Riders on Direhorses in Avatar / SAT 2-2-13 / Tribe whose name means those with many tattoos / Sega mascot / Name for T rex at Chicago's Field Museum / Unit of magnetic flux density / Skating gold medalist of 1928 1932 1936 / Upward-flowing plant vessels / Machine part connecting to gearwheel
Saturday, February 2, 2013
Constructor: Gareth Bain
Relative difficulty: Medium
Word of the Day: Hal ASHBY (25D: "Shampoo" director) —
William Hal Ashby (September 2, 1929 – December 27, 1988) was an American film director and film editor. [...] As Ashby was entering adult life, he moved from Utah to California where he quickly became an assistant film editor. His big break occurred in 1967 when he won the Academy Award for Film Editing for In the Heat of the Night. Ashby has often stated that film editing provided him with the best film school background outside of traditional university study and he carried the techniques learned as an editor with him when he began directing. // At the urging of its producer, Norman Jewison, Ashby directed his first film, The Landlord, in 1970. While his birth date placed him squarely within the realm of the prewar generation, the filmmaker quickly embraced the hippie lifestyle, adopting vegetarianism and growing his hair long before it became de rigueur amongst the principals of the Hollywood Renaissance. In 1970 he married actress Joan Marshall. While they remained married until his death in 1988, the two had separated by the mid-seventies, with Marshall never forgiving Ashby, along with Warren Beatty and Robert Towne, for dramatizing certain unflattering elements of her life in Shampoo. // Over the next 16 years, Ashby directed several acclaimed and popular films, including the off-beat romance Harold and Maude and the social satire Being There with Peter Sellers, resuscitating the career of a brilliant actor who many felt had lapsed into self-parody. Ashby's greatest commercial success was the aforementioned Warren Beatty vehicle Shampoo, although the director effectively ceded control of the production over to his star. Bound for Glory, a muted biography of Woody Guthrie starring David Carradine, was the first film to utilize the Steadicam. // Aside from Shampoo, where he was by all accounts a creative adjunct to Beatty and Towne, Ashby's most commercially successful film was the Vietnam War drama Coming Home. Starring Jane Fonda and Jon Voight, both inAcademy Award-winning performances, it was for this film that Ashby earned his only Best Director nomination from the Academy for his work. As Voight had reportedly been difficult and uncooperative during production, many feel that it was Ashby's skillful editing of a particularly melodramatic scene which earned him the nomination. Arriving in the post-Jaws and Star Wars era, from a production standpoint Coming Home was one of the last films to encapsulate the ethos of the New Hollywood era, earning nearly $15 million in returns and rentals on a $3 million budget. (wikipedia)
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Took one look at the grid and thought, "this'll be on the easy side." With so many shortish answers, there's likely to be lots and lots of places to get (and re-get) your grip on the grid. And in fact it was on the easy side for a while, but eventually I got slowed right down by most everything in the general vicinity of singular CAPITAL GAIN (23D: Amount of appreciation, maybe), and so the difficulty level ended up feeling pretty ordinary for a Saturday. I was surprised, given the amount of shortish fill (which often leads to dullish fill), how lively and interesting the grid was. I was especially stunned when I got to TIMBALAND, whom I'm very happy to see, but whom, I'm guessing, the majority of NYT solvers will never have heard of (35D: Hip-hop producer for Jay-Z, LL Cool J and Missy Elliott). He's a big-time producer, but history has shown that NYT solvers are not, in the main, big-time hip-hop fans. He took his name from the Timberland boots that were, at one time, a key element of hip-hop style. Anyway, he stands out here as the Answer Most Likely to Befuddle. The other longer answers are pretty good as well. I especially like APOLLO CREED (11D: Fictional boxer a k a the Count of Monte Fisto) and the defunct COSMO GIRL (23A: Bygone TEEN fashion magazine).
As I say, this played Easy at first, with LIEU, ACNE, and YTD all coming immediately (and, luckily, all being right). The one tricky bit up there (plural clue for singular-sounding XYLEM) (7D: Upward-flowing plant vessels) was easy to get around. Went with NORTHWARD instead of NORTH POLE at first (21D: Top of the charts?). "The charts" seemed so general that the very specific location of the NORTH POLE didn't occur to me at first. LA MER was a gimme, and got me into the NE. I instantly knew WIMOWEH (18A: Title under which "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" originally charted, in 1952) but was in no way certain of how to spell WIMOWEH, so I put consonants in the places that seemed right and waited around for the vowels. I took A STAB at 32D: Have ___ at (A SHOT), but MENLO set me straight. SE was briefly hard to get into, because E--L was doing nothing for me at 52A: One going to court? (EARL), but once I got LEVEL HEAD, that "H" gave me HAUNT, and I was into that section and done with it in no time. That left just the W and SW, which I fumbled with for a bit (W was by far the hardest). It's my own damn fault for not being able to get ASHBY from the "B." Should've been easy. Instead, I doubted the "B" and even guessed LUMET at one point. Bah. Between GITA and RTS I managed finally to get PATIENT (60A: Job-like), and then rode CAPITAL GAIN up into that pesky western part, which was no longer pesky. ASSAI (25A: Musical intensifier) is an answer (like PAWL) (12D: Machine part connecting to a gearwheel) that I know only from crosswords—familiar when I see it, but not likely to come to mind on its own.
Last letter I got today was the "T" in STEAM (26D: Tick off).
- 19A: Name for the T. rex at Chicago's Field Museum (SUE) — is this a known thing? Is there an punny or funny or otherwise clever bit of wordplay that gave rise to the name? Seems an awfully random way to clue SUE.
- 28A: Mythical predator of elephants (ROC) — gimme. Mythical, enormous, and three-letters = ROC.
- 36A: Skating gold medalist of 1928, 1932 and 1936 (HENIE) — really should've gotten this instantly from --N-E. But didn't. Only when the "I" dropped in did I see it.
- 43A: One of 100 in un siglo (AÑO) — and, so, I guess "un siglo" is a century. Inference!
- 49A: Genre of the double-platinum box set "Songs of Freedom" (REGGAE) — a career-spanning box set by Bob Marley and the Wailers.
- 31D: Unit of magnetic flux density (TESLA) — Off the "T." Not that I had any clue what "magnetic flux density" was. I've just done plenty of crosswords.
- 53D: Riders on Direhorses in "Avatar" (NAVI) — I'm surprised, considering it's an "I"-ending four-letter word from a phenomenally successful movie, that this word doesn't appear in the grid more often.