher and coach Stottlemyre (MEL) — Teri GARR and MEL Sharples (of MEL's Diner), both kicked to the curb in the same puzzle.
- 23A: The N.F.L.'s Papa Bear (HALAS) — He has this weird status as someone who is common to the puzzle but frequently unknown by solvers. Not sure how this happens.
- 61A: Big tractor, informally (CAT) — Deliberate (if mild) toughening up of clues for Wednesday. See also 38D: Husband of Frigg (ODIN).
- 19D: Starbuck's quarry (WHALE) — Starbuck is a character in "Moby Dick." He did not hunt lattes.
- 31D: Shaggy Tibetans (YAKS) — not sure why, but I wanted YETIS.
- 16A: Hammy "Now I see!" ("AH, SO") — If by "Hammy" you mean "Asian-caricaturing," then sure.
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