Meiji prime minister / FRI 5-27-11 / Player stoic crew member / Currency dropped during French Revolution / Trump jack e.g. / Bygone European capital
Friday, May 27, 2011
Carlo Ponti (11 December 1912 – 10 January 2007) was an Italian film producer with over 140 production credits, and the husband of Italian movie star Sophia Loren. [...] Ponti accepted an offer from Lux Film in Rome in 1941, where he produced a series of commercially successful films featuring the comedian Totò. In 1954 he had his greatest artistic success with the production of Federico Fellini's La strada. However, Fellini denied Ponti's role in its success and said that "La Strada was made in spite of Ponti and De Laurentiis". He produced Visconti's Boccaccio '70 in 1962, Marriage Italian Style in 1964, and Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow in 1965. He produced his most popular and financially successful film, David Lean's Doctor Zhivago in 1965. He subsequently produced three notable films with Michelangelo Antonioni, Blowup in 1966, Zabriskie Point in 1970 and The Passenger in 1974. (wikipedia)
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Very fast solve today, well under what it took me to complete yesterday's puzzle. I have nothing particularly bad or particularly good to say about this one. It's a bit "plain vanilla" (a phrase I saw in the NYT today and wondered about ... felt redundant). I don't really understand what the inspiration for this grid was. In a themeless puzzle, I expect to see at least a few "wow" answers, ones that the grid was clearly built around. I don't know what those are today. QUICK STUDY (27D: Fast learner) crossing AL QAEDA (25A: Fundamentalist group) is about the only part that stands out. I like SPOONERISM OK, but I'm not sure I like it as a marquee answer. The fill is reasonable, and nothing stands out as glaringly bad or even mildly annoying. But better to have greatness and badness side-by-side than to settle for mediocrity. Bonus points for interesting grid shape. In the end, though, mostly forgettable.
Got off to a quick start with 1D: Religious recession? (APSE), which was fooling no one. Flat-out gimme. One of the least tricky "?" clues I've ever seen. Slower up there than I'd like to have been because I didn't know PONTI (before my time), but I got ENDLESS easily (20A: Never wrapping up), and that made the whole NW fall rather quickly. "-AE-A" pattern clued me in pretty quickly to AL QAEDA, and the Q gave me QUICK STUDY almost instantly. Puzzled over SOUS v. ECUS for a bit (54A: Currency dropped during the French Revolution), but otherwise that corner wasn't too tough. Rode TATTLE TALE (55A: Scorned kid brother, maybe) across and then encountered my greatest challenge of the day, moving back up the east side of the grid from there. Damn Curious George people were the DEYS? BEYS? Urgh! (53D: Curious George's creators=>REYS). Between that issue and having EMINENT for EXIGENT (42D: Pressing), I couldn't see REGULAR for a while (50A: Bar fixture—nice clue). But after some stumbling I finally got up out of there. Thought "malapropism" before SPOONERISM, but that mistake didn't last (11D: Trump the jack, e.g.). Last real challenge was getting RSVP, which I had (reasonably, I thought) as ASAP at first (10A: Decision-prompting request). Calvin PEETE was a gimme (13D: Most successful U.S. black golfer before Woods), which made finishing up the puzzle a snap.
- 34A: Meiji prime minister (ITO) — did not know this. Guessed ETO, which I think I got to by going Japan—WWII—ETO (nevermind that the "E" in ETO stands for "European"). I might also have been thinking of EDO, the ancient name for Tokyo.
- 59A: Player of a stoic crew member (NIMOY) — Mr. Spock!
- 2D: Bygone European capital (BONN) — you never know which direction the clue's going in with a clue word like "capital." Guessed BONN off the final "N," though I did have to consider and rule out BERN first (I always got those two confused in 7th grade Geography).
- 18D: Obiter dictum (ASIDE) — soooo annoyed to have "learned" this word in a recent crossword and then promptly forgotten it. Boo, me.
- 25D: Hostile to, in the hills (AGIN) — Ha ha, "the hills." Not just any hills; just them that are teemin' with billies. AGIN' is also a nice way of describin' Baby Boomers (or any livin' thing, I guess).
- 36D: Instrument for Cannonball Adderley (ALTO SAX) — completely blanked on who this guy was. Not til I go the "X" did I piece the instrument together. Speaking of instruments, tonight was my daughter's spring concert and in jazz band she got to do the first solo (flute). Improvised solo! You have not lived til you've heard fifth-graders improvise! It's pure awesome. Always the best part of these concerts (which can be kind of staid and tepid at times). Anyway, daughter did great. The ALTO SAX kid (an adorable giant) was pretty great too.
- 37D: Opposite of spring, tidewise (NEAP) — before today, I did not know "tidewise" could be a word.
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