Rum named for Spanish literary hero / WED 3-20-13 / Looney Tunes animator Freleng / Rihanna's record label / Genre pioneered by Miles Davis / Zodiac borders / He wrote Capital is dead labor
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Constructor: Raymond C. Young
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
THEME: FOUR (25A: Minimum number of times each letter of the alphabet appears in this puzzle's solution) — what it says
Word of the Day: FRIZ Freleng (58A: Looney Tunes animator ___ Freleng) —
Isadore "Friz" Freleng (August 21, 1905 – May 26, 1995), sometimes credited as I. Freleng, was an American animator, cartoonist, director, and producer best known for his work on the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series of cartoons from Warner Bros.He introduced and/or developed several of the studio's biggest stars, including Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Tweety Bird, Sylvester the cat, Yosemite Sam (to whom he was said to bear more than a passing resemblance) and Speedy Gonzales. The senior director at Warners' Termite Terracestudio, Freleng directed more cartoons than any other director in the studio (a total of 266), and is also the most honored of the Warner directors, having won four Academy Awards. After Warners shut down the animation studio in 1963, Freleng and business partner David H. DePatie founded DePatie-Freleng Enterprises, which produced cartoons (notably The Pink Panther Show), feature film title sequences, and Saturday morning cartoons through the early 1980s.
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Felt pretty easy to me, but I can tell from the times posted at the NYX site that my experience was not the norm. Even with 15-20 seconds of hunting down a stupid typo (somehow in changing YELPS to YAWPS I ended up with the nonsensical YAWOS), I finished under 5. And I finished first. Very weird to see my name on the leaderboard at #1 (for a minute or so) with no other names up there. Anyway, I think this will play harder-than-average for most folks, though maybe not Much harder. The hardness is located mainly in the (unfortunate) preponderance of proper nouns of the nutty-spelling variety. Your FRIZes and your DONQs (!?) (41D: Rum named for a Spanish literary hero) and your WOMACKs and your KYSERs and what not. My biggest slow-ups were ... just getting out of the NW corner (both THE DEVIL and OP-ED PAGE took me forEver to see), and then LAYOVERS for LAYS OVER (9D: Stops for a while in the course of a journey), and then ... I don't know, the rest was pretty easy. High value Scrabble letters tend to make words jump out pretty quickly. Just the "Q" got me all of KUMQUATS, for instance. I didn't know XXXIX, but somehow I don't feel too bad about that. And while we're on that answer—it's one big reason I'm not as impressed with this "theme" as I might be. I mean, if all of your Xs are coming in one Random Roman Numeral, then what's the point? Feels a bit like a cop-out. On the other hand, as 78-word themelesses go (and they never go anywhere, i.e. you'll Never see a themeless in the NYX over 72 words), this was pretty entertaining. I learned that CAVE BAT is a thing (29A: Upside-down-sleeping mammal). I know BATCAVE was a thing, but now ... CAVE BAT! And while, yes, the pressure to cram in Qs gets you junky stuff like SEQS crossing QTRS, it also livens up a grid that (with so much short fill) would in most other thematic circumstances be pretty pedestrian. JONQUILS (50A: Yellow blooms) crossing KUMQUATS (38D: Orange fruits) is a thing of beauty, and I mostly had fun filling this one in, so, as stunt puzzles go—a tepid thumbs-up.
- 47A: Rihanna's record label (DEF JAM) — I like the musical perpendicularity of this answer and NUJAZZ (43D: Genre pioneered by Miles Davis). I also just like the placement of this "J." "J" is almost always in initial position in at least one of its crosses; not here.
- 29D: Zodiac borders (CUSPS) — not sure how to take "borders" at first. I was imagining the dividing lines on some kind of zodiacal chart...
- 37D: He wrote "Capital is dead labor" (KARL MARX) — kind of obvious from the quote. His full name looks great in the grid.
- 25D: Clotho and sisters (FATES) — "Clotho" sounds like a slovenly clown. There have been several times when I could've used it in one of my grids, but each time I end up feeling too sad and cutting it out.