Snowman in Disney's Frozen / TUE 9-23-14 / Jazz great named after Egyptian god / Everett player of Mr Bernstein in Citizen Kane / Lawrence who co-wrote two of Star Wars films / Roone who created Nightline 20/20
Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Constructor: Gerry Wildenberg
Relative difficulty: Challenging
Word of the Day: "AGON" (65A: Stravinsky ballet) —
Agon (1957) is a ballet for twelve dancers, with music by Igor Stravinsky and choreography by George Balanchine. Composition began in December 1953 but was interrupted the next year; work was resumed in 1956 and concluded on April 27, 1957; the music was first performed on June 17, 1957 in Los Angeles conducted by Robert Craft, while the first stage performance was given by the New York City Ballet on December 1, 1957 at the City Center of Music and Drama, New York (White 1979, 490). The composition's long gestation period covers an interesting juncture in Stravinsky's composing career, in which he moved from a diatonic musical language to one based ontwelve-tone technique; the music of the ballet thus demonstrates a unique symbiosis of musical idioms. The ballet has no story, but consists of a series of dance movements in which various groups of dancers interact in pairs, trios, quartets etc. A number of the movements are based on 17th-century French court dances – saraband, galliard and bransle. It was danced as part of City Ballet's 1982 Stravinsky Centennial Celebration. (wikipedia)
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Coincidentally, I was reading about Charlie Chaplin just before starting this puzzle.
SOBE, the puzzle feels about a million years old, with crosswordese (NLERS RIATA AAR … those are consecutive!) and olde-timey names (MAGDA, AKINS, SLOANE, etc.) and then stuff like HE-GOAT and SLIPSLOP (!?) that I just didn't know what to make of. The puzzle was not well slotted on a Tuesday—too wide-open, too tough. But the main problem was that the grid-filling was not up to the challenge posed by the ambitious theme. That NLERS RIATA AAR line alone tells you, first, that the grid was hand-filled (you can malign computers all you like, but they help keep less expert constructors out of Junk City), and second, that it was hand-filled according to OLD-LINE standards. UNSTOW? BLATS? This is very, very rough. The core concept is OK—it would've been more elegant if the nuggets all read in one direction or the other, I think, but the theme isn't the problem. It's what the theme does to the fill that's the problem. The grid is just too demanding. The limitations imposed by the nuggets coupled with dauntingly wide-open corners just set the bar too high, and the puzzle couldn't get over.
- 28A: Jazz great named after an Egyptian god (SUN RA) — the names were just *tough* on me today. I know who SUN RA is, but off the "S" I had no idea, and that corner also has SLOANE (unknown to me) and ALDO (also, weirdly, unknown to me), and an YSER clue that I didn't find easy at all (10A: W.W. I's Battle of the ___). Proper nouns beyond my ken really gummed things up.
- 43D: Roone who created "Nightline" and "20/20" (ARLEDGE) — a name I know, but just screwed up badly today. For some reason I wanted "ALRIDGE" … "L" before "R" at any rate. And with SLIPSLOP next door (again I say "???"), and uncertainty about whether EASES or ALL'S were even right, well, proper names strike again. I wouldn't have minded so much if the fill had been (much) better.
- 65A: Stravinsky ballet ("AGON") — stunning to me a. that this word is even in a Tuesday puzzle, and b. that this clue is considered Tuesday-appropriate. Proper nouns here aren't just beyond me—they're dated, marginal, and (most importantly) unnecessary. I'll take "AGON" as a a Stravinsky ballet on, say, a Friday or Saturday, if it's helping hold up a lovely stack or corner. Otherwise, pass. Especially on Tuesday, pass.