Hybrid farm animal / SUN 8-22-10 / Lake Erie city west Cleveland / Mount * volcano in Mordor / Founder Oahu plantation / Electronic game fad 1980s
Sunday, August 22, 2010
Constructor: Patrick Berry
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: "FILM NO-R" — famous films have their "R"s removed, creating wacky fake film titles, clued wackily ...
Word of the Day: SEI (40A: Finback whale) —
The Sei Whale (pronounced /ˈseɪ/ or /ˈsaɪ/), Balaenoptera borealis, is a baleen whale, the third-largest rorqual after the Blue Whale and the Fin Whale. It inhabits most oceans and adjoining seas, and prefers deep off-shore waters. It avoids polar and tropical waters and semi-enclosed bodies of water. The Sei Whale migrates annually from cool and subpolar waters in summer to winter in temperate and subtropical waters. // Reaching 20 meters (66 ft) long and weighing as much as 45 tonnes (44 LT; 50 ST), the Sei Whale daily consumes an average of 900 kilograms (1,984 lb) of food, primarily copepods, krill, and other zooplankton. It is among the fastest of all cetaceans, and can reach speeds of up to 50 kilometres per hour (31 mph), 27 knots) over short distances. The whale's name comes from the Norwegian word for pollock, a fish that appears off the coast of Norway at the same time of the year as the Sei Whale. // Following large-scale commercial whaling during the late-nineteenth and late-twentieth centuries when over 238,000 whales were taken, the Sei Whale is now internationally protected, although limited hunting occurs under controversial research programmes conducted by Iceland and Japan. As of 2006, its worldwide population was about 54,000, about a fifth of its pre-whaling population.
OK, so here's what's surprising me today. The last Patrick Berry puzzle I did had the ASPHODEL / SIMNEL cross, which was just Brutal to me (and scads of others). I haven't called "Natick" on a crossing in a while, but that was pretty damned close. As many people said, there are at least half a dozen other letters that felt plausible in that "S" spot. This ... I'll call it an infelicity ... surprised me, as Patrick Berry is the acknowledged greatest constructor since sliced bread. So today I'm cruising along, oddly enjoying his simple remove-a-letter theme (the titles are in many cases legitimately clever or funny, which will make even the simplest theme seem genius), and then — in almost exactly the same part of the grid where ASPHODEL / SIMNEL had been, I run into LORAIN (25A: Lake Erie city west of Cleveland) / NEROLI (15D: ___ oil (perfumery ingredient)). Or, rather, LO-AIN / NE-OLI. As with the earlier "bad" crossing, I had no sure way to judge exactly how rough that cross would be for a general audience, but it felt Rough to me. I think I had seen one or the other of LORAIN or NEROLI before, somewhere, but the "R" was a flat-out guess. An informed one, but a guess nonetheless. LORAIN is the new ELMA. Or maybe ELMA was the new LORAIN. At any rate, they are small towns, is what I'm saying. To be fair, though, LORAIN is bigger, population-wise, than ELMA and NATICK put together. LORAIN is also bigger than EDINA, which I know well—but EDINA benefits from being a first-ring suburb of a major city (Minneapolis), whereas LORAIN ... isn't. Cleveland's close-ish. But ... look, long story short, LORAIN and NEROLI are not words I would cross. I have this strange sense that at least a few others will be perplexed here, though perhaps the number of seriously viable letters is lower here than in the case of A-PHODEL / -IMNEL. Stuff like this Really stands out to me. I mean, SEI and CATTALO (!?!?!) (31D: Hybrid farm animal) stood out to me too, but in those cases, the crosses were all quite gettable.
One interesting thing about this grid is the layout of the theme answers. You rarely get two stacked right on top of each other, let alone three semi-stacked (as they are in the NW and SE). This makes the puzzle astonishingly thematically dense up top and down low, and thematically sparse throughout the middle. Also, there are really long (11) Downs in the NE and SW, which I like and don't, respectively. In general, the fill in this one is far livelier than your average Sunday puzzle, but anything less from Mr. Berry would be surprising. More pleasure than pain, but that crossing ... yeesh, I say!
I should probably mention that I thought the puzzle's title was the stupidest thing ever until I got the pun. "What film is rated NO-R? That makes no sense at all!... Wait. FILM NO-R ... FILM NOIR. Oh. Right. OK. That's pretty good."
