Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Constructor: David J. Kahn

Relative difficulty: Medium



THEME — I.M. PEI tribute puzzle

Word of the Day: I.M. PEI [Subject of this puzzle (1917-2019)] —
Ieoh Ming Pei (Chinese貝聿銘), FAIARIBA[2] (English: /j.mɪŋ.ˈp/ yoh-ming-PAY[3][4] 26 April 1917 – 16 May 2019) was a Chinese-American architect.


• • •

Theme answers:
  • DALLAS (16A: ___ City Hall, 36-Across-designed building (1978))
  • ROCKANDROLLHALLOFFAME (24A: With 10-Down, 36-Across-designed museum (1995))
  • IMPEI (36A: Subject of this puzzle (1917-2019))
  • LOUVREPYRAMID (14D: 36-Across designed Paris landmark (1989))
  • STARCHITECT (44A: Portmanteau for 36-Across) 
  • BANKOFCHINATOWER (59A: With 26-Down, 36-Across-designed Hong Kong skyscraper (1990))
Hello! It's Brian Herrick filling in again for the one, the only, Rex Parker. I was lucky enough to sub on pi day (there was no pi or pie), and I'm back again while Rex enjoys what appears to be a lovely vacation. Seriously--he tweeted about how happy you all make him just by reading the blog. His vacation clearly has an abundance of nice things and a lack of things Rex dislikes, aka Tuesday NYT puzzles. HEYO!

So: this puzzle. I would be remiss if I did not begin this review without mentioning (arguably) the greatest Twitter account of all time, @PeiCheck. For months, they tweeted this:


And every day, I would know that I.M. Pei was still alive. Then, a few months ago, this:


Simply crushing. RIP to I.M. PEI.

Back to the puzzle!

Tribute puzzles are tough to construct. They really are. Most are a jumbled mass of trivia held together with crossword glue. They're often done terribly, sometimes done exceptionally (looking at Liz Gorski's Guggenheim puzzle which may not exactly be a tribute puzzle, but it's architecture-related and executed perfectly, so I'm going to include it here anyway). I think this one is somewhere in the middle.

On the one hand, so many noteworthy buildings to draw from, a testament to his career. There's a lot to work with. However, several of the theme-answers are split up between acrosses and downs, which was necessary but awkward. The intersecting themers are nice, but I imagine they make an already constrained grid tougher to fill. 

Speaking of the fill...I did not enjoy it. GILA is not something I'm every going to remember in any context aside from the monster. Technically it looks like a TREETOAD is real, but TREEFROG is more ubiquitous, right? Is KALE (27D: Moolah)? Apparently!

Particularly, the SE and NW corners were a rough solving experience, with a fair amount of glue. AFTS (56D: When soaps normally air, informally) are afternoons? Really? And right next to SKUA (54D: Arctic seabird), which is about as crosswordese-y as it gets.  GILA IRAE abutting each other in the NW is tough and, again, extremely crosswordese-y. I don't know how possible it is to improve those words with cluing, but I don't think GILA (3D: River to the Colorado) is the way to do it.

Bullets:
  • RIFLE (24D: Rummage (through)) — I appreciate this being clued as verb, not the gun
  • STARCHITECT (44A: Portmanteau for 36-Across) — I learned this word a few weeks ago from an architect friend on our way to see the USWNT play their final sendoff series game as  we walked through the Oculus NYC. (GO GO USA!) 
  • UCLA (11D: Sch. near Hollywood) — In trivia a few weeks ago, my friend put UCLA (the wrong answer) instead of ACLU (the correct answer). This is never not funny. 
  • IONIC (30D: Kind of column) — I don't remember everything from high school Latin, but I sure do remember the columns. 
Brilliant man worthy of a brilliant puzzle that didn't quite check all the boxes for me.

Signed, Brian Herrick, 104th Runner Up, Local Track, Lollapuzzoola 2018

PS Are you going to Lollapuzzoola? I'm going to Lollapuzzoola! If we've met on the internet, I'd love to meet you in person. Plus, I will have another year of solving under my belt but also will be a few weeks into parenthood. Will I do better or worse than in 2018? Stay tuned! And if you want to meet on the internet, I'm here.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

85 comments:

jae 1:43 AM  

Medium-tough. Not to bad for a tribute puzzle, sorta liked it.

Anonymous 6:30 AM  

"STEADS" gave me a lot of trouble--I still don't understand it.

