Conrad of old films / THU 5-26-11 / Looped vase handles / Newsmakers of 1903 / Seaquake sequel / SARS monitor / Williams paint partner
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Constructor: Ashish Vengsarkar
Relative difficulty: Challenging
THEME: XY AND XX (i.e. HIS AND HERS) (38A: Matching towel set ... with a hint to this puzzle's theme) — four theme answers either begin or end with letter string "HIS" or "HERS" ("HIS" up top, "HERS" on the bottom, as god intended); these letter strings are represented in the grid by the letters XY and XX, respectively, in accordance with the chromosomes of the sex associated with each possessive pronoun
Word of the Day: Conrad NAGEL (43A: Conrad of old films) —
Conrad Nagel (March 16, 1897(1897-03-16) – February 24, 1970(1970-02-24)) was an American screen actor and matinee idol of the silent film era and beyond. He was also a well-known television actor and radio performer. [...] In 1927, Nagel starred alongside Lon Chaney, Sr., Marceline Day, Henry B. Walthall and Polly Moran in the now lost Tod Browning directed horror classic, London After Midnight. The film is quite possibly the most famous and talked about lost film ever. // Unlike so many silent films stars of the Roaring Twenties, Conrad Nagel had little difficulty transitioning to talkies and spent the next several decades being very well received in high profile films as a character actor. He was also frequently heard on radio and made many notable appearances on television. From 1937 to 1947 he hosted and directed the radio program Silver Theater. Later on, from 1949 to 1952 he hosted the popular TV game show, Celebrity Time. (wikipedia)
Well that was an adventure. I was going to put this at "Medium-Challenging" because, while 9:27 is definitely high for me, for a Thursday, it isn't *outrageous*. But then I checked the NYT puzzle site and saw that my time would've placed me third on the leader board, which is ridiculously high for me. The times are pretty abysmal, generally, so this one must really be tough. Strange, because after some initial floundering (of the fairly typical variety), I caught onto the theme (mostly), which actually made solving the bottom half of the grid easier: knowing there are going to be Xs, and generally where they're going to be located, tends to help one along. But even knowing the theme, I found the puzzle slow-going. Middle gave me fits, as UHRY is one of those nightmare names that I see every six months or so but can never remember (despite its looking Nuts) (22D: Alfred who wrote "Driving Miss Daisy"), and Conrad NAGEL means nothing ("nada" + "bagel" = NAGEL) to me.
Most of my solving time must have been spent up top, early on, as I was struggling to figure out the exact nature of the theme. I should say that I really liked the theme, but I have three minor quibbles. First, I saw the central clue, referring to the matching towel set, before I had any theme answers in place, and knew instantly that the puzzle would be dealing with HIS and HER. Note HER, not HERS. I "knew" this because I already had the HER in place in the first theme answer—the first part of HERITAGE. So theme answers would be two-word phrases where first word starts HIS- and second starts HER- (I rationalized this by deciding that the central answer was probably HIS 'N' HER, though to my credit, I decided to hold off on writing that in). I would say HIS AND HER towels, or HIS AND HER anything, though of course the towels would have "HERS" not "HER" written on them. Anyway, that false "HER" in HERITAGE irked me. Next, there's the fact that chromosomes don't exactly suggest possessive pronouns. The equivalence feels tenuous. Close enough, but not spot on. Lastly, and here I'm really nitpicking, I didn't like that there was an XX in a theme answer with KISSES, since normally / conventionally / epistolarily, the KISSES are what should be represented by Xs, not the letter string "HERS." So the whole structure had a wobbly feel to me. But it held up, and with that many Xs, the grid was far from boring (though the "AX" sound probably shows up one too many times), and remarkably crap-free.
- 17A: It's celebrated for 30 days each year beginning September 15 (XYPANIC HERITAGE)
- 21A: "Take my word for it" ("TRUST ME ON TXY")
- 48A: Foiled bites? (XXHEY'S KISSES)
- 58A: Newsmakers of 1903 (THE WRIGHT BROTXX)
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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P.S. a message from the future (6/30/11)
P.S. Thanks to everyone who visited the new Facebook page for this website yesterday. I did not expect all the nice comments posted there. Much appreciated. I'll have a "Like" button up on the website soon (or, rather, PuzzleGirl will help me put one up ... she laughs at me when I try to do tech stuff on my own. Literally, laughs). Til then, you can check out the page here. It's a nice place to interact with readers and distribute information and generally goof around.