THURSDAY, Apr. 19, 2007 - Henry Hook

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Relative difficulty: medium to challenging

THEME: BIALYSTOCK (48A: Flimflammer of stage and screen) - All theme answers relate to this guy, the main character in "The PRODUCERS" (38A: 1968 film or 2001 Broadway hit, with "The")

Here are the rest of today's theme answers:

  • 11D: 48-Across portrayer (Nathan Lane)
  • 27D: 48-Across portrayer (Zero Mostel) - I hadn't even begun to search out the theme when I got to this answer, but since I had ZER- in place ... I mean, who the hell else would it be?
  • 20A: With 32-Across, 48-Across's pet project (Springtime / for Hitler)
  • 36A: 48-Across's partner (Bloom)
Is BIALYSTOCK a real guy? The clue to 48A doesn't exactly stipulate his fictionality, though I guess "stage and screen" could imply it. I totally guessed at this answer, not knowing either the "Y" cross (AMY - 44D: Dickens's "Little Dorrit") or the "O" cross (ORAN - 51D: "The Plague" setting ... I know, I should know that one by now). I've never seen "The Producers," though my sister and her then-boyfriend ("then" being the early 90's) were big fans of the 1968 movie. I thought the whole architecture was a little ungainly (a partial for a significant theme answer, a weird theme anchor - character not show - etc.), but I admire its ambitiousness and ultimate symmetry.

No time for a full blog entry today, so just the highlights.

16A: _____ Bear (Papa)
47D: _____ Bear (Mama) - would have been better with symmetry, but still, adorable

23A: "Ditat _____" (Arizona's motto) ("Deus") - total (educated) guess at the "U"
21D: Nickname aboard Apollo 1 (Gus) - DEUS's "U" crossing, which I also didn't know

44A: 6'7" TV star of 1955-75 (Arness) - OK. Can't picture him. No time to look him up. Wanted BIG BIRD here... but the dates were wrong.

7D: Returnee of a sort (Haji) - one returning from pilgrimage? Nice.

5D: Children of Norman and Enid (Sooners) - I'm really surprised by how quickly I got this. Can't see "Enid" without thinking Oklahoma, for some reason.

29D: 1992 Olympics prizes (oros) - they were in Barcelona, so GOLDS becomes Spanish - still think there should have been Spanish in the clue to cue the language change, but ... I'll allow it.

30D: Law man (Ohm) - Ohm's Law. Rough, rough, rough.

36A: A train? (BCD) - the oldest of fill tricks - the letter sequence - but the cluing here is sweet, so I don't mind.

Some traps

41A: Its participants must form a line (Bingo) - I had -NGO and confidently wrote in CONGO, forgetting that CONGO is a country in Africa and not the line dance I was looking for (CONGA). Anyway, this is a hot way to clue BINGO because of the two letters it shares with the more obvious (but wrong) answer. [The Gloria Estefan song "Conga" was featured on "American Idol" last week, so the word has been on my mind, much to my dismay]

56A: Holy book (Koran) - had the -ORA- and wrote in TORAH. D'oh! (for whoever asked, that is the preferred spelling)

50D: "It's been _____!" ("ages!") - I didn't actually fall into this trap ... until I was (once again) mindlessly transcribing my answers, and wrote in A GAS!, which totally works. It makes the cross LEAR instead of LEER (58A: Knowing look) - an error that's very hard to pick up on the grid once you've made it, as LEAR is a perfectly cromulent word.

Gotta go.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


DONALD 10:58 AM  

You hit the nail right on the head -- on everything! The original puzzle was themed to the name of the film, The Producers -- this update anchors to Bialystock, throwing away perfection!

Alex S. 12:30 PM  

I've never seen The Producers (play, movies, comic books, radio adaptation, or whatever else may be out there).

I got PRODUCERS and eventually figured out NATHAN LANE. But I've never heard of ZERO MOSTEL (and had PEROM because I put in DOPERS instead of DOZERS; DOPERS are also out for a while).

I have no idea what a BOSC or a BRAD is.