Suzie Q 6:36 AM  

Since this man has been in countless puzzles over the years it is quite fitting to have at least one tribute. Actually, if it wasn't for crosswords I probably would not know him. As it is, I almost feel I do know him after writing his name millions of times.
I liked the puzzle just fine and didn't feel it suffered under the strain of the theme. Riot Act made me smile. Good clue.
Tree toad, on the other hand, did not please me.
Besides I.M. Pei there can't be many starchitects. Was this word invented with only him in mind?

Lewis 6:39 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Laura 6:40 AM  

I struggled with this one but learnt a lot about a clearly iconic architect! Straight up had never heard of tree toads but "warty" was a good tip off there. A few fun clues amongst the rest of the more crossword-jargony answers.

Lewis 6:44 AM  

The vague cluing, and fact that the Louvre Pyramid was the only structure I knew was designed by Pei made for terrain I had to do some scrabbling over, to my joy. I learned that STARCHITECT is a real thing, noted the double-L mini theme (6, and all in the top 6 lines), and saw that David almost got his last name in at the end of ALASKAN.

I learned that Mr. Pei lived to 102, so maybe a secret to long life is to design buildings? I also took a mini-tour of six of his most important works (two are in the puzzle) -- a wow for me -- and so can you by going here .

amyyanni 7:11 AM  

Sayhey, I.M. Rex, nice job. I'd say Frank Lloyd Wright merits starchitect stature. Did myself in on this one. My first entry was ALASKAN. Immediately realized that sealed off the NW corner, causing my mind to blank on most of the clues there. Doh!
Still found this fairly entertaining. SKUA was new. Love RIOTACT. Happy Wednesday.

Hungry Mother 7:15 AM  

Pretty smooth going except for the SE corner, which had me staring for a while. Very nice puzzle.

kitshef 7:19 AM  

DALLAS OIL WELLS is cute.

ORIOLE LOSE FACE is certainly apt this year.

KIEV SILO – I think they gave them up after the split of the USSR.

ALASKAN SWEETS – Akutaq (if you’ve never had it, you have had a better life than I)

kitshef 7:24 AM  

@Suzie Q - Frank Gehry, Frank Lloyd Wright, and of course crossword constructors' favorite, Eero Saarinen.

@Lewis - Saarinen lived to 51, so designing buildings not so successful for him.

OffTheGrid 7:35 AM  

There seems to be an African tree toad, a Malabar tree toad, and my favorite, the three toed tree toad. Gotta love that name.

QuasiMojo 7:39 AM  

GILA has been in the puzzle GAZILLIONS of times. No prob there. I M PEI was a cool cat. He also designed the Kennedy Library. And the Paul Mellon Arts Center. When the Pyramid first opened at the Louvre I was skeptical. But once I was actually there and experienced it, I was a fan. Some great clueing today. The TOSCA one I liked. And FIB was fun. No quibbles here. But to each his own. Que SERA, SERA.

Anonymous 8:12 AM  

Thank you for subbing.

I liked this one. A fun solve. The SE corner was made impossible with SKUA. Ugh!

DavidL 8:23 AM  

Struggled in the NW and SE, which were almost completely cut off from the rest of the grid and featured the absurdly obscure answers GILA and SKUA, respectively.

While doing the puzzle, it felt strained because of the dense theme, and answers that span multiple acrosses and downs are just awkward. But looking back on it, the fill really isn't too bad, and there are some nice long answers. I bet this puzzle was challenging to construct.

That little tidbit from the reviewer about the I.M Pei death watch twitter account is creepy.

pabloinnh 8:54 AM  

Caught on to this one early with LOUVREPYRAMID, which went in instantly. We were in Paris last spring and watched lots of people taking photos of said landmark, the idea is to stand with the pyramid in the background, hold up your upraised palm, and have your friend take a picture that looks like you're holding the pyramid in your hand. It looked to me like every visitor to the Louvre was doing this, or, say three million people.

My only hangup was getting the start of 44A filled in and then wondering what I.M.Pei had to do with STARCH. Everything else pretty straightforward, with the possible exception of TREETOAD. Fortunately, Charlie Brown in our local paper is having a big problem with "hedge toads", so I had a recent reference to weird members of the toad family.

Good enough Wednesday, but could have been a little bumpier. Nice tribute, DJK.

mmorgan 8:58 AM  

Pei designed my college dorms (pretty sure my avatar photo was taken in it!), so I’ve long had a soft spot for him. Also love his “new” wing of the National Gallery in DC.

A fine, pleasant puzzle, fairly reviewed.

the redanman 9:21 AM  

Truly admire I.M. Pei

Less than no love for this fill.

Dreadful solve experience although moderately quick.

Pity.


