Segway inventor Dean / SUN 1-12-14 / Beat poet Cassady / Lama's art that can't last / Warm mask/cap amalgams / Bygone Bombay bigwig / Black cat that packs grass chants Jah / Landmark vassal law act / Flashback halfbacks
Sunday, January 12, 2014
Constructor: Andrew Chaikin
Relative difficulty: Easy (except for one cross where, once again, I kind of had to guess)
- "CASABLANCA" (22A: Grand-slam drama that stars Bacall's man)
- "FA LA LA LA LA" (24A: Half an Xmas "Halls" chant)
- "STAR WARS" (38A: Astral saga that has a Darth part)
- A MAN A PLAN A CANAL PANAMA (63A: Fab "backward-gram" a la "Sam, aha! Bahamas!")
- RASTAMAN (87A: Black cat that packs grass and chants 'Jah')
- MAGNA CARTA (106A: Landmark vassal law act)
- BALACLAVAS (108A: Warm mask/cap amalgams)
- ALAN ALDA (4D: "M*A*S*H" star)
- CATCH AS CATCH CAN (28D: Haphazard)
- BAFTA AWARDS (36D: Gala that saw "Black Swan," "Avatar" and "Ab Fab" attract claps)
- BLACK AND TAN (37D: Bar glass that's half Bass, half dark malt)
- SAND MANDALA (38D: Lama's art that can't last)
- ABRACADABRA (39D: "Shazam!")
- ANAGRAMS (81D: Flashbacks and halfbacks)
Word of the Day: SAND MANDALA (38D: *Lama's art that can't last) —
The Sand Mandala (Tibetan: དཀྱིལ་འཁོར།, Wylie: dkyil 'khor; Chinese: 沙坛城; pinyin: Shā Tánchéng) is a Tibetan Buddhist tradition involving the creation and destruction of mandalas made from colored sand. A sand mandala is ritualistically destroyed once it has been completed and its accompanying ceremonies and viewing are finished to symbolize the Buddhist doctrinal belief in the transitory nature of material life. (wikipedia)
• • •
Before I get to the puzzle: thank you for enduring my annual week-long fund-raising efforts. The best part of the week has been all the messages I've been getting—thoughtful, heartfelt, critical, snarky, hilarious messages. It's been a real treat to have a window into the lives and minds of my readership. I've spent most of the week responding to emails, writing thank-you postcards, and generally being grateful that I've somehow tapped into this weird world of lovely opinionated addicts. My coffee mug runneth over.
Here's one of my favorite reader notes so far—I think you'll appreciate it:
Thank you so much for your blog. I look forward to it. Since my M.A. is in geography and I taught geography, I notice you have quite a void in that discipline. It reinforces my belief that geog. hasn't been a priority in h.s. or coll. :( [Yes, she actually drew the frowny face]So, in essence: "Dear sir, I love your blog. I notice you are ignorant. This saddens me." I like people who tell it like it is. Fantastic. Seriously, this note is currently hanging on the bulletin board next to my desk.
People who contributed early (last Sun. and Mon.) via Paypal are still waiting on thank-yous (they're coming!). All others should have them by now. And snail mail folks—I"m turning those Pantone postcard thank-yous out as fast as my pen can write them up. Many are already in the mail. So, yeah, thanks a billion for your support. I hope you continue to enjoy the blog for … well, as long as I care to write it, I guess. At this point, I've got no plans to stop.
• • •The SUNDAY PUZZLE:
A-TEAM" clue (89D: TV/movie group associated with this puzzle's theme?) was simply referring to the fact of vowel exclusivity. The clues are a bonus, I guess. I found them partly humorous, partly painful. The thing is, this theme doesn't really work. Many, many answers in this puzzle have only "A" as their vowel. And the fact that "STAR WARS" is a theme answers is *especially* absurd, as AMAS, RAJA, SATAN, CARATS, etc. all have as many "A"s as "STAR WARS."
Some of the answers themselves are fabulous. Love the grid-spanner and its central cross, CATCH AS CATCH CAN. SAND MANDALA is a beautiful answer even though I had no idea that's what it was called (I knew of the concept, but that MANDALA / KAMEN crossing was just an educated guess) (68A: Segway inventor Dean ___). There are colorful answers here and there, and, with very few exceptions, the overall fill is decent. But conceptually, it's a bit of a train wreck. The cluing is especially weird. "Grand-slam" has nothing to do with "CASABLANCA." "Fab" has no place in a clue for a palindrome. I did smile at the clue on RASTAMAN, though. It's daring, if nothing else.
Proper noun round-up (not all of them, just some … notables):
- NEALS (32A: Beat poet Cassady and others) — don't know this guy, but I've never been big on beats
- CLU Gulager (43A: Gulager of TV's "The Virginian") — essential crosswordese. Know him from '64's "The Killers"
- Susan ISAACS (93A: Best-selling novelist Susan) — no idea. Seems very successful, just not on my radar
- PALOMA Picasso (13D: Picasso's designer daughter) — handbags, maybe? Nope, looks like jewelry design, primarily. How do I know her name? I just do. Probably because of crosswords.
- LALO Schifrin (16D: Score creator Schifrin) — more essential crosswordese. The list of films and TV shows he has scored is staggering. Everything from "Rush Hour" to "Rush Hour 2" (seriously, though, his resumé is eternal)
Now it's time for the PUZZLE OF THE WEEK: this week, despite my deep affection for Patrick Berry's Friday themeless (NYT), the distinction this week goes to Peter A. Collins for the first Fireball Crossword of the new year: "Call It In The Air" (1/9/14). I can't say enough about Fireball Crosswords, a weekly puzzle edited by Peter Gordon. Peter is a fantastic, meticulous editor, and his puzzles are good-to-amazing, week in and week out. The new year of puzzles just started, so please do yourself a favor and go subscribe. Anyway, Peter Collins's "Call It In The Air" is tough and playful and complex and has some fantastic theme answers. I won't spoil it for potential subscribers. If you don't mind its being spoiled, you can read about it here (at crosswordfiend.com).
Fun fact about Fireball—when word got out that the NYT would (finally) be raising its rates from $200 to $300 per 15x15 puzzle (still well below what the NYT should be paying, but an improvement for sure), Peter Gordon immediately raised Fireball's rates to $301. He's completely independent, produces a superior product, and continues to pay the best. Hard not to be a fan.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld