Thin sheet metal / THU 5-16-13 / Baseball Hall-of-Famer nicknamed Knucksie / Funny Tracey / Broadway musical that opens with Maybe / Mammal that hums to its young / Canadian PM Pierre Trudeau's middle name / 1931 film for which Wallace Beery won Best Actor / Rapee longtime Radio City Music Hall conductor / Right You Are Mr. 1957 novel
Thursday, May 16, 2013
Constructor: Brendan Emmett Quigley and Liz Donovan
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (unless you read the new "hint" feature at the NYT puzzle website, in which case it must've been Really %&!#ing easy)
THEME: MAN OVERBOARD (51A: Emergency shout ... or a possible title for this puzzle) — "MAN" has fallen out of the grid—specifically, off the port side.
- 20A: Language that gave us "kowtow" (DARIN CHINESE)
- 28A: Clutch performer? (UAL TRANSMISSION)
- 46A: Discuss reasonable outcomes upfront (AGE EXPECTATIONS)
Word of the Day: LATTEN (30D: Thin sheet metal)
1. Brass or an alloy resembling brass, hammered thin and formerly used in the manufacture of church vessels.2. A thin sheet of metal, especially of tin.
[Middle English laton, from Old French, from Arabic ltn, probably from Old Turkic altun, gold; akin to Mongolian altan.]
JOEL Spingarn guy (familiar w/ award, but not first name of the guy it's named after), so DJED stayed hidden til the very end, when I ran the alphabet (1D: Entertained at a reception, maybe). Couldn't come up with Tracey ULLMAN for a long time (28D: Funny Tracey), and have simply never heard of LATTEN (30D: Thin sheet metal). Even when it seemed "MAN" was involved all this, I couldn't figure out how. Wanted a rebus, but that would've required "MAND" to be in one square, "MANA" in another, etc., and that's just nonsense. When I got ULLMAN crossing AGE EXPECTATIONS, I thought the "MAN" from ULLMAN was somehow connected to the theme answer to create a complete phrase. So yeah, I stumbled like crazy. Still, I think this is a great idea for a puzzle—nice use of the revealer to create a real "aha" moment. I also love Brendan and Liz for leaving out the "W"—a big middle finger to the very idea of the pangram puzzle (picked up all the hard letters, left a basic one off). The "J" and the "Q" come very close to what we call "Scrabble-f*cking" (shoving high-value Scrabble letters into little corners, just for the sake of having them in there, usually to the detriment of surrounding fill). But I don't think they result in bad fill (TUM excepted), so I don't have a problem with them.
I had the LEMUR as the [Mammal that hums to its young] (LLAMA) at first, but KIM and "ANNIE" straightened me out. Somehow knew (or inferred?) "Right You Are, Mr. MOTO" (1957 movie) right away, though "THE CHAMP" was a total mystery (5D: 1931 film for which Wallace Beery won Best Actor), as was [Canadian P.M. Pierre Trudeau's middle name] (ELLIOTT), WTF? Got QUESO easily (63A: Filling in a gordita), from testing crosses in IQS. ERNO is kind of yucky crosswords, and today it gets a nutso conductor clue instead of your typical Rubik's cube clue. I disapprove of calling attention to your crosswordese with obscure clues, but, again, crosses were kind so I didn't have a lot of time to notice / disapprove. Minimize the damage caused by weak spots! This puzzle largely succeeds on that front.
Note: Wallace BEERY will eventually show up in one of your puzzles. Best tuck his name away right now.
Looks like the NYT Puzzle page is now offering "hints" to tricky puzzles. This is a Terrible idea. The only way anyone gets better at puzzles is by learning to figure out gimmicks by oneself, through patience and failure. Lots of failure. Stupid "hints" will just encourage laziness. Also, it was Not clear that "hint" was any different from the kind of "note" the NYT has provided on many other puzzles. Notepad comments are almost always very general explanatory notes, usually necessary for most people to fully understand a puzzle. Those, I can handle, but today's "hint" was the following: "In today's puzzle, the word 'MAN' can be added outside the left hand side of the puzzle at 20-, 28- and 46 Across to complete these entries." That's just giving away the puzzle completely. Why not just hit "Reveal All" and be done with it? Sheesh. There are all kinds of ways to get the answers now, it's true—but I don't think the puzzle itself should be encouraging people to take shortcuts.