Nancy 9:29 AM  

Really tough clueing -- which I always enjoy, btw -- combined with a subject about which I'm fairly ignorant made this a much-tougher-than-usual Wednesday for me. But I'm not complaining the way I might, for example, over a tribute subject who's in the ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME and whom I also didn't know. My rule of thumb: There are things that the educated person really ought to know and there are things that the educated person is permitted to ignore entirely. What this STARCHITECT has built around the world falls into the first category. If I don't know these buildings -- well, that's completely on me.

The clues are fiendish. BODY (1D); RIOT ACT (42D); TOWS (46A; I wanted LAWS); ORIOLE (13A; did you know Baltimore was known as Charm City? I didn't). Even YEATS, one of my favorite poets, was clued with a poem I've never heard of.

The clue for 52A, however, belongs in the "redundancy" puzzle from earlier in the week. "Classic opera in which every leading character dies". Isn't that true of all of them? :)

Klazzic 9:30 AM  

What an idiotic review. Never heard of the Gil's River? Still living in a cave, I see. The puzzle was exceptional. The reviewer? Not so much. When is our cranky and lovable Rex coming back? This B-Team ain't cutting it.

Canon Chasuble 9:30 AM  

An absolutely delightful puzzle to solve, starting with "Tosca", the first word I entered. The tribute was a fine one, with enough misdirections to make me laugh aloud, starting with 1a where I had "ritual" at first. A nice way to start the morning.

Jay 9:34 AM  

Another mindless tribute puzzle. Did not like it.

pmdm 9:36 AM  

What I would want in an ideal world would include pictures of the entries in a tribute puzzle like this.

While I would not rate the puzzle at the A level (because of some of the fill), it certainly rates P for passable from me.

Joe Dipinto: your comment yesterday was absolutely correct. Egg on my face! I was rushing out of the house because it was my birthday and I had a fun filled day planned, so I couldn't take the time to proof my comment. I'm certain it was an e-sharp that perplexed me, but as to the triad involved? I just can't remember. Probably be design.

Time to bury this subject.

Whatsername 9:55 AM  

This was a perfectly good Tuesday crossword and a perfectly nice tribute to the creator of such incredible beauty all over the world. I didn’t know the theme answers but they were easy enough to solve with the surrounding fill. After reading about Mr. Pei’s many achievements over his long life, I discovered that among the lesser known ones were multiple FAA air traffic control towers. I worked inside a control tower for over 25 years but had no idea he ever designed one, much less 16 of them. I spent a few days in the one at Saint Louis Lambert and it is a marvel. To say he left his unique mark on the world would be a massive understatement. It’s hard to imagine leaving a legacy of that magnitude.

Enjoyed both the puzzle and the review today – thank you Brian, for guest hosting.

Crimson Devil 9:58 AM  

Never remember SKUA, will now. Enjoyed verb RIFLE, charming Os, not so much these days, RIOTACT, and reference to who’s on first LOU (what and I dunno on 2nd and 3rd), and pine-tar George BRETT, not to mention ERA and ROCKANDROLLHALLOFFAME.

Nancy 10:01 AM  

Welcome back, Brian Herrick. This is a chance to thank you for your kind and generous review of my co-constructed (with Will Nediger) BLACK HAT puzzle on Pi Day. Your "Mr. B" sign-off under your comments today was so subtle that I would have missed your name completely had you not mentioned having reviewed the Pi Day puzzle. Having never heard of Pi Day prior to 3/14 of this year, I would have had no idea that the day our puzzle appeared was such a momentous Day had it not been alluded to many times on the blog.

This is a long-winded way to say that I would love to meet you when you're here for Lollapuzzoola. I won't be competing -- no more puzzle tourneys for me; they don't seem to agree with me healthwise -- but I could mosey up to the Riverside Church area at lunchtime or dinnertime to join a bunch of you there. I'll email you off-blog. Also wondering if my friend @Teedmn will be coming in for Lolla this year. Teedmn??

burtonkd 10:10 AM  

My experience was one of my favorites: lots of clues that I thought I had no clue about WOE! that gradually filled in with "Hey, I do know that!"

Clueing was like my teaching style (hopefully): tough, but fair with a sense of humor. Speaking of which, is LMS on vacation?

TERN held me up until unknown SKUA - I figured there had to be one unknown Maleskabtypenword in a tribute puzzle, so the K didn’t hurt so bad.

Was expecting something way more obscure on 60A, but arboreal=tree and warty creature=toad, voila!

RooMonster 10:19 AM  

Hey All !
Strange how it seems the tough spots with -ese or downright odd entries like SKUA are in the closed off corners. Of course, there are themers in them, so maybe it wasn't s easy to fill said corners. Just seems odd to me.

AnyHUM, enjoyed the Tributeness of this puz. Good ole IM PEI, designer extraordinare. Didn't know he did DALLAS' City Hall, or that BANK OF CHINA TOWER. I had misspelled BANKOk for BANKOF, wondering what the hell AkTS were. AFTS for that clue is ridiculous. Why not just 'Backs of boats'? The ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME was his too? Wow, he sure didn't stay in one lane.

4 F's. Nice. Two letter DNF today, aforementioned BANKOk/AkTS, and FAIn/KAnE, cause who calls money KALE? It is Green (money, that is), but not slimy.

Other writeovers, aRiE-IRAE (har on that one), DOdo-DOLT (really messing me up in the NW), Bag-BED, and GROMeT.

So a good puz. A FOR MAA. HAA.

BODY and I SOLE
RooMonster
DarrinV

Unknown 10:29 AM  

Think homesteads and “instead of” for “in place of”

Blackeyedsusan 10:35 AM  

For all those INTO baseball, nice seeing ORIOLE, BOS, AND BRETT the day after the All STAR game (maybe not such a BIG DAY for us fans, sorta ho HUM) was ONAIR from Cleveland, the home of IM PEI's ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME.

Cristi 10:38 AM  

SW is the land of rare plurals with ISOLE crossing SERA, and not to squawk, but the SE’s SKUA crossing STEAD with some TOSCA on top?...gettable, but not Tuesday fare.

Fred Romagnolo 10:42 AM  

Hands up for starting with rItuAl. SILO for a place for an Atlas was good. ISOLE was a lesson on Italian pluralization (feminine plural). In one's STEAD, for in one's place. @Nancy: in a lot of operas you've got to leave the villain alive so he can rue his misdeeds (usu. baritone or bass). Don't omit Louis Sullivan from the list of STARCHITECTS; Chicago wouldn't be pre-eminent in the field without him.

jberg 11:05 AM  

I rarely do this, but in this case I looked ahead to 36A the first time it was mentioned in a theme clue. The dates gave it away. Even without them, it five letters it was either him or Gehry, and I vaguely remembered noticing Pei's obituary (on the front page of the NYT, so not that hard to notice.) Did that help? Only for the LOUVRE PYRAMID, sadly, but that's on me. And you could sort of figure out the others, although BANK OF CHINA TOWER was completely unknown to me. (@Lewis, thanks for the link! I loved seeing all those buildings -- which also helped me see what the man's style was.)

I didn't love STARCHITECT, just because I don't love the word, and wish it didn't exist. But apparently it does, so fair enough.

If @Loren was here, she'd tell us the word for this -- but KALE for cash was a humorous conversion of the older "cabbage." It's still kind of old-timey and Runyonesque -- but now that we don't carry cash anymore, I'm not sure there's a newer word.

Now to the big question: who is the intended audience of the NYT puzzle? The GILA is a significant river in the SW -- much longer than, say, the Charles, but I bet "river near MIT" would not get any complaints. And SKUA is well-known to birders (even those like me, who have never seen one); but as the clue says, it hangs around in the Arctic, and most of us don't. (We only know about puffins because they're so cute--kind of like three=toed tree toads, best known for the tongue twister.

@anonymous 6:30 AM -- STEAD as in home stead. Or if I go to some event inSTEAD of you, I am going in your place.

@Nancy -- I guess it depends how you define "leading." Escamillo goes on his merry way, for example. And Turandot winds happily married (too bad about Liu). Anyway, as with many clues, one just goes by the number of letters.

But I know what you mean -- if we leave out the comic operas, death plays a pretty big role!

albatross shell 11:15 AM  

The puzzle was better than the review today.

ROCKANDROLLHALLOFFAME appears as I was watching baseball's all-star game that was in Cleveland. Good game, good puzzle. A perhaps slightly ironic tribute in that the puzzle is of course all squares in a square and Pei's buildings seem distinctly non-square. Got the themers without much trouble without remembering any of them without many crosses. The SE was knotty, but the last 2 to fall for me were the EWE OWE and TOWS ISOLE SWEETS crosses. In retrospect, my only excuses are brainfarts or DOLTishness.

I love to see all variations of lolapalooza around these days. It was a common usage in my youth. My dad used to describe an errant pingpong shot that hit his paddle and bounced off the wall and landed on the opposite side of the net. He got the word from the1925 P.J. Wodehouse short story The Heart of the Goof. It appears in a 1904 comic novel also. The 3 Stooges source story is apparenty bogus. Sometimes we played with legal lolapaloozas, sometimes with them being the only legal shots.

We also played a pingpong variant we called gnipgnop where every shot had to be hit like a pingpong serve. With a little practice you can get surprisingly good at this. Fun times.

