2014 Broadway play based on Moss Hart's autobiography / THU 1-29-15 / Onetime Road Runner rivals / Archaeological discovery of 1920s whose fossils have been missing since 1941 / TV debut of 1975 / Piece in rockhound's collection / Longtime Crosby partner
Thursday, January 29, 2015
Constructor: John Farmer
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
THEME: "CUT OUT THE / MIDDLE MAN" (17A: With 58-Across, buy or sell direct … or what to do in this puzzle three times?) — three times there are black squares where you will want to put "MAN" … those black squares are situated between (i.e. in the "middle" of) two MEN … or MANs, I guess: one on top of said black squares, one on the bottom.
- RAIN (20A: Best Picture between "The Last Emperor" and "Driving Miss Daisy")
- THE ICE / COMETH (34A: With 37-Across, drama set in New York's Last Chance Saloon)
- AGUA (53A: Central American capital)
Act One is a play written by James Lapine, based on Moss Hart's autobiography of the same title. The play premiered on Broadway in 2014. // Act One premiered on Broadway at the Vivian Beaumont Theater in Lincoln Center on March 20, 2014 (previews), officially on April 17, 2014. Directed by James Lapine, the cast features Santino Fontana, Tony Shalhoub (as George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart) and Andrea Martin. Martin plays three women in Moss Hart's life; Shalhoub also plays three roles: as the older Hart, Moss’s father, and George S. Kaufman. The play closed on June 15, 2014 after 67 performances and 31 previews. It was filmed to be shown on the PBS television program "Live from Lincoln Center." (wikipedia)
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CUT OUT THE / MIDDLE MAN, to make any sense at all, you have to imagine that there was a MAN where three black squares are, where the expected but absent MAN would have sat between one MAN (on top) and another MAN (below). So, you (solver) "cut out" a "man" that was in the "middle" of two other "men." Only I, the solver, do not do that. What *I* do is cut out MAN. I just don't enter it. Or, rather, I enter it twice, once above where it should've gone, and again below. The cut-out MAN isn't in the "middle" of anything except this ridiculously contrived, entirely theoretical "MAN" stack. "MAN is not in the "middle" of "RAIN [Man]"—it's at the end. The only place I "CUT OUT THE / MIDDLE MAN" is with "THE ICE [man] COMETH." There, MAN is in fact in the middle. Otherwise, *I* just cut out (or leave out, because I have nowhere to put it) MAN. The fact that that "MAN" (in an impossible, imaginary, non-existent grid) would have sat in the "middle" of a MAN sandwich has nothing to do with me. *I* didn't do anything to said sandwich. This puzzle is a conceptual mess with inaccurate, confusing instructions. And the fill is no good, but you knew that. Actually, it's probably NYT-average. At this point in the NYT's history, that is not a compliment.
Never heard of PEKING MAN (23A: Archaeological discovery of the 1920s whose fossils have been missing since 1941). Real familiarity outlier, given how common the other "MAN"-containing answers are. The other *huge* outlier is AGUA. You just snapped that word in two, whereas with the others, you removed the word "MAN" (also, those other two altered answers are titles of dramatic performances, making [Man]AGUA an even huger outlier: foreign, broken, not a drama. Difficulty for me came entirely from the man-sandwich angle; I could see how "MAN" was missing, but then it kept turning up. I thought we were cutting MAN, but we're not … except sometimes. Putting it all together, finally, did not make for an AHA moment. More "oh" [shrug]. Never heard of "ACT ONE" (3D: 2014 Broadway play based on Moss Hart's autobiography), though that seems like a fine clue for otherwise not great fill. Heard of GTOS, but to me Road Runner is Time Warner's high-speed internet service (33A: Onetime Road Runner rivals). I'm still not sure how 24D: Chapter seven? works for ETA. Is it that … ETA is the seventh letter of the Greek alphabet, and chapter is some kind of fraternity/sorority reference? I hope not, 'cause that is weak. And the expression is "Well I'LL BE a monkey's uncle" (not "I'M A") (59D). It's like … you wouldn't say "Well I'M damned." You'd say "Well I'LL BE damned." It's like that. That "I'M A" clue was the most painful thing in a largely unpleasant puzzle.
I feel like I would've felt more warmly about this puzzle if MANWICH had somehow been involved. Seems to express what's happening better than today's revealer does.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld