SUNDAY, Dec. 31, 2006 - Elizabeth C. Gorski

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Solving time: 28:45

THEME: "Film Parade" - Ten theme answers are movie titles with numbers TEN through ONE in them; two more theme answers explain the theme - 13D: COUNTDOWN IN / 81D: TIMES SQUARE - and then a final theme answer puts an exclamation point on the whole thing: 131A: 1987 Peter Falk Crime Caper (Happy New Year)

Before I begin - a question. Why is there almost always a disparity between the solving time shown over my puzzle and the solving time shown on the leaderboard? The board usually has me one second slower than the reading the applet gives me directly over my solved grid. This is not a serious issue - unless I am within one second of my imaginary nemesis - but I expect consistency and accuracy from my computers, and when they don't deliver, I feel compelled to investigate.

My time today was good for me, but about 4-5 minutes slower than it would have been if I hadn't had a very very very elusive typo! I scanned every single Across answer, to no avail, changed some iffy squares around, to no avail, and then checked the Downs and finally saw the glaring REVPNUES where 1D (ONE DOWN!!! - why didn't I check the Downs first!?): Incomes (revenues) should have been. Oh, and then I had to change TZAR to TSAR at 14D: Bygone despot, because I had never ever heard of the cross, 21A: Red fluorescent dye: Var. (eosine) - ugh, just typing that clue / answer makes my head hurt. And now, the puzzle...

I declare this to be my favorite Sunday puzzle in recent memory. The only down side is that there are 13 theme answers, and who wants to start the New Year on such an unlucky number. That said, I'm astonished at how much cleverness went into this puzzle's construction. My favorite feature is 76A: 1983 Charles Bronson Thriller (Ten to Midnight), for a number of reasons. First, I love Charles Bronson, as he is the king of all Revenge Movies, and you know I love Revenge. More salient to the puzzle, however, is the fact that this movie title not only has TEN in it, but could itself function as the title of the puzzle, as the numbers in the movie titles do in fact count down from 10 through 1 to Midnight - HAPPY NEW YEAR! OK, it would have been better if the movie had been titled Ten Seconds to Midnight, but nonetheless, this answer, sitting in the puzzle's Dead Center, is amazingly creative - and apt. Apt!

Today, I'll take the puzzle in three parts. I. The Movies, II. Awesome Fill, III. Crap I Didn't Know

I. The Movies

  1. 62D: 1932 Romance with Maurice Chevalier (One Hour With You) - Never heard of it - Didn't help matters that I had ONE__HRWITHYOU for a while because I reasonably but mistakenly believed that 90A: Roman man (uomo) was HOMO.
  2. 97A: 1990 sequel to "Chinatown," with "The" (Two Jakes) - Never saw it, but knew of it. I think Chinatown is fabulous. Mathematician Andrew disagrees.
  3. 86D: 1999 film set in the Persian Gulf (Three Kings) - saw it, liked it. Clooney. Ice Cube. Dig it.
  4. 37A: 1981 Alan Alda comedy, with "The" (Four Seasons) - Vivaldi! This movie was an HBO staple of my young adulthood. I've seen it many, many times. It is one of the many messed up ways that I came to understand what adult relationships were like. "So ... they get to have sex ... but they're not happy ... I don't get it."
  5. 15D: 1970 Jack Nicholson picture (Five Easy Pieces) - this is the first theme entry I got. I don't think I've seen this movie, though it's superfamous, part of that 70's movie renaissance that Ebert likes to go on about from time to time (see also Chinatown). Jack gets two movies in the countdown. Good for him.
  6. 51A: 1982 Dudley Moore tearjerker (Six Weeks) - really? Dudley did a "tearjerker?" I know him only from 10 and Arthur. Yikes, it's about a 12-year-old girl dying of leukemia. No WAY I'm going near that movie ... though I have some vague memory of her getting to dance with the NY Ballet or something ... like a proto-Make-a-Wish thing ... Not a Happy New Year movie! Happy Thoughts!
  7. 22A: 1954 film set in 16th-century Japan (Seven Samurai) - that's more like it. Kurosawa makes me happy. Incredibly influential movie - as I've said, Clint Eastwood does not have a career if not for the model that Kurosawa's films (and Toshiro Mifune's performances) provided. Badass.
  8. 112A: 1988 baseball flick (Eight Men Out) - Black Sox + Cusack + Sayles = awesome.

