Bygone daily MTV series informally / SUN 4-25-10 / Death Grieg movement / Singer/actress Karen Broadway's Nine / Architect born 4/26/1917
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Constructor: Elizabeth C. Gorski
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: "MONUMENTAL ACHIEVEMENT" — a puzzle all about PYRAMIDS, and specifically in honor of the GLASS DESIGN BY I.M. PEI (89A: [ ] that was the creation of an architect born 4/26/1917) featured at THE LOUVRE (66A: Paris attraction that features a [ ])
[Note on puzzle reads: When this puzzle is done, the seven circled letters can be arranged to spell a common word, which is missing from seven of the clues, as indicated by [ ]. Connect the seven letters in order with a line and you will get an outline of the object that the word names]
Word of the Day: Larry KERT (119A: Larry who played Tony in "West Side Story") —
In 1955, while dancing in the chorus in the Sammy Davis, Jr. show Mr. Wonderful, Kert was recommended by his fellow dancer and friend Chita Rivera, who eventually won the role of Anita in West Side Story, to audition as a dancer for Gangway during the earliest Broadway pre-production of the Arthur Laurents-Leonard Bernstein-Stephen Sondheim musical later titled West Side Story, an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet set in upper Manhattan in the 1950s. Years later while singing at the White House, Kert remembered he was the 18th out of 150 hopefuls to audition, but he was the first one to be cut. A few months later, while he was working for Esquire in an advertising show, Stephen Sondheim approached him after seeing him perform and set up an audition for the part of Tony. Kert was reluctant to accept the offer, but a few weeks later, he was informed that he had the role. // According to Arthur Laurents, who wrote the book for West Side Story, Kert was "a California extrovert, laughing, bubbling, deadly funny, and openly gay." Director-choreographer Jerome Robbins frequently clashed with Kert, publicly chastising him for being a "faggot," despite the fact that Robbins himself, fellow dancer Tommy Abbott and most of the creative team was gay. Kert did not repeat his role in the 1961 film version of the show because at 30 years old he looked unbelievable as a teenager. The role went to former child actor Richard Beymer, whose vocals were dubbed by Jimmy Bryant. Kert was upset at being passed over for the role, because he had hoped that it would jump-start his film career. [...] Kert's last stage appearance came in a touring company of La Cage aux Folles but he missed performances because of illness. Kert died, aged 60, in New York City from complications of AIDS in 1991. His older sister is singer Anita Ellis, noted for dubbing Rita Hayworth and other non-singing stars in their films. (wikipedia)
This is the first Liz Gorski creation in a long time (possibly ever) that I just didn't care for. Inevitably, I compare this puzzle to her Guggenheim puzzle from last year, and this one just doesn't measure up. The theme was very easy to pick up — I never looked at the note that came with it until I was finished filling in the grid — and then held almost no surprises. No revealing moments. The theme answers were simply dull descriptions of things that are pyramids. Further, I have never heard of the card game "Pyramid" (78A: CARD GAME), and I've been practicing yoga for years and didn't know Pyramid was a pose (it's just not one we do, I guess — what's up with that, Elisa? Are you holding out on me?) (55A: YOGA POSE). No problem. Just picked them up from crosses. So I just sort of ho-hummed my way through the grid. And then was asked to draw on my grid — an act toward which I used to be hostile, though now my feelings are pretty neutral. I just don't count those post-solve theatrics as part of the puzzle's inherent quality. Here, it's a pyramid. I can see it before I draw it. So I don't draw.
