Showing posts with label Edward M. Sessa. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Edward M. Sessa. Show all posts

Dickens character who says Something Will Turn Up / WED 8-11-10 / Nattily dressed ad figure / Sayers bon vivant sleuth / Wisecracking dummy old radio

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Constructor: Edward Sessa

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: MONOCLES (68A: Items worn by 14-, 23-, 39- and 52-Across)

Word of the Day: WILKINS MICAWBER (23A: Dickens character who says "Something will turn up") —

Wilkins Micawber is a fictional character from Charles Dickens' 1850 novel David Copperfield. He was modelled on Dickens' father, John Dickens, who also ended up in a debtor's prison (the King's Bench Prison) after failing to meet the demands of his creditors.

His long-suffering wife, Emma, stands by him through thick and thin, despite the fact that her father, before his death, had to bail him out on many occasions and the fact his circumstances force her to pawn all her family heirlooms. The maxims she lives by are: "I will never desert Mr. Micawber!" and "Experientia does it (from Experientia docet, One learns by experience (literally, 'experience teaches'))".

He is hired as a subordinate by Uriah Heep, who believes Micawber to be as dishonest as himself due to his troubles with creditors. However, Micawber is honest, and, after working for Heep for a while, exposes him as a forger and a cheat. To make a fresh start, Micawber and his family emigrate to Australia alongside Daniel Peggotty and Little Em'ly. In Australia he is successful and becomes a magistrate as well as manager of the Port Middlebay Bank.

In Hablot Knight Browne's illustrations for the first edition, he is shown wearing knee-breeches, a top hat and a monocle. (wikipedia)

• • •

Blew through this in 4 flat (faster than yesterday) despite not having any idea who WILKINS MICAWBER was. 19th-Century Literature, not my field. Why don't most pics I'm finding depict him with the monocle. Does he have a monocle outside the first edition illustrations done by Browne? Literary characters are slightly odd choices for this theme, as — unless the book makes great mention of the monocle in some fashion — the monocle would seem an incidental detail. I can *see* MR. PEANUT and CHARLIE MCCARTHY, so I *know* they have monocles. The first person I think of when I see the word "monocle" is COLONEL MUSTARD, but he's one letter short of being able to take, say, WILKINS MICAWBER's place. Besides MICAWBER (whose last name I at least recognized from puzzles past), the only other sticking point today was TWITTERY (62A: Giggling nervously), which is not a word I use despite using Twitter nearly ever day. I tried TWITTERING (too long), TITTERING (ditto), and ATWITTER (letters not lined up right) before realizing what word I was dealing with. I also can never remember if SELENE (47D: Greek moon goddess) is SELENE or SELENA, but cost me maybe 1 or 2 seconds—just left it blank and picked it up on the cross.

Theme answers:
  • WILKINS MICAWBER (23A: Dickens character who says "Something will turn up")
  • MR. PEANUT (14A: Nattily dressed ad figure)
  • CHARLIE MCCARTHY (39A: Wisecracking dummy of old radio)
  • LORD PETER WIMSEY (52A: Dorothy L. Sayers's bon vivant sleuth)
Words can't express how wrong BANDANNNNNNA (9D: Part of many a bank robber's outfit) with two-thousand "N"s at the end looks. The number of "N"s in BANDANA shall total 2, and 2 shall be that number, amen. I honestly considered BANDANDA (var.?) before I succumbed to the stupid extra-N version. Grid is mostly nice-looking, despite the usual unfortunate short stuff and the less-than-ideal IDA / IDAHO ([Slutty 28-Across?]) crossing. Winning entry of the day: CHOW LINE (42D: Mess queue).

  • 8A: FBI operation involving a nonexistent sheik (ABSCAM) — sounds like a shady exercise-machine-selling operation; or a camera pointed continuously at someone's midsection; or an early-80s Genesis album.