  9. 10D: 1995 Hugh Grant farce (Nine Months) - I assure you that "farce" is the very nicest thing this movie has ever been called. In the mid-90s I saw virtually every movie that came out (the deep pit of mid-gradschool depression) - unfortunately, that meant that not only did I get to see awesome movies like To Die For (mmm, Kidman), but I also had to sit through crap like this. "Oh, I'm going to be a father, but I'm so stammering and boyish and I don't know how to be a responsible blah blah blah." My respect for Julianne Moore (Grant's far more appealing co-star here) started to ebb right about here - not because of her lack of talent, but because of her horrible choices. See also the stupid make-up and/or hair ads she does. I still love her, though. See the awesome Far From Heaven (2002) and her very, very, very memorable performance in Short Cuts (1992).
  10. 76A: 1983 Charles Bronson Thriller (Ten to Midnight) - my love for all things Bronson is a matter of public record.
II. Awesome Fill
  1. 2D: Pause in verse (caesura) - Right up my alley. Did you know that every single line of Anglo-Saxon verse features a caesura? It's true. Virtually all lines also alliterate - no end-rhyme to speak of.
  2. 32A: Most broad? (hammiest) - aah ... this took me a few beats to figure out. If you play a role broadly, then you HAM it up, I guess. A HAMMY performance is a broad one. OK. I think HAMMY was the name of the ... ferret? Squirrel? Whatever - Steve Carell's character in Over the Hedge (one of the few 2006 movies I have actually seen - Sahra loved it, and got it on DVD for Xmas).
  3. 71A: "Yeah, that'll happen!" (Dream on!) - I would say the clue, not the answer, because I prefer sarcasm to outright derision, but different strokes etc. I think "Dream On" was a horrible sitcom on HBO or something .... at some time ... OMG, It Ran for SIX YEARS (not Six Weeks or Nine Months). You know, I would have dropped dead from ecstasy if Ms. Gorski had somehow managed to fit 9 1/2 Weeks into the puzzle, in a non-theme position. Oh, and why not "Two and a Half Men"? Aside from the ick factor (which we've already had to endure with Nine Months).
  4. 27A: Elite groups (oligarchies) - just a wicked cool long word, and a nice highbrow complement to its low(er)brow symmetrical twin -
  5. 122A: Subscription card option (Bill me later)
  6. 67A: More manly-chested (hairier) - a nice complement to HAMMIER. Super dueling comparative H-adjectives! If you are HAIRIER than you'd like, why not see a 19A: Worker with a chair (barber)?
  7. 26A: Low digits (toes) - hot. I had ONES here for a while.
  8. 116A: In an odd way (quirkily) - way to pick up the "Q"!
III. Crap I Didn't Know
  1. 43A: Diplomat Silas (Deane) - who?
  2. 50A: Stockholm flier (SAS) - this crosses at the "A" with 18D: Original title of Beethoven's "Fidelio" (Leonora) - which, embarrassingly, I did not know. And so I changed that "A" to an "E" and god knows what else a few times before settling on the correct "A." SST, yes. SAS, no. It is the abbr. of Scandinavian Airlines. Aha. I see ... now.
  3. 73A: "All the Things You Are" composer (Kern) - he has become a safe bet for me when I get a four-letter composer of something standard- or popular-sounding, but I still know little to nothing about him.
  4. 94A: Pang (throe) - OK, so I know this one, but man does this word look weird in the singular. Is it ever used in the singular? You're supposed to be in the THROEs of something (e.g. passion). 151K hits on Google, but many of those are definitions or more about THROES plural than singular. THROE looks like a typo.
  5. 9D: Last month (ultimo) - uh, I don't get it.
  6. 103D: Horse handler (ostler) - rustler, maybe. Whisperer, possibly? But ostler ... seems a word I should know, especially considering my fondness for westerns and my current subscription to the new comics version of The Lone Ranger. And yet, no. Reminds me of "osprey," somehow, or "otter," neither of which is a horse.
  7. 118D: Jewish orgs. (YMHA's) - this sounds terribly made-up. What does the "H" stand for? Hillel? Oh, it's "Hebrew," duh. Question: Is it fun to stay at the YMHA?
  8. 128D: Junk bond rating (ccc) - No idea. This was a guess. This means 300 to me. It also reminds me of 70's pop sensation 10cc, whose hits "I'm Not In Love" and "The Things We Do For Love," like The Four Seasons (see above), formed the basis of my childhood understanding of adult relationships: "... like walking in the rain and the snow and there's nowhere to go and you feel like a part of you is dying" - Why would you willingly pursue such an arrangement? Where's the upside? My eight-year-old brain Needs to Know.
Happy New Year!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


sonofdad 1:35 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
sonofdad 1:37 PM  

I think the one second disparity has to do with the fact that your applet time stops when you click submit, but the actual time recorded on the leader board is the time when the data actually reached the Times server. There'll be a slight delay between your time and the leader board's time, but since it's probably only a fraction of a second it'll only register when your time goes from, say, 28:48.85 to 28:49.05.

This effect also occurs on AIM whenever my friend and I send an IM at the exact same time. Both IMs are time-stamped as being sent at the same second, but on my computer my IM shows up first and my friend's second, but on their computer it's the other way around (I've had multiple friends check multiple times to confirm).

sonofdad 1:55 PM  

I just took an immuno course this semester, and there is a cell of the innate immune system (eosinophils) that are named for their staining pattern in eosin red. That was a super gimme for me, and thank God because I have no idea in what other context I would have ever heard of that word. It would've been one of those crossings that gives me fits because any letter could go anywhere, as far as I'm concerned.

There's a YMHA on 92nd St. in Manhattan. I used to play basketball there in my younger days. It's where I first played basketball against Joakim Noah when we were both freshmen in high school. He looked even goofier back then. It also has a really popular kindergarten that was involved in a scandal a few years ago because Sanford Weill gave some ridiculous amount of money to get his kid into kindergarten.

