Tiered tower / WED 5-18-11 / Actress Mills others / Titania's husband / Quick turnaround slangily / Butterfly wrapping / Dry stretch in Mongolia

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Constructor: David J. Kahn

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: SIDNEY / LUMET (58A: With 46-Across, late, legendary director) — many theme answers related to his movies

Word of the Day: DANAË (40D: Mother of Perseus) —

In Greek mythology, Danaë [...] was a daughter of King Acrisius of Argos and Eurydice (no relation to Orpheus' Eurydice). She was the mother of Perseus by Zeus. She was sometimes credited with founding the city of Ardea in Latium. // Disappointed by his lack of male heirs, Acrisius asked an oracle if this would change. The oracle told him to go to the Earth's end where he would be killed by his daughter's son. She was childless and, meaning to keep her so, he shut her up in a bronze tower or cave. But Zeus came to her in the form of golden rain, and impregnated her. Soon after, their child Perseus was born. (wikipedia)

• • •

Like most tribute puzzles for the recently deceased (at least the ones I can remember) this one felt a little ragged. Crammed full of the deceased's accomplishments — those that can be arranged symmetrically, anyway — but otherwise not very clever, and with accompanying fill that is mediocre to bad. This puzzle has theme density, which includes the cool crossing central 15s, but that's about all that's really nice about it. Then you've got ridiculous words like OVERMAN (15A: Provide with too much staffing) and oddball words like ELEMIS and a long (and thus obtrusive) plural name in JULIETS and the strange and unwelcome two-part aria "O PATRIA / MIA" (a two-part answer that long should be themed or should not exist) and a ton of ugly little junk like RUN A, ASTIR, ERO, ABES. GRIFFITH is a total stretch, theme-wise (a partial name that is there only to counter AL PACINO). Grid structure is interesting, but the puzzle wasn't fun to do. Just movie trivia. No playfulness or pizzazz. This is better than the Elizabeth Taylor tribute puzzle, but not by much.

Theme answers:
  • 4A: 58-/46-Across movie (1973) ("SERPICO")
  • 7D: 58-/46-Across movie (1981) ("PRINCE OF THE CITY")
  • 37A: 58-/46-Across movie (1975) ("DOG DAY AFTERNOON")
  • 23A: With 55-Across, 58-/46-Across movie (1964) ("FAIL / SAFE")
  • 68A: Frequent location of 58-/46-Across movies (NEW YORK)
  • 28A: "12 ___ Men," 58-/46-Across movie (1957) ("ANGRY")
  • 16- and 64A: Workplace for 58-/46-Across (LOT / SET)
  • 11D: Star of 4- and 37-Down (AL PACINO)
  • 39D: D.W. ___ Award, honor for 58-/46-Across for lifetime achievement (GRIFFITH)
Biggest snag was the area all around SIDNEY LUMET and down into that SE corner. Didn't know the director at first (didn't read the "late" part and am not sure I would have recalled his name instantly even if I had). Had a tough time coming up with ELEMIS (had ELENIS at one point) and MON AMI (wanted EN AMI, a common xword French phrase). Sure as hell didn't know the aria in question. So I had to hack a lot down there. But the most of the puzzle was reasonably easy; I was at least familiar with the titles of all of the movies. I thought the puzzle was AL PACINO-themed at first—I got "SERPICO" first and then "PRINCE OF THE CITY" and "DOG DAY AFTERNOON," which allowed me to convince myself (briefly) that AL PACINO was in "PRINCE..." He wasn't. Treat Williams and Jerry Orbach were.

  • 10A: Quick turnaround, slangily (UEY) — this is how I realized RUN A was not (the much better) ROOM (26D: ___ temperature).
  • 60A: Butterfly wrapping? (OBI) — I'm guessing this is some kind of "Madame Butterfly" reference.

  • 69A: Where Oskar Schindler is buried: Abbr. (ISR.) — if you got mad at me for not having seen "My Cousin Vinny," well, I have other "movies I haven't seen" news for you...
  • 1D: Tiered tower (PAGODA) — I consistently confuse this word with BODEGA.
  • 61D: Funny Stewart (JON) — I had JAN, believing that the clue was referring to the SNL actress (whose name, it turns out, is JAN Hooks, duh). This is ironic as I watch "The Daily Show" religiously (every T-F morning, DVR'd from the night before)
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Anonymous 1:20 AM  

Not much to say. Felt like a Tuesday. Agree with Rexy. Also, not a fan of broken apart theme entries -- too inelegant. With this many theme entries, having some broken apart just feels like the constructor is forcing it too much. For impressive theme density, let it be easy-breezy like Monday's puzzle, or don't do it at all.

Princess Kosmonopolis 1:26 AM  

Yuck! I mean, I love Al Pacino, but I didn't love this puzzle. I know next to nothing about Sidney Lumet.

Azo-dye??? WTF? (32D)
Fix on??? (Choose definitely 23D)

And really, there is no such thing as "pre-law" (45D) Any background will do. Mine was psychology.

The best thing in Dog Day Afternoon is when Al Pacino has been captured and sinks down into the seat of the car and says "Please don't kill me."

Thx, Rex.

operapianist 1:33 AM  

Let me tell you, even as a seasoned pianist who spends *hours* a day playing and coaching opera arias in NEW YORK, O PATRIA MIA is not all that well-known. Somehow the transference from crosswordy AIDA to naming an aria from said opera didn't take for me.

Having KNEE for TREE (surgeon) actually caused me to wonder if there was a movie called PRINCE OF KHEDIVE.

In the end, I finished with no errors, but definitely struggled more than I wanted to.