David 11:23 AM  

Three toed tree toad in the tree top. Say it three times fast.

I knew Baltimore is Charm City from watching "The Wire". It's one of the few cities for which I know the baseball team's name.

Pei associates was two floors below our old office and I used to talk up his architects. Once in a while even he would be in the elevator. Quite unassuming for such a star.

I do miss Rex, Atlas in a Silo would have triggered a R(ex)ant, and next to Kiev? Ha!

Don't remember most of the clues but I do remember many were good mis-directs or, perhaps, stretches. The only one I remember negatively is not the clue, but the answer, "afts". Ick.

Was down in the Canyon of Heroes this morning cheering for our Team; that was fun.

Good day all.

jb129 11:31 AM  

I got IM Pei right away but struggled to finish. I enjoyed the struggle though.

Unknown 11:38 AM  

If you live in the southwest, Gila is pretty obvious and not at all arcane. I enjoyed this puzzle, though I've never heard of a "starchitect." What I hate? Sports questions. Ugh. Brett....

Suzie Q 11:55 AM  

@ kitshef, Ah yes, how could I forget our old friend Eero!

Blue Stater 11:56 AM  

I thought this one was pretty good, save for the RIOTACT/GROMIT cross, which was a bit over the top. Challenging on factual knowledge; no obvious linguistic or factual mistakes.

Anon 11:58 AM  

Lower right and upper left also tough for me . Words like SKUA and especially IRAE should be banned.

mathgent 12:04 PM  

I don't comment much lately but I do the puzzle every day but Sunday and read the comments on this blog.

Happy to see that Fred Romagnolo has resumed commenting regularly. He invariably has something smart. For example, today he pointed out that ISOLE is plural in Italian. He was an acclaimed teacher of gifted children in the San Francisco public schools.

Anonymous 12:06 PM  

I lived in DC while the East Building was being built. And when tourists loaded up the knife edge with bodily fluids. here: https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/hands-off-the-germiest-tourist-attractions-in-the-140100270.html

Snot nice to do.

Crimson Devil 12:12 PM  

Another fine sub-reviewer, ‘cept for unfortunate triple negative in second text paragraph: “remiss...not...without”. Certainly forgivable. Come back Sir.

Anonymous 12:17 PM  

I’ve also seen starchitect used to refer to Frank Gehry and Santiago Calatrava. Though I often see it used pejoratively...

Z 12:37 PM  

This is a fine example of the problem with tribute puzzles generally. As a tribute they have lots of subject related trivia. If you know or love the subject the puzzle is easy. But for everyone else it becomes a slog. And, because of the trivia, the fill is always strained. IM PEI is certainly tribute worthy, and this isn’t the worst I’ve seen, and I love IM PEI’s work, but I sympathize with anyone who hated this and understand why. I liked this well enough but there have been other tribute puzzles that caused me to utter some unsavory comments.

@Suzie Q & @kitshef - I’m thinking Brunelleschi was the first “modern” STARCHITECT. I can’t help but wonder if Ictinus and Callicrates got the STARCHITECT treatment. That I had to look up who the Parthenon architects were suggests they don’t get that treatment today, but maybe back in the fifth century BCE they got the Greek equivalent of Twitter bot fame. Brunelleschi is still famous enough that he featured prominently in a science fiction short story I read not long ago.

GHarris 12:40 PM  

Getting to the point where I am able to solve without knowing many of the answers and without assistance from auto check. Finding it an enjoyable struggle. Today was a satisfying triumph in relatively quick time. Note to my friendly competitor for space in NY Times letters to the editor @Nancy. I will have another letter published today online and tomorrow in the print edition.

nyc_lo 12:53 PM  

SE corner was a bit of a train wreck for me. SKUA just looks like a string of letters the constructor accidentally ended up with, then prayed Google would come up with a clue. SKUA dat. I guess BOS would have been a gimme if I cared anything about baseball (I don’t; seven weeks to NFL preseason though, who-hoo!). TOSCA finally bubbled up as one of the few operas I sorta/kinda have heard of. Then finally saw OCCULT, and the rest clicked in. Felt more Friday-ish to me.

tea73 1:13 PM  

I'm an architect by trade so coming up with the I.M. Pei buildings wasn't too hard, even though he is not a favorite of mine. Lived in Hong Kong last fall so I even knew about the Bank of China building which according to Wikipedia "is the only major building in Hong Kong to have bypassed the convention of consulting with feng shui masters on matters of design prior to construction." It was for a time the tallest building in Asia.

Thankfully by the time I got to the clue for SKUA it was obvious that erne was not going to fit.