And I still don't understand the clues for BELL (Man who found his calling?) or IDEA (Fancy).

So eventually I just looked up Mostel and Bialystock since without knowing those things there was just no way short of random guessing to get them.

Rex Parker 1:04 PM  

DOPEES are out for a time - though I guess a DOPER is indeed out if he/she is also the DOPEE.

BOSC = common pear name (common in xwords, anyway)

BRAD = thin nail, also crossword-common

Alexander Graham BELL

To have a "fancy" (a "passing fancy," perhaps) is to have an IDEA, in a way

I guessed BIALYSTOCK just by spelling it the way I figured a Russian city would be spelled. I mean, after I got some crosses, that is. I sure didn't know it on its own.

Campesite 1:22 PM  

I did the exact same thing in 'Texas' with A GAS vs AGES, but I'm most pleased about your use of 'cromulent.' You are indeed a hardcore Simpsons devotee!

Alex S. 1:23 PM  

Duh on Bell and Idea. I guess I'm just not thinking sideways well today.

I despise pears so I'm going to remain resolute in my unknowledge of specific kinds. I also didn't know Anjou was a pear, just a province of France. Since Bosc is not a province of France I was very confused though the crosses demanded Bosc.

Anonymous 1:32 PM  

Since when are SWATS "Crushing blows" (6D)?

Anonymous 1:35 PM  

Alex - I highly recommend The Producers. It was hilarious when it was first released as a movie comedy in 1968 starring Zero Mostel & Gene Wilder. If you like Mel Brooks, you'll love it. In 2001 He brought it to Broadway as a musical with Nathan Lane & Matthew Broderick. It was such a big hit, the show became the first to sell Premium seats for $200+ each.

Rex - I originally had DOPER, too. Isn't doper slang for drug user?

Anonymous 1:52 PM  

Some definite weirdness in this one. I too wanted a conga line, couldn't fathom how a SWAT was a crushing blow (although I guess for a fly it has that result, ultimately), didn't understand the odd affectation Johnny of Hollywood ... there were a bunch of these oddities. But I have seen The Producers (people! see it! it's a classic!) on stage so that aspect was a gimme.

Alex S. 1:54 PM  

I must admit that I'm not much of a Mel Brooks fan. Since I also don't care for Gene Wilder (some stuff but not other stuff) and Nathan Lane (haven't ever liked him in anything) no versions of The Producers has ever appealed to me.

When I was in high school the dopers were the ones doing drugs not providing them. Though if I hadn't immediately thought of DOPERS, DOZERS would have made more sense for the clue.

Rex Parker 1:56 PM  

"The Sultan of Swat" was crushing homeruns, not swatting flies. Further, yes, if you swat a fly, you likely crush it.


Anonymous 3:21 PM  

Duly noted. Did not get the baseball reference, obviously!

Orange 3:21 PM  

Rex, are you sure? Babe Ruth wasn't famous for gently patting baseballs with his bat?

Anonymous 4:53 PM  

Rex- Arod just "swatted" a walkoff, come from behind, 3 run homer to give him 10 so far. The Yanks are on there way to Fenway.

Norrin2 5:00 PM  

In addition to "Sultan of Swat", Babe Ruth was also known as "The Caliph of Clout", "The Maharajah of Mash" "The Wazir of Wham" and "The Rajah of Rap."
Thanks to Rudolph Valentino ("The Sheik") and Theda Bara (The Serpent of the Nile) Arabic and Eastern terms were in vogue during the 1920's. And alliteration of course is always popular.

Campesite 7:11 PM  

Boy, did George Herman Ruth Jr have some nicknames (not to mention 'Babe').

The Serpent of the Nile is a puzzle princess.

Anonymous 7:58 PM  

I found internet in Iowa...which, by the way, is extremely flat. Tonight we are staying in Mason City, home of Meredith Willson, creator of "Music Man," and not too far from the Spam Museum in Austin, MN. (It's located at 1937 Spam Blvd, in case you find yourself nearby.)

I loved "The Producers," the movie version. Hilarious and very tongue-in-cheek. However, I couldn't remember Bialystock and Bloom to save my life and had to google for those before getting OHM and ORAN and AMY. (Hello, Orange.)

