Angelique composer / THU 8-26-10 / Period of Cenozoic Era / Bing Crosby hit your branches speak to me of love
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Constructor: Henry Hook
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: [Where to see X's and O's] — that's the clue for three grid-spanning *16*-letter theme entries:
- FOOTBALL DIAGRAMS (18A)
- END OF A LOVE LETTER (35A)
- HOLLYWOOD SQUARES (56A)
Word of the Day: IBERT (25A: "Angélique" composer) —
Jacques François Antoine Ibert (15 August 1890 – 5 February 1962) was a French composer of classical music. [...] Ibert's music is considered to be typically quite "light" in character, often witty, colourfully orchestrated with attractive melodies. Although he was not a member of Les Six, his music shares some characteristics with theirs. His best known work is probably the orchestral Divertissement (1930), based on his incidental music for Eugène Labiche's play, Un chapeau de paille d'Italie (The Italian Straw Hat). In the course of the work he comically quotes many pieces, including Mendelssohn's Wedding March. Other prominent pieces include Escales (1924) for orchestra, the symphonic poem La ballade de la geôle de Reading (based on the poem by Oscar Wilde), his concerto for flute and Concertino da Camera for saxophone and Histoires for solo piano. He composed a number of operas, such as L'aiglon (The Eaglet), and the operetta Les petites cardinal, some together with Arthur Honegger. His ballet Le chevalier errant (épopée choréographique, 1951) was premiered by Georges Tzipine with the ORTF. Among his film scores is the one for Orson Welles' version of Macbeth (1948). In 1956 he wrote the work Bacchanale to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the BBC Third Programme. Its premiere was given by Sir Eugene Goossens.
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Wow, that was easy. So easy, I thought I must be missing something. I mean, this is Henry Hook we're talking about here—his puzzles can be wicked hard; in fact, just this past weekend, there was a crossing at 1A/1D in one of his Boston Globe puzzles that was pure impossibility. I just shut the puzzle down in frustration. More than tough, however, he's good, and this is a nicely filled grid. Doesn't feel like it belongs on a Thursday — extremely straightforward, themewise — but with a superwide grid and at least two low-familiarity proper nouns, the puzzle is sufficiently interesting. In addition to the 16-wide grid, there are cheater squares galore. I don't know that I've ever seen this many in a weekday Times puzzle (these are black squares that don't change the word count — two in the east, two in the west, and then one each in the NW and SE). Gives the grid an unusual look, and likely makes the fill smoother. What's weird to me: IBERT is not an unfortunate obscurity necessitated by the surrounding fill. That's choice. Just change the "B" to "N" and you've got common words all around. Sometimes, constructors actually enjoy sending you into dark corners, I guess. Also, INERT / NUDGE is boringer.
Was actually taken aback with how fast I was doing the puzzle. Kept waiting for the axe of horror to fall, and it never did — POINCIANA (51A: Bing Crosby hit in which "your branches speak to me of love") felt like some kind of ax, in that I had to get literally Every letter from crosses — but I got it. TERTIARY (38D: Period of the Cenozoic Era) isn't a period I'm familiar with, but it's a word I recognize. Otherwise, the only place that gave me any trouble was the NE. I plopped down FOOTBALL DIAGRAMS quickly, but then doubted DIAGRAMS when I couldn't get the NE to work. All those little Downs — 11D: Big section of Bartlett's: Abbr. (SHAK.); 12D: "___ Strange Loop," 2007 Douglas Hofstadter book ("I AM A"); and 13D: Symbol of revolutionary power (FIST) — failed to roll over for me at first. Wanted ANON. for the Bartlett's clue, never heard of the Hofstadter book, and FIST (while perfectly clued) wasn't anywhere near the front of my mind. Managed to push back up into that section with momentum from the (easy) center of the puzzle.
- 44D: V as in Versailles (CINQ) — big help knowing French. "V" is Roman numeral for "five," and French for "five" is CINQ. That "Q" made HOLLYWOOD SQUARES a cinch to uncover.
- 48D: Captain with a "regal overbearing dignity of some mighty woe" (AHAB) — a great quote, but you don't really need it. Captain + four letters = AHAB. On Monday, On Saturday, On Any Day. Unless it's KIRK, I guess. [or NEMO, of course; another crosswordesey captain who might be described through a literary quotation — I think I had the initial "A" in place before I ever saw the clue, and that made AHAB certain.]
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