My main issue today, though, was how much really, truly subpar fill is populating this grid — an avalanche of wince-inducing short stuff. ASE'S (115A: "___ Death" (Grieg movement)) over KERT probably hurt the worst, but I'd count all of the following as less than optimal (no one thing is pure abomination, but taken in toto, wow, it hurts): ASE'S, AKERS (102D: Singer/actress Karen of Broadway's "Nine"), KERT, FOSSAE (81D: Anatomical cavities — actually, somewhat cool, but clearly a word of convenience, and the second -AE plural in the grid), the whole middle of the puzzle (OLEOS next to STOAS next to ALTUS), CTS crossing SSNS, LEY, UBS (36D: Financial inst. that bought PaineWebber in 2000), MNOP, singular SCAD, AM TO (?), CLONAL (!?!?!) (12D: Like some cell growth), BES (where I'm from, "WANNABE" is one word), etc. etc. None of it caused much of a struggle, but with each one of these, my pleasure diminished and diminished — and with no wow factor to redeem it, I ended up feeling like I was just going through the motions. I am a huge fan of The Gorski — her name is usually one of the first names out of my mouth when people ask me "Who do you think the best constructors are?" Perhaps my standards for her are too high. Perhaps. But I'm going to keep them there. Her ambitious creations make me happy and hopeful even when I don't think they quite come off.
- 23A: [ ] — CHEERLEADING FORMATION
- 37A: [ ] — IMAGE ON A DOLLAR BILL
- 55A: [ ] — YOGA POSE
- 78A: [ ] — CARD GAME
- 109A: [ ] — THREE-DIMENSIONAL SHAPE
- 20A: Resident of a country that's 97% mountains and desert (OMANI) — klassic krosswordese, but with an interesting klue
- 31A: Gwen who sang "Don't Speak," 1996 (STEFANI) — as the lead singer of the group No Doubt; "Don't Speak" was a huuuuuge hit.
- 59A: Glossy black birds (DAWS) — speaking of birds that are neither glossy nor black, I got attacked by a wild turkey in the woods yesterday. OK, "attacked" is a mild overstatement. But I swear, I heard a bit of rustling nearby, and then an explosion of leaves as 20+ pounds of maniacally flapping awkwardness seemed to just levitate from behind the bushes right next to me and start to fly right overhead. My thought: "There's No Way that stays airborne." So I duck but the bird proceeds to go higher and higher, clearing me easily and ending up quite near the treetops, from which it simply stretched out its wings and glided down the hill. I had no idea turkeys could get that much air, or soar so gracefully. Crazy. My dogs ... absolutely failed to notice anything remarkable going on.
- 60A: New York City transport from the Bronx to Coney Island (D TRAIN) — got it off the "D." Did anyone ever sing about the D TRAIN the way they did about the A TRAIN?
- 103A: Network that airs "WWE Raw" (USA) — If I had to name a USA network show, I think the only one I could come up with is "Night Flight" — an early music video show that seemed very cool and cutting-edge and grown up to 11-year-old me (soooo much cooler than the teen-and-tween-centered "Total Request Live," aka "TRL" (74D: Bygone daily MTV series, informally) of '90s MTV.
- 104A: Breakdown of social norms (ANOMIE) — a word I think I've heard exactly once, in Government class, in 1988.
- 13D: Part of a Virgin Atlantic fleet (AEROPLANE) — strangely, I would not have pegged this as British. I would have pegged it as 19c / Jules Vernian. Shows what I know.
- 17D: Like Berg's "Wozzeck" (ATONAL) — despite being a very ordinary word, puzzle-wise, ATONAL took me longer than probably any other word in the grid. Fozzy Wozzeck was a bear ...
- 51A: 1980s Chrysler debut (K-CAR) — for no good reason, I really like this answer. If a car is going to be named after a letter, that is the letter to name it after, I say.
And now your Tweets of the Week, puzzle chatter from the Twitterverse:
- @marcusyeagley I've been defeated by a Monday NYT crossword puzzle. Not a fine way to start the day. #fb
- @virgikneecap http://twitpic.com/1hwy8n - Mike is not helpful with crosswords.
- @amandahesser Another tip-top @michelehumes Food Crossword for your weekend of leisure: http://bit.ly/cVWmxo
- @jocakern Will you share your crossword puzzle? Come on,it is not a toothbrush...
- @sesamestreet Cookie Monster: Ate newspaper crossword puzzle today. Gordon said it was “a piece of cake”. So me ate it. Not very moist.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]