Liked some other parts of the puzzle, though, like the corner with BRAS and AMOR and ROMP and ROMEO. Then there was COOKIN' right by EGGS and those WAXY BOSC pears.

Mmmmm. I think it's time to find dinner.

Anonymous 8:01 PM  

P.S. Do not rub it in about Arod.

Anonymous 8:26 AM  

Adore, adore, adore "The Producers" - was introduced to it in my high school Theatre Arts Class (Garden City '82). The Broadway version is fantastic. (Anyone a "Curb Your Enthusiasm" fan, and see Larry David "star" in "The Producers" on the season finale about 3 years ago? Great appearances by Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft.

Thought the use of the word spotlit went nicely with the Broadway theme.

Did the puzzle with my 9 year old daughter. She got MAma, Papa and Depp for me.

-Mary Rose

Anonymous 8:50 AM  

I was never a big Mel Brooks fan, but I loved the (2005 movie version of) The Producers. Also didn't get that Bialystock was a fictional character, so Bloom evaded me too, even when I had loom. I don't often remember characters' names from movies I see once I've gone on to the next movie...I do remember le docteur Rieux from La Peste, probably because it struck me as ironic. I did not, however, remember the setting of this novel and entered IRAN. Silly me. I thought I remembered that this was set in Algeria, but thought "what the heck" then forgot to be suspicious about that letter and couldn't think of anyone Zero Mostel might have portrayed whose name contained STICK. Whatever. I saw this movie very recently. I answered The Producers and figured it was hooked into the theme. But I had to get a hint from the Diary of a Crossword Fiend to make headway on this puzzle.
Ultra Vi, in the mid 1970s, Meredith Wilson came to Seattle for the opening of the King Dome and conducted dozens of high school marching bands all at once. Like playing in a giant garage with 1000 high school band musicians. Very silly. But fitting for me in that my desire to play trombone was born when I saw The Music Man in San Francisco (Cow Palace) at age 5...

Anonymous 9:17 AM  


Sweet story about how you started playing trombone.

Anonymous 10:58 PM  

I can't see "Enid" without thinking of playing the Sweet Valley High game with you.

Unknown 12:37 PM  

From six weeks in the future: Had trouble with Texas (e.g. AGAS). Vaguely remembered the flimflammer's name reminded me of a sort of bagel available at Noah's in the nineties: didn't help. Also had CONGA, wasted time trying to understand what ROAS are.

Can't imagine The Music Man in the cavernous Cow Palace...sure it wasn't Civic Auditorium? Geary Theater?

Unknown 12:37 PM  

I was so sure that 48 across was "Harold Hill" that I went crazy trying to think of his sidekick's name (played by Buddy Hackett in the movie). It was much later that I finally got Bialystock. It's kinda a cheat to only use his last name, though, which is why I dismissed "The Producers" and went for "The Music Man", instead.

Anonymous 5:03 PM  

I finished this in two sessions. Once ZERO MOSTEL and THE PRODUCERS emerged fronm the grid, SPRINGTIME FOR HITLER was not far behind. I know the story, but never having an appreciation for Mel Brooks' humor, (I am proud of the fact that I sat through BLAZING SADDLES without cracking a smile) I haven't seen the movie, and so I had to get BIALYSTOCK completely from crosses, which I finally succeeded in doing, once the red herring SASS for EDGE (55a, Lip) was eliminated.

Best clue was 5d, Children of Norman and Enid, SOONERS, the brilliance of which wasn't appreciated until I read Rex's blog. I was thinking they must be characters in some famous novel, like Grapes of Wrath, or O Pioneers. (neither of which I have read.)

I only googled BIALYSTOCK after I was all finished.

I was going to gripe about the clue to 38a (PRODUCERS) not referring to the theme until I realized that that is hinted at by the symmetry.
Too Kewl!!!! Hooked again!

Anonymous 11:54 PM  

In case you don't get a chance to look it up, Arness is James Arness, as in Marshall Dillon of Gunsmoke fame.

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