White Writing painter Mark / SAT 6-11-11 / Classic Kipling poem ending / Miss Hannigan's charge / Creature Tennessee Williams title
Saturday, June 11, 2011
Constructor: Gary Cee
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: none — though puzzle is anchored by a single answer in two symmetrical grid-spanning segments: 17A: With 53-Across, classic Kipling poem ending ("YOU'RE A BETTER MAN / THAN I AM, GUNGA DIN")
Word of the Day: Mark TOBEY (23A: "White Writing" painter Mark) —
Mark George Tobey (December 11, 1890 – April 24, 1976) was an American abstract expressionist painter, born in Centerville, Wisconsin. Widely recognized throughout the United States and Europe, Tobey is the most noted among the "mystical painters of the Northwest." Senior in age and experience, Tobey had a strong influence on the others. Friend and mentor, Tobey shared their interest in philosophy and Eastern religions. Along with Guy Anderson, Kenneth Callahan, Morris Graves, and William Cumming, Tobey was a founder of the Northwest School. (wikipedia)
I don't know much about Kipling, but I knew the GUNGA DIN line, and was shocked to find it slide right in, with no crosses in place—which was fortuitous, as I was making no headway with the first few clues I tried. With 30 free squares handed to me right off the bat, I managed to crawl around the grid and piece it all together eventually, in something like an average Saturday time, maybe *slightly* faster. I'm trying to imagine how difficult this would've been if I'd been utterly unfamiliar with the Kipling phrase. I'm guessing the older you are, the more familiar the poem is, generally. I don't think younger people read Kipling much anymore. It had gone out of fashion / out of the curriculum by the time I was in school, and I know the line in the puzzle only because of my dad's love of Jim Croce.
I like this grid a lot. Not a lot of showy stuff, lots of very common letters, but I respect the choice of smoothness over fireworks. Few things to make me say YUCK (38A: "Ewww!"). TONETTE is a little out of left field (56A: Small, simple flute), and TENA, MOR, and ITA aren't gonna make anyone stand up and clap (22A: ___ penny (very common, in British lingo); 40A: Tangier location: Abbr.; 54D: Spanish name suffix), but there's nice stuff here and there (TWITTER over ROGAINE (1A: Service with many followers + 15A: Hair-raising stuff?), the full NORMA RAE (11D: Field work that was award-winning), and FURLOUGH (36D: Leave), to name a few), and suitably tough clues to make the whole experience more than worthwhile.
One of the primary locations in Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' "Watchmen" is an eatery called The Gunga Diner. I would say next to none of my students get the reference.
Several names I didn't know today, most notably that Mark TOBEY guy. I've seen lots of Abstract Expressionism exhibits, so his work has probably been right in front of me at some point, but his name clearly didn't stick. Never heard of PAULA Creamer (47A: Creamer who won the 2010 U.S. Women's Open). Did not know Casanova's first name was GIACOMO; I had him as GIAN-something at first. Thought maybe ELLA was Betta Than Evvah! at first (ETTA). Worst guessing took place at 47D: Big name in aircraft engines (PRATT), where I had TRANE (?) and then contemplated KRAFT (!?) before finally getting the right answer entirely from crosses. PRATT is a school of design in NYC. Also the last name of the actor who plays Andy on "Parks & Recreation."
- 31A: Attempt to enter dead space? (SEANCE) — is "dead space" a thing? Besides a video game, I mean? (I get the play on words, but usually the play is on ... something familiar. I've heard of "dead air," but not "dead space").
- 41A: East Coast city where tourism peaks in October (SALEM) — is this to do with leaf-peepers or witches?
- 3D: Creature in a Tennessee Williams title (IGUANA) — as in "Night of the..."; it's a horror play about this IGUANA who tattoos LOVE and HATE on his knuckles and terrorizes two young children.
- 18D: Brachium's end (ELBOW) — with the "W" in place, I got this instantly. Without the "W," I doubt I'd have been as immediately successful.
- 44D: Like the language Kalaallisut (ESKIMO) — Looked Finnish to me, which is at least the right general climate.
- 48D: Miss Hannigan's charge, on Broadway (ANNIE) — got it off the second "N," though I would've guessed this without any crosses, despite not remembering the name "Miss Hannigan." "Charge" made it easy to guess.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]
P.S. Yoni Brenner, who was a freshman honors student in my Great Books section at Michigan when I was a grad student, has an Op-Ed piece in today's NYT. He was off-the-charts smart, and I'm so happy to see his name again, 12 years later.