  • 56D: Success on TV's "Concentration" (MATCH) — Trouble for me, as that game is (way) before my time. Now if the clue had been [Success on TV's "Match Game"], oh man, I'd have nailed that one.
  • 29A: Dogpatch diminutive (LI'L) — as in "Abner"
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]



Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: DISAPPEARING INK (57A: -) - Four theme clues read, in order, INK, IN, I, -

I was torn between rating this "Medium" and "Medium-Challenging." I got through it in pretty good time, but as I was doing it, I had many moments where I thought "Wow, that was rough." I think that a year ago, this puzzle might have taken me at least twice as long to do. Knowing words like AVISO (30D: Dispatch boat) and MARL (11D: Clayey sediment) (unknown to me when I started doing puzzles) kept me in the game when zingers like PHAROS (45D: Ptolemy's lighthouse locale) and ANOXIA (6D: It may cause a coma) threatened to do me in. Overall, it was a perfect Wednesday challenge for me - not a breeze, not a slog, not a blank stare-inducing mystery, but a solid, thoughtful, entertaining puzzle, even if it does have the demonic PEEPS (37A: Marshmallow candies in Easter baskets) for a heart.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: INK (Cephalopod spray) - lost so much time with this one because I couldn't figure out how any Wednesday theme answer could begin with CEPH-, which had me rethinking my (obviously correct, and easy) NW corner for a bit. CEPHALOPOD SPRAY is so insane an answer, so unusual, so colossal and odd, that I almost like it. I have to give the constructor credit for getting a 15-letter answer for INK, even if this is the result.
  • 25A: IN (social advantage) - see, the thing that made the theme answers a little tricky was that the clues were so short and ambiguous. I had to get all of SOCIAL and a good chunk of ADVANTAGE before I figured out what this (perfectly apt) phrase is.
  • 43A: I (personal pronoun) - had most of PRONOUN in place before I even saw the clue, so no problem here.

I got hung up in a number of places, not all of them predictable. Had no idea what 23A: River in a 1957 hit film (Kwai) was at first because I read the clue only to the end of its first line (in Across Lite format) - [River in a 1957 hit]. So I briefly tried to think of songs about rivers ... then I got the final "I" and thought "????" Then I got the "W" and reread the clue, and tada, easy. The film: "Bridge on the River KWAI." 48A: Hound's quarry (hare) gave me what in retrospect seems like an impossible amount of trouble - I had -ARE and had to run through the alphabet. I just can't imagine a dog catching a HARE, least of all a bloodhound, which was the dog I was imagining. 7D: Bit of Watergate evidence (tape) was odd to me because all I could think of was "fingerprint" or other types of actual crime scene evidence. The very basic answer of TAPE is almost too embarrassing to look at now. More embarrassing, perhaps, was how long I was (ironically) stuck on DWELL (28D: Belabor, with "on"). My stumble here is ironic on two levels: first because I DWELT so damned long on the clue, and second because we subscribe to DWELL and there are many copies strewn about the house. My brain could not adequately process 61A: Finger, in a way (rat on) at first, for a multitude of reasons, so I needed at least the RA- before I got that one. Wanted 49D: Footnote word (idem) to be IBID, couldn't believe that the answer to 52D: Scavenger at Yellowstone was as easy and cartoony as BEAR (which I wrote in half-jokingly, having featured YOGI BEAR on my site only two days ago), and still, as of right now, don't get 41D: Coral producer (polyp). Let's look it up! From Wikipedia:

A coral "head", commonly perceived to be a single organism, is actually formed of thousands of individual but genetically identical polyps, each polyp only a few millimeters in diameter. Over thousands of generations, the polyps lay down a skeleton that is characteristic of their species. A head of coral grows by asexual reproduction of the individual polyps. Corals also breed sexually by spawning, with corals of the same species releasing gametes simultaneously over a period of one to several nights around a full moon.
Four POLYPS in a single paragraph, so apparently, yes, "coral" and POLYP have more than a little to do with each other. There was only one kind of POLYP I was imagining, and that kind is not found in the ocean.

None of the above:

