Historic residential hotel in Manhattan / SAT 11-29-14 / But in Bonn / King of old comics / Onetime host of CBS's Morning Show / Boxer who won 1980's Brawl in Montreal / Principal lieutenant of Hector in Iliad / Nickname in Best Picture of 1969 / Masks Confronting death painter 1888
Saturday, November 29, 2014
Constructor: Elizabeth C. Gorski
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: THREE-LETTER WORD (32A: Something not found in this puzzle's answer) — not a theme, really, but since this sits right across the middle of the grid, and refers to an overall quality of the grid, I'm calling it a 'theme.'
Word of the Day: ANSONIA (51A: Historic residential hotel in Manhattan) —
Upper West Side of New York City, located at 2109 Broadway, between West 73rd and West 74th Streets. It was originally built as a hotel by William Earle Dodge Stokes, the Phelps-Dodge copper heir and share holder in the Ansonia Clock Company, and it was named for his grandfather, the industrialist Anson Greene Phelps. In 1899, Stokes commissioned architect Paul E. Duboy (1857–1907) to build the grandest hotel in Manhattan.Stokes would list himself as "architect-in-chief" for the project and hired Duboy, a sculptor who designed and made the ornamental sculptures on the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument, to draw up the plans. New Orleans architect Martin Shepard served as draftsman and assistant superintendent of construction on the project. A contractor sued Stokes in 1907, but he would defend himself, explaining that Duboy was in an insane asylum in Paris and should not have been making commitments in Stokes's name concerning the hotel.In what might be the earliest harbinger of the current developments in urban farming, Stokes established a small farm on the roof of the hotel.
- Stokes had a Utopian vision for the Ansonia—that it could be self-sufficient, or at least contribute to its own support—which led to perhaps the strangest New York apartment amenity ever. "The farm on the roof," Weddie Stokes wrote years later, "included about 500 chickens, many ducks, about six goats and a small bear." Every day, a bellhop delivered free fresh eggs to all the tenants, and any surplus was sold cheaply to the public in the basement arcade. Not much about this feature charmed the city fathers, however, and in 1907, the Department of Health shut down the farm in the sky. (wikipedia)
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THREE-LETTER WORDs to grab on to, and the white space can just eat you alive. Luckily for me, the grid-spanners were fairly forthcoming, meaning that I was able to get a good decent preliminary toehold in every section. Got I CAN'T SLEEP AT ALL rather easily (it turned out to be I CAN'T SLEEP A WINK, which is why the SW was briefly harrowing). After the west was won, just a little tinkering in the middle allowed me to see THREE-LETTER WORD. Then I got very lucky, and with just the -WD- in place, got WEEKEND WARRIORS. After that, the NW (with HORSE already in place from the 52A cross-reference) played like a Tuesday, and then it was just a matter of fighting through the I/E dilemma at ERMAS, and finally fighting through the NYC provincialism of ANSONIA (!?). And I was done.
All things considered ("all things" being the relatively low word count and the four big chunks of white space in the corners), this puzzle felt pretty clean. The "theme" is mostly trivial, but that center answer neatly describes a feature of the grid that makes it hard both to fill and to solve, thus giving it a nifty meta-puzzle feel ("meta" in the sense of its being a puzzle about a puzzle, not "meta" in the sense of there being another puzzle to solve after you complete the grid … unless I'm missing something … it's the middle of the night, so who knows …?). No 3-letter words, but (not surprisingly) the four-letter answers do groan a little under the strain of the construction. They are almost always the worst thing in any section of this puzzle. Two long Downs are lovely, and none of the 5+-letter answers made me wince, so overall I'd say that's a victory.
OBAMANIA feels weird to me. I don't remember seeing it in '08, and I'm finding it hard to say. Awkward. It wants to come out OH'-buh-MAY'-nee-uh or oh-BAH'-muh-NEE'-uh, neither of which sounds like anything you'd use, given the high likelihood that your conversation partner would respond to you with "What?" I don't doubt the validity of the answer—it's one of the more interesting things in the grid. I just can't manage to say it in a way that sounds reasonable. I don't know who EVE BEST is, but then, until last year or so, I didn't know who "Wallis Simpson" was either. I saw Michael DORN on screen earlier in the evening; wife and daughter are working their way through "Star Trek: TNG," and today I sat on the margins and ate leftover birthday cake and occasionally asked dumb questions or offered commentary, "MST3K"-style (especially during the smooth jazz sequence where fake-Picard asks Crusher to dine with him in his chambers…). Anyway, Worf was in today's episode. He eventually agreed to mutiny against the fake captain. Everybody lived.