Pitcher Mike with 270 wins / SUN 3-23-14 / Eponymous German physicist / World capital on slope of active volcano / Resort city in 1945 news / Birthplace of Buddha now / Bootleggers banes / Garden State casino informally / Ex-Fed head Bernanke
Sunday, March 23, 2014
Constructor: Ian Livengood
Relative difficulty: Easy
"I HAVE NOT FAILED. I'VE JUST / FOUND TEN THOUSAND WAYS / THAT WON'T WORK." (26A: Start of a motivational comment attributed to 86-Across)Circled squares form image of lightbulb, and spell out (reading counterclockwise, from the top): "AHA MOMENT"
Word of the Day: Dolph LUNDGREN (116A: Dolph of "Rocky IV") —
Dolph Lundgren (born Hans Lundgren; 3 November 1957) is a Swedish actor, director, and martial artist. He belongs to a generation of film actors who epitomise the action hero stereotype, alongside Sylvester Stallone, Chuck Norris,Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Steven Seagal, and Jean-Claude Van Damme.He received a degree in chemistry from Washington State University in 1976, a degree in chemical engineering from theRoyal Institute of Technology in Stockholm in the early 1980s, then a Master's Degree in Chemical Engineering from theUniversity of Sydney in Sydney in 1982. Lundgren holds a rank of 3rd dan black belt in Kyokushin Karate and was European champion in 1980 and 1981. While in Sydney, he became a bodyguard for Jamaican singer Grace Jones and began a relationship with her. They moved together to New York City, where after a short stint as a model and bouncer at the Manhattan nightclub The Limelight, Jones got him a small debut role in the James Bond film A View to a Kill as aKGB henchman.Lundgren's breakthrough came when he starred in Rocky IV in 1985 as the imposing Russian boxer Ivan Drago. Since then, he has starred in more than 40 movies, almost all of them in the action genre. He portrayed He-Man in the 1987 fantasy/science fiction film Masters of the Universe, and Frank Castle in the 1989 film The Punisher. In the early 1990s, he also appeared in films such Dark Angel (1990), Showdown in Little Tokyo (1991), alongside Brandon Lee;Universal Soldier (1992) as opposite Jean-Claude Van Damme; Joshua Tree (1993), opposite Kristian Alfonso andGeorge Segal; Johnny Mnemonic (1995), opposite Keanu Reeves; and Blackjack (1998), directed by John Woo. In 2004, Lundgren directed his first picture, The Defender, and subsequently helmed The Mechanik (2005), Missionary Man (2007), Command Performance (2009), and Icarus (2010), in which he also starred. After a long spell performing indirect-to-video films since 1996, 2010 marked his return to theaters with The Expendables, an on-screen reunion with Stallone, alongside an all-action star cast which included, among others, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and Mickey Rourke. He reprised his role as Gunner Jensen in The Expendables 2 in 2012 and the upcomingThe Expendables 3 in 2014. (wikipedia)
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When this puzzle is done, the circled letters, reading counterclockwise from the top, will spell a phrase relating to the puzzle's theme." OK, I didn't know the phrase was going to be "AHA MOMENT," but "Bright Ideas" as a title screamed both "Edison" and "Lightbulb," and I honestly predicted the bulb shape before I even opened the puzzle. This does not make me a genius; it just makes me semi-conscious. This would be a nice gateway puzzle for people who think the Sunday is too hard for them. But I was done in under 10, and since the whole theme was essentially already known to me before I started, it just wasn't that gripping. I will say that the long Downs are gold—Ian is a Really top-notch constructor, and there's hardly anything junky in the whole grid (though because the grid is so segmented, there are a *lot* of short answers, and they can't all be winners). He's one of a handful of constructors I know who do truly care about the overall quality of the grid—The Whole Grid, not just the theme. So the puzzle is expertly made, and it's got sports teams and bands and science and SESAME BAGELS (60D: Deli stock with seeds)—a very nice mix of knowledge, with punchy answers abounding. So even if the theme was D.O.A. for me, a. it won't have been for everyone, and b. there is still a decent puzzle framework underneath that theme.
There were few challenging or scary moments for me. Typically, the place that gave me the most trouble was the last place I solved—the "Q" in IQS / QUITO was the last letter in the grid. I may have briefly forgotten that QUITO existed. In fact, I'm definitely sure that briefly happened. But we're not talking about minutes of struggle here. Seconds. Just somewhat more seconds than other parts took me. OPEN CIRCUIT isn't a concept I know a lot about, so there was some initial futzing around in that area (I had Buddha born in NEMEA at one point …) (73A: Birthplace of Buddha, now). I blanked on SHARON, briefly. [Lockup] = CAN just made no sense to me until I had it all. Then I was like "Oh, yeah … I teach a course in crime fiction, so I should Probably know that." Really didn't care for the book "Life of Pi," so when I saw that clue I was like "How the *** should I know that guy's last n—… oh, wait, I know it. It's PATEL" (102D: Pi ___, "Life of Pi" protagonist). Turns out my brain still retains useless information—maybe not as well as it did when I was a teenager, but pretty well.
I'm gonna get back to basketball-watching / exam-grading, but first: Puzzle of the Week!
College Humor," which has a nice, timely theme, but was super tough for me due to the fact that I am old (at least compared to Neville). Great stuff if you're young, great practice for navigating treacherous proper noun waters if you're less than young, and with a solid theme holding it all together. You should also head over and check out Peter Broda's latest themeless offering, "Freestyle #30," at his site, The Cross Nerd. As I mentioned elsewhere this week, this puzzle has a single clue/answer in it of a type that I find cheap and deeply annoying—but a. not everyone agrees with my philosophy on this, and b. more importantly, that answer aside, the puzzle is a pyrotechnic display. This guy has virtuosic tendencies where themelesses are concerned. So fresh, so current, so wow. I laughed in admiration mid-solve—that's about the highest praise I can give a puzzle. But the winner this week is Ben Tausig's Inkwell Puzzle for this week: "Upbeat Mixes," an easyish puzzle with a super-clever, funny, feel-good theme. Professional, polished, entertaining, witty. Good, good work. I won't spoil it—you can get it free here from Ben's Weekly sword Google group. Hope you like it.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
P.S. neglected to give Andy Kravis's "Themeless #12" the shout-out I'd intended last night when I was doing this write-up. I gotta get more organizized. Anyway, this puzzle leads with a dramatic 1-Across and doesn't let up from there. Sweet stuff. Andy drops grid science every Sunday at Andy Kravis, Cruciverbalist at Law (in fact, there's a new puzzle out Today). Add him to your list.