  • 1A: Movement branded as "anti-art" (Dada) - the official art movement of crossword puzzles everywhere. A nice, fat gimme at 1A. Always a good way to start a Wednesday (or any day). I also Love that this answer intersects another artistic genre: DECO (1D: South Beach style).
  • 49A: A G8 nation (Italy) - never saw this clue, but don't like it, mainly because G8 implies an abbreviation (G8 = The Group of 8).42: Shot with lots of English (masse) - another word I learned from xwords. The other great xword billiards term: CAROM. If I had a top 100 favorite words, CAROM would be on it somewhere.
  • 47A: Panel layer (ply) - could Not figure out what this clue was getting at for a stupidly long time. "Layer" made me think "chicken," as it always does, and it was all downhill from there.
  • 5D: Of a son or daughter (filial) - I use this in my teaching all the time (used it just yesterday in talking about the Christ/God relationship in Paradise Lost, though I use it most often in reference to Aeneas and the concept of FILIAL piety ... but I digress). Good word.
  • 12D: Lionel train layout, often (oval) - love this clue, but ... are you getting a kickback from Lionel? Because this could just as easily been [Model train layout, often]. Just wondering.
  • 23D: Sephia and Sportage (Kias) - I nominate "Sephia" for Dumbest-Named Car In Existence. "Sportage" is a close second.
  • 26D: Nostalgic number (oldie) - brain wanted ETHER. Some of you will understand why.
  • 27D: Symbol of Lebanon (cedar) - great clue.
  • 31D: Infomercial knife (Ginsu) - hilarious ads of my youth. Apparently a good name to remember, since this is not the first time I've seen it in the grid.
  • 59D: Org. that's in the red? (GOP) - another wonderful clue, and the answer that decided the WHEW / PHEW question for me at 65A: "I'm glad THAT's over!" Love that PHEW is the last Across answer in the puzzle.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


MONDAY, Sep. 10, 2007 - Edward M. Sessa

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: NOTES OF THE SCALE (40A: Features found in 17- and 64-Across and 11- and 28-Down)

Notes of the scale can be found in the circled squares throughout the grid:

  • 17A: Many a Westminster show exhibitor (DOg bREeder)
  • 64A: Longtime Wal-Mart symbol (sMIley FAce)
  • 11D: Rear of the roof of the mouth (SOft paLAte)
  • 28D: G.I. Joe, for one (acTIon DOll)
SOFT PALATE is a nice, unusual phrase.

The theme here is pretty unimaginative, and some of the fill I had to endure ... ugh.

We'll start with weak, and work our way toward borderline unforgivable.

Who the hell is 29A: Mathematician John von _____ (Neumann). I'm not complaining (much) about this guy, but that name is totally unknown to me, and unknown names are very rare on Mondays. I learned EULER from doing the puzzle. I guess I can add NEUMANN to the list (if I can remember it, which I almost certainly can't). There was one other tricky name in the puzzle - ENOCH (27D: Cain's eldest son) - but I had at least heard of him and remembered him vaguely from recent excursions into the bible, so no harm there.

Do people really call dinosaurs "DINOs?" (58D: T. Rex, e.g.) - Why not just go with ["Flintstones" dog] and be done with it?

Neither I nor my wife, it seems, knew how to spell DUFFEL (24D: Camper's bag) before we did this puzzle.

SARI (9D: Wrap for Indira Gandhi) and OBI (41D: Geisha's sash)!? - It's an exotic outerwear crosswordese fire sale! I like that SARI intersects INDIA, though (15A: Kind of ink).

I would refer to someone as "DODDERING," but would never use "DODDERED" (54A: Walked unsteadily) as a verb.

My wife complains Every Time the puzzle associates saunas with steam (42D: Like a sauna room (steamy)) - "It's dry heat!" - though she concedes that one does indeed find steam in saunas sometimes - when water is thrown over hot stones, for instance.

I would like to take credit for the near eradication of "Odd Jobs" from recent puzzles. "Odd Jobs" are totally made-up words ending in "-ER" that no one would ever use, but that pass the dictionary test, e.g., let's say, ADMONISHER. Today, however, there's a horrible Odd Job in ECHOER (20A: Parrot) - "Parrot" is so promising as a verb...

G.I. Joe is not an ACTION DOLL. That phrase Barely Exists in the language. There are almost exactly 100 times more Google hits for ["action figure"] than there are for ["action doll"], which gets a paltry 29K. I had ACTION HERO here at first - HERO being the only acceptable four-letter word in this instance. Well, maybe STUD would work.

Finally, there's CHEESY, clued 48D: Shabby. What ... the ... @#$#? I looked it up, and it appears to have a second meaning of "inferior" or "of poor quality," but I have never heard anyone use it as a synonym for "shabby." CHEESY has nothing to do with something's being dirty or run-down (which "shabby" implies). It implies something phony, trite, and/or cloying. Perhaps something embarrassingly common and middle-of-the-road, taste-wise, like a CHEESY pop song. A CHEESY grin is excessive, put-on. "Shabby" is manifestly bad, where CHEESY is bad, at least in part, by reason of its pretension to goodness or authenticity. Yes, I like that distinction.

I'm done for the day / night.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


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