Puzzle felt slow, but apparently I did it in faster than average time by quite a bit. (Though I think my Wednesday average got messed up by falling asleep once or twice.)

Chip Hilton 1:19 PM  

Just so you know there are other dunderheads out there, I stalled in the middle because I just took it for granted the INDICTS was spelled INDIteS. Yeesh.

Joe Dipinto 1:20 PM  

@Nancy -- not every lead character dies in opera. As long as one of them does, and keeps singing for half an hour while doing so, you feel you've gotten your money's worth.

I liked this puzzle, except I don't like the clue for NEW DELHI at 57a. The words "designed by" make it seem like it's trying to crash the Pei party. I suspect this was intentional, but I think they should have gone with a different clue.

Otherwise I have no complaints. STARCHITECT was new to me.

Nice write-up by Brian. Do we know when Rex is returning? I thought it would be cool if, on the day he resumes writing the blog, nobody posts anything in the comments. Nothing. Dead silence. C'mon, let's do it, it'll be fun.

Just let me hear some of that rock 'n' roll music...

Teedmn 1:21 PM  

Dangerous crosswordese - Dies IRAE, along with ALASKAN, had me joining a few here with rItuAl at 1A. But I knew where Charm City is (still missing LudyJynn from this blog, gone these 3 years), which pulled me out of my error and set me on the road to DALLAS and the GILA river.

In spite of having "mate" in the clue for 1D, I decided Mate was a fine answer for "Fit well" at 12D, another error I had to fix. It was probably inspired by too much jigsaw puzzling over the 4th of July weekend - hey, it was a "Game of Thrones" puzzle and I became obsessed, what can I say?

Some nice cluing and the tribute-worthiness of I.M.Pei helped me overcome my usual ennui towards tribute puzzles, so thanks, Mr. Kahn.

Masked and Anonymous 1:28 PM  

Didn't know some of the I.M. Pei structures, but was interestin to learn about em. If only they'da done a pyramid, with the black puzsquares. We don't ask for much, huh Shortzmeister?

Didn't know GROMIT, either. In fact, finished with BRENT/GROMIN -- wrong again M&A breath.

fave longball fillins: TREE TOAD. NEWD ELHI (capital *not* designed by I.M. Pei woulda been a cool, weirdball cluin possibility). BIG DAY.

staff weeject pick: BOS. Better clue: {Problems in the pits??}.

best clue, as is: {Classic opera in which every leading character dies} = TOSCA. Always important to keep things in the puz nice & upbeat.
On a related note, {Classic opera in which every leading character diets??} = ? *

Thanx for yer latest tribute, Mr. Kahn. M&A suspected one was a-comin, when I saw yer byline.

Masked & Anonymo5Us

* = MIRROR RAGE OF FIGURE-O.

(no runtpuz today, in honor of big buildings & keepin things up-beat.)

zephyr 1:34 PM  

Very nice set of answers, particularly relevant to the subject. It was his father, as head in the Bank of China, who gave loans to major NY builders on the condition they use his son, newly accredited, as architect, which gave IM his start. Imagine how many other aspirants would have accomplished a lot more had they such backing.

Anonymoose 1:36 PM  

(fun)....and incredibly immature. Who would you people rant about without Rex?

Anonymous 1:46 PM  

Do I still get credit for STARCHITECT having sussed it as short for SainTed ARCHITECT????

Nancy 1:53 PM  

Congrats, @GHarris! I look forward to reading it in the dead tree version tomorrow.

Nice to see you reappear, @mathgent. Don't be such a stranger.

Y'all do know I was kidding about every lead character dying in every opera, don't you. I know perfectly they don't, of course -- it just seems that way.

Anonymous 1:58 PM  

Atlas missiles were not stored in silos, since they were too big. I thi9nk Minuteman was the first silo ICBM.

albatross shell 2:07 PM  

@David11:23
Try "Orwell's oilwells"

JC66 2:12 PM  

@Joe D

If you can get @Z and the Anons to go along, you might have something.

Joe Dipinto 2:36 PM  

@JC66 -- It's okay if some Anons show up, it would be even more Twilight Zone-y -- as if just the regulars had been kidnapped by aliens.

But I wouldn't want Rex to be worried about us. (As if.) Maybe we could save it for April Fool's Day.

VancouverNana 2:50 PM  

Surprised that no photos in NYTimes article or in comments about IM Pei’s first “Big” Commission—The JFKennedy Presidential Library in Boston. Selected by Mrs Kennedy much to the horror of traditionalists. She was also influential in his selection for the National Gallery of Art addition.