Anonymous 4:56 PM  

Speaking of horses---and you were--- are we to understand that Sahra got an Over the Hedge DVD instead of the horse she requested? Tsk tsk.

Orange 5:18 PM  

Medical editors know how to spell hematoxylin-eosin, but we don't know where the final E comes from in EOSINE.

Free solving tip: TSAR with no Scrabbly Z in it is about four times more common than CZAR in the NYT crossword; when TZAR is used (which isn't often), the clue specifies "Var."

You just think Julianne Moore was memorable in Short Cuts because she was pantsless. As for To Die For, Nicole Kidman was channeling every Meg Ryan character that came before.

Anonymous 5:33 PM  

Oh, Sahra got a horse. Only it is plastic and attached to a carriage designed to pull the twelve princesses from "Barbie in the Twelve Dancing Princesses." So far she has one princess. Thanks Grammy Karen, thanks Shaun. She also got the movie itself. Barbie plays Princess Guinevere. I didn't know Barbie was an actress, but I guess she has been so many things in her life, why not act.

Anonymous 6:29 PM  

Eggmaster here. I also enjoyed Julianne Moore in a little-known movie called 'Safe'.

Anonymous 6:45 PM  

Your blog today has filled me with guilt, knowing that I dragged you and Eggmaster (above) to Nine Months, against your better judgement. 90 minutes, +/-, that you'll never get back.

BTW, our littlest daughter also recieved the lead dancing Barbie princess with the fancy, swiveling, light-up skirt, and her ass fell off within 24 hours of coming out of the box.

Rex Parker 6:47 PM  

Yes, if you can act pantsless (and panties-less, as was the case with Ms. Moore), more power to you.

Meg Ryan? What Meg Ryan movies are *you* seeing? To Die For is about a total sociopath, and I haven't seen the Meg Ryan role that fits that description (and I hope I never do).


Rex Parker 6:52 PM  

I didn't know Barbie asses were detachable. Can you upgrade?

I'd forgotten you were involved in the Nine Months debacle, Shaun, so no need to apologize. I will, however, forever blame you for Clifford. And I'll Do Anything ("It's a musical ... only without the music!").

Anonymous 7:52 PM  

I got a litle nervous when I looked up your Blog about 11 this morning and today's wasn't there. Thank goodness I checked in now.

Loved this puzzle. Very clever.

I suppose that I'm not so clever sometimes - got incredibly stuck on 84A Child's activity, never connecting it to the dear departed Julia for the longest time. A big whack on the back of my head for that one. I suppose I was too caught up in all the great movie titles and patting myself on the back for figuring all that out very quickly.

Great Blog. Glad I found it.

Happy New Year to all!

Mary Rose

Anonymous 9:41 PM  

Oh I really object to 38D in this, and it wrecked my solving for awhile because it's so wrongheaded. The practice of assigning syllables to the scale generally has the note after FA as SOL or, sometimes, SO. Certainly not SEW, although that is the word association used in A Sound of Music. But in that song's lyrics, all of the notes were spelled according to the usual syllable sounds, not the word associations, unless I've flipped my wig. Am I wrong?

Rex Parker 11:02 PM  

"Sew, a needle pulling thread..."

I forget the clue on that one, but since I knew this lyric, the SEW spelling didn't bother me.

That Julia Child clue stumped me for a good long time too. Didn't help that I had RADAR for RADIO and couldn't come up w/ BRONC to save my life.


PS 1 hr til 2007!

David Glasser 1:26 AM  

Re ultimo: I had never heard of it, but the dictionary says it literally means "last month".

Anonymous 2:50 AM  

Websters 3rd New Intl Dict 1986 Unabridged:

ULTIMO, adj. [L ultimo (mense) as in the last month, fr. abl. sing. masc. of ultimus last -- more at ultimate] of or occurring in the month preceeding the present -- abbrr. ult. (your letter received on the 25th ult.); compare instant, proximo

Anonymous 4:07 AM  

Webster's = hot.

Rex, Meg Ryan and Julianne Moore used to be on our soap. That's right, As The World Turns is your soap. You have a soap.

Anonymous 6:20 PM  

found your blog on google while cheating to get movie titles. nice! btw, ostler should ring a bell for poetry 101 geeks: tim the ostler was the guy who ratted out the lovers in "The Highwayman" because he couldn't get the girl.

Anonymous 9:48 AM  

I agree with Wendy. I had sol in there for the longest time (38D). It truly annoyed me when I a-ha'ed and changed it to sew.

Mary Rose

Anonymous 10:23 AM  

OSTLER, var. of hostler
HOSTLER [ME osteler, hosteler, hostler, innkeeper, hostler -- more at hosteler] la. also, OSTER: one who takes care of horses at an inn or stable: GROOM
(and three other uses including those related to locomotives, cranes, boilers and donkeys) - Websters 3rd New Intl Dict 1986 Unabridged

Rex Parker 11:44 AM  


You realize that every time you do that dictionary thing, you are totally exciting my best friend Andrew. It's like porn to him. Just sayin... Keep it up [!].


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