- 19A: Film about a corrida participant put to pasture? ("AGING BULL")
- 23A: ... a candy-sharing confederate? ("THE GUMBALL ALLY")
- 28A: ... a small-minded lady? ("PETTY WOMAN")
- 44A: ... an embarrassingly one-sided tennis match? ("A THOUSAND ACES") [NOTE: the real movie is titled "A THOUSAND ACRES," not "A THOUSAND RACES"]
- 67A: ... decorative furniture elements being blown off with dynamite? ("BEDKNOBS AND BOOMSTICKS")
- 93A: ... a demonic horse? ("MY FIEND FLICKA")
- 112A: ... drink garnishes? ("OLIVE TWIST")
- 121A: ... a seedy Hollywood bar? ("MULHOLLAND DIVE")
- 126A: ... skinned knuckles? ("FIST BLOOD")
- 13A: "La Resurrezione" composer (HANDEL) — took longer than it might have, as I was looking for an Italian name.
- 21A: Mount ___ (volcano in Mordor) (DOOM) — Is this LOTR trivia? Aargh. Yes.
- 38A: The mythical tree Yggdrasil, for one (ASH) — this also feels LOTR-esque, but is simply from Norse mythology.
- 51A: Political theorist Hannah (ARENDT) — a familiar name from my grad school days, though I never had to read her.
- 59A: Geometric shape whose perimeter has infinite length (FRACTAL) — I liked this. Took me a while, but when I got it, it made sense. I feel like FRACTAL art was big some time in the '90s. Right around the time that 3D art where you had to cross your eyes to make it work was popular. This may or may not have something to do with the popularity of paisley.
- 63A: Paramecium's propellers (CILIA) — not, as you suspected, OARS.
- 9D: 1969 literary heroine who says "I like the words damozel, eglantine, elegant. I love when you kiss my elongated white hand" (ADA) — Nabokov. This may be my favorite clue of all time. Or at least my favorite clue since yesterday's YMA SUMAC clue.
- 11D: Founder of an Oahu plantation (DOLE) — took far longer than it should have. This whole little DOLE/DOOM patch of land was weirdly tough.
- 18D: Country singer Shelby (LYNNE) — Gimme. I own her (quite impressive) Dusty Springfield cover album. Hence "country" didn't really ring true. But her other work fits the bill a little better.
- 29D: Bygone Toyota (TERCEL) — it's really an unattractive little car name. Sounds like an awkward, gangly bird, esp. if you stress the first syllable. Wait, it turns out a TERCEL *is* a bird—a hawk. Not gangly at all. Whatever. My ugly verdict stands.
- 36D: Count ___ (2004 Jim Carrey role) (OLAF) — from "A Series of Unfortunate Events"
- 79D: Carlisle Cullen's wife in "Twilight" (ESME) — you should commit this new ESME to memory right now. Move over Salinger...
- 107D: Electronic game fad of the 1980s (SIMON) — I literally laughed when I got this. I'd forgotten all about SIMON. Beeping colored panels. It would play increasingly longer sequences of beeps and you had to play them back until ... you just couldn't, I guess. It was popular around the time these photos were taken (1981 and 1984, respectively):
- 111D: Web site for cinephiles (imdb) — or for people who cheat on the pop culture clues in crosswords...
- @Genosworld #FF @JoshGroban is a great dresser, good at crossword puzzles, bakes a great cake and sings like a God. www.joshgroban.com
- @TerryStapes Friday's Crossword is proving to be rather difficult. Arent things supposed to be easier on Fridays?
- @roRObabee -- only my father would endanger both of our lives to do a crossword puzzle while driving
- @milesdoyle I dueled a woman on the train this afternoon, NYT crossword-style. Before West 4th Street, she was mine. 39-Down, rooftop.
- @Benandthebuses Just tried to help the barmaid with her crossword. She does not say thanks and looks at me like I'm a sex pest
- @luckmachine My memory of this job will be one of uncomfortable chairs, crossword puzzles, and uneasy relationships.
- @jcwordslinger To the woman who fell three times while trying to do a crossword puzzle while standing on the train: Your moxie was annoying.
- @jarrodcooper http://yfrog.com/n2jh6j Was @VenuseSWilliams wearing an oversized crossword puzzle at the AT&T party? @SerenaJWilliams (via @soulsummer)
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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