Sydney 2:57 PM  

Did not know Gromit. Did not know Brett. Too bad they crossed. The puzzle was fine, although it took me longer than usual to finish it. Plunking down ritual instead of big day didn’t help. No problem with Gila or skua or kale...they all appear regularly in puzzles.

Anonymous 3:03 PM  

Atlas was most famous as the booster for Mercury and Gemini.
"The missiles saw only brief ICBM service, and the last squadron was taken off operational alert in 1965. From 1962 to 1963, Atlas boosters launched the first four US astronauts to orbit the Earth whereas the preceding two Redstone launches were suborbital. Atlas-Agena and Atlas-Centaur were the main initial Atlas-derived launch vehicles. Various Atlas II models were launched 63 times between 1991 and 2004. There were only six launches of the Atlas III, all between 2000 and 2005. The Atlas V is still in service, with launches planned into the 2020s. "

the wiki

"The fourth version were stored vertically in underground silos, for the Atlas F ICBM. They were fueled in the silo, and then since they could not be launched from within the silo, were raised to the surface to launch. The Titan I missile used a similar silo basing of the fourth version."

the wiki

So, yes some were siloed, but no not launched as one might expect.

the wiki is a wonderful thing. let your fingers do the walking.

The Joker 3:07 PM  

Let's all phone Rex and ask him if his refrigerator is running, or if he has Sir Walter Raleigh in a can (That's a pipe tobacco reference, for you youngsters).

foxaroni 3:12 PM  

This seemed quite a bit tougher than usual for a Wednesday. I did finish with no errors, so not a biggie. Tried TKO for "ring punch" and TAKE for "enroll in," which was a roadblock for a while. SKUA was a mystery bird. TERN is the "usual" answer.

When in Brazil, be polite and use your RIO TACT.

Enjoyed the write-up and the puzzle.

Pdxrains 3:16 PM  

Jesus. Easy if you're an architecture student?? This is hard for a wed. Massive DNF

Teedmn 3:24 PM  

Hi @nancy, yes, I am signed up for Lollapuzzoola once again! And I hope to see you and any other Rexites in the area.

JC66 3:51 PM  

@Teedmn

I'll be there & I'll look for you.

KevCo 3:56 PM  

I thought this was pretty easy. I read several obituaries about I.M. Pei so a lot of his more famous constructions were fresh in my mind.

I knew that the answer to the soap opera question was going to be "AFTS" but resisted putting in for a while because that is in the running for the worst clue/answer combination I have ever seen. Nobody, anywhere, ever has referred to the afternoon as "the aft." That is just brutal. Otherwise, I thought the puzzle was fine.

Fred Romagnolo 4:26 PM  

@mathgent: Thank you.

Elizabeth C Gorski 4:46 PM  

Thanks, Brian, for remembering the Guggenheim puzzle, and for your kind words of support. For the record (and to add to David's tribute today) -- on Sunday April 25, 2010, I made an NYT Sunday connect-the-dot puzzle that celebrated I.M. Pei's Louvre Pyramid. It was an honor to celebrate Mr. Pei's work during his lifetime. (If this was mentioned already, I apologize -- there may be a delay in my posting this!)
~Liz Gorski
http://donaldsweblog.blogspot.com/2010/04/pyramid.html

Paul 4:49 PM  

Suny Albany?

jae 5:09 PM  

@David - I knew Charm City from “Baltimore Life on the Streets”, the show David Simon worked on before he was a writer/creator on “The Wire”. IMHO his best show is “Treme”.

Also my initial comment should have read “not too...” vice “to...”.

Anoa Bob 5:18 PM  

I knew 3D GILA (hee lah) River, having driven through GILA Bend, AZ a few times during cross-country trips. The first was in the 60's, before the Interstate, and we drove right through downtown. What I remember most was a sign for a motel there that said "Refrigerated Rooms". Yeah, it gets hot in GILA Bend.

I've never seen a SKUA, but know it firstly from endless hours watching nature type programming, and secondly from having seen it in an xword grid before. Uncle Google tells me that up to 90% of SKUAs are, and this is your word for the day, kleptoparasites (spellcheck underlines that one in red), which means they get most of their food by stealing it from other seabirds. In many cases the SKUA so intimidates its target that, even if it is a much larger bird, it regurgitates the food and the SKUA grabs the grub. That's one fearsome bird.

Constructors, here's an idea. If you already have an Across SKUA in one of the corners, why not go the whole nine yards and use that final A as the first letter of a Down ANOA?

Adam 9:10 PM  

Not fun for a Tuesday. SE and NW were tough, but the whole thing was just blah. Magician’s skill is SLEIGHT OF HAND; I’ve never heard it referred to as just SLEIGHT. OTOH, I love the mention of GROMIT and Wallace. But overall i did not enjoy this puzzle.

RooMonster 10:27 PM  

@Adam 9:10 and a few others -
Today is Wednesday.

RooMonster

Runs with Scissors 10:34 PM  

Had fun with this one.

I've seen I.M. Pei in the grid countless times, never knew what he looked like, or what he designed. I'm a heretic: Take a picture of it and knock it down. Then build something useful. Buildings don't excite me.

The puzzle was interesting, though. Much to like. The Louvre pyramid was known to me via the movie adaptation of Dan Brown's "The Davinci Code." Excellent story, well told, but as usual the book was better. I've not been to Paris, don't have any desire to go there.

Some interesting stuff: 21A Chicken Kiev. Don't know that I've ever had it.

35A: Much legislative posturing.

44A Starchitect? Just go whole hog and make it Star Architect. Sounds, looks, and reads much better.

20A: Insallah. At one time the Arabs & Persians were the scientific leaders of the world when Europe was in its Dark Age. Back about the 9th century: Algebra - al jabr. Persian invention and a useful tool, back when they were relevant. Now they're stuck in the 9th century. Very unfortunate.

Enjoyed the solve, looking forward to tomorrow.

ALLAH FAIL
Mark, in Mickey's North 40

albatross shell 10:55 PM  

Sleight definition:
the use of dexterity or cunning, especially so as to deceive.

Sounds like a magician's skill.

Brian 12:25 AM  

Swan cob skua brants
#forthebirds

Linda Gibson 12:23 PM  

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spacecraft 11:02 AM  

Oh no: the spellcasters are back! Filters! Filters!

This puzzle could be titled Things I Didn't Know. The (come on now, really--"STARCHITECT??--) with the crossword-friendly name, of course; even recognized him from outside the gridwork. But anything he designed? Nope. Thankfully, when I got enough letters to suss out ROCKANDROLL, that gave me the rest of it at 10-down, a big help. Wound up in the SE with the Natick at BAN_OF/S_UA. Whatever that bird was, it was pretty crunchy for a Wednesday. Had to decide between BANK OF and BANHOF--but BANHOF sounds too German to be coupled with CHINATOWER, so I went with the BANK.

I thought for as dense as this theme is, Mr. Kahn did a notably fine job with the fill. That SKUA is about the only thing that really wrinkled my forehead today. That and the "portmanteau." You have to be kidding, there really is such a term? Sounds like he's the guy at the cleaners who makes your shirts stiff. But if it exists, I guess it's fair game.

Though I FAIL to find a DOD, I still liked this one. Birdie.

Wooody2004 1:46 PM  

I. M. PEI hear me OAR...

STARCHITECT sounds like a brand of electronic drums developed by The Beatles.

Question raised by Crossword: Did I. M. PEI design any buildings in the EWE CAY?

Burma Shave 1:56 PM  

YES, JOIN

Let’s ROCKANDROLL, OAR have a BIGDAY in STEAD,
EWE won’t grow OLDE – get your BODY INTO BED.

--- LOU “SWEETS” YEATS

rainforest 2:04 PM  

Hey, Brian, you previously sat in on Pi Day, and now you substitute on PEI Day. BIG DAY, eh?

I liked the puzzle a lot, because I have always admired the work of its subject, and because it was competently constructed. SKUA seemed to rile some folks (gimme here) as crosswordese, and others because they didn't know it. Nothing new there, it's part of a xword puzzle, and this happens all the time.

There was ample SWEET cluing and some obscure entries gettable from crosses In general the fill was free to breathe the fresh air with novel entries in an interesting grid. Har.

leftcoast 3:55 PM  

I.M. PEI spotlighted some of his best known works, and made it easier to keep things well INHAND.

Not a fan of cross-reference feature, especially when both acrosses and downs are involved, but well-worth putting it all together.

NW and SE were fairly isolated and required a bit of special attention. In the NW, tried rItuAl before BIGDAY, and in the SE the arctic SKUA was an unknown.

Thought the term was E FOR effort, not A FOR effort, but the crossing, A LOT, said otherwise.

Is ISOLE the plural for the clued "Sicilia and Sardegna" islands? Guess so.

Liked this puzzle A LOT.

rondo 4:37 PM  

YES, I’ve been in one of IMPEI’s buildings – the ROCKANDROLL HALLOFFAME, of course.

Interesting that DALLAS and OILWELLS are on the same LINE.

A Baltimore ORIOLE plays in Charm City? It’s not Charm City according to His Orangeness.

Probably hard to make a tribute puz like this one work so WELL.

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