Alia 1:56 AM  

Had to give up. I did not know the director and have never seen any of the films in the puzzle. Nor do I know Aida arias (certainly not by name). I was barreling through until then, too. ELEMIS crossing both SIDNEY and LUMET was most decidedly a personal natick. All in all, highly frustrating.

davko 2:04 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
davko 2:12 AM  

This puzzle is every bit the scattershot mess with forced answers and bad fill that Rex describes, but its theme might at least afford us a rare point of consensus amongst all the cineastes here. And that is we're talking legendary when the name Sidney Lumet enters the discussion.

The titles selected for the grid are fine examples from his filmography, but don't include what I'd consider to be his two finest pictures: THE PAWNBROKER (1964) and NETWORK (1976). The latter, penned by Paddy Chayevsky, is pure genius -- a film so prescient, that what was considered an outrageous satire in its time turned out to be spot-on in its depiction of the today's sensationalist media. I'd add it to anyone's list of must-sees (along with, yes, SCHINDLER'S LIST... I mean, c'mon!)

Erik 3:29 AM  

David J. Kahn and I long for the day when Howard Overman, creator of "Misfits," becomes a household name.

Rube 3:31 AM  

Not being a "cineaste" this one felt like a Friday to me. Every one of the movies had to be worked out one letter cross at a time. Never having heard of SYDNEY LUMET or knowing what ELEMIS is, the SW was a Natick to me. Fortunately "O PATRIA MIA" was a gimme, providing enough letters for an educated guess on ISAK Dinesen. Do defendents really use "NOLO" by itself?


CoffeeLvr 3:37 AM  

I will try to recreate the comment Blogger just ate.

I was initially completely impressed with the theme density. I counted 49.7% of the white squares as containing "theme" answers. Then I took a closer look. I don't see how SET, LOT, & NEW YORK are anything but stretch inclusions. And you can find ANGRY, FAIL, SAFE & ORIENT without theme connections in many puzzles.

I had to work at the solve; it wasn't much fun. However, LUMET came to mind and I found out his first name was not StaNlEY.

I hate UEY. (Just going on the record.) SUPE? Really? But maybe my life experience in the suburbs/exurbs limits me here.

I may rent Serpico, just to see if it holds up to my memory. At the time, I had never seen anything like it.

David 4:00 AM  

I disagree about "O Patria Mia". It's one of Aida's most famous arias, and one sung by the title character, so it's totally Wednesday-appropriate. Would it look better if it wasn't broken up in two? Yes. But the fact that the two answers are one next to the other is the best next thing.

So no, it didn't bother me.

I hated "New York" as an answer. It should have been (and it almost is) "Network", one of Lumet's best movies.

Octavian Pacino 4:31 AM  

Sidney Lumet was the cinematic poet laureate of New York. Great to see him celebrated in a puzzle.

Nice theme density, but not personally a fan of the style where you have to piece clues together. Makes it all feel like a Jumble rather than an xword.

Still, it was fun remembering all the great films and scenes, making the puzzle a rush of memories of sights and sounds.

RIP Sidney Lumet, a tireless voice for social justice, moral defiance, maverick independence, strength of character and the redeeming value of art.

Anonymous 5:07 AM  

Not being a film watcher this puzzle involved pulling up the Wikipedia article and reading. Some of them I got but most I've never heard of. By the way, you forgot ORIENT as theme answer.

Kareem 7:03 AM  

Have to agree with Rex on this one. These tribute puzzles always seem like they should be in EW or in the airplane magazine with the picture of the person hidden in the grid. They either come across as poorly constructed or cheesy. Love Lumet and his films, but too much uneasy and awkward fill to enjoy the puzzle. I don't know why, but the cluing of 12 Angry Men really bothered me. The film seems to great for a throw away clue. It did inspire me to rent it (and the remake) in the next few weeks. Commend the constructor for his efforts, but it just didn't work for me.

Greene 7:37 AM  

One of the things I love about working the puzzle and visiting this blog is how much I learn. I think I've been working the puzzle regularly and posting here for roughly two and a half years. In that time I've read dozens of books and seen quite a few films that were cited in the puzzle and recommended by others on this blog.

I'm a big fan of SIDNEY LUMET so if you don't know his work, now is a great time to watch a movie or two. I'd start with 12 Angry Men (the original please, not the remake) and then move on to Network. Great stuff. You will be entertained and maybe just a bit enlightened.

The puzzle itself? Meh, for all the reasons cited by Rex and others. Somebody has to say this, so it might as well be me: "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!"

pedgeni = you get three wishes if you rub his feet

David L 7:47 AM  

I knew most of the movie references, so that was OK, but what really bugged me was how I would look at one clue and it would send me somewhere else, which referred me to some other pair of clues. Just made it really hard to keep track. And made me irritated. Bah!

Nice to see AXIAL symmetry -- one for us science types.

Bastard from Bastrop 7:48 AM  

Lumet must have been the poet of New York, because he sure didn't understand Texas. Cf. "Lovin' Molly," one of the stupidest movies ever made.

joho 8:02 AM  

I always find referential cluing bothersome. It's just not fun for me having to jump around like that. In the end I got everything right, but it wasn't smooth getting there.

Like others I had knEE before TREE and Room before RUNA plus oILIEST before WILIEST and sEr before REL.

I do think the theme density is impressive. You could even add AMC.

@Rex, "Schindler's List" is an excellent film, you should see it!
Perhaps make it a double feature with "My Cousin Vinny!"

Rebus 8:04 AM  

No problem with "O Patria Mia." But Axial/Azo stopped me for a minute or two. Really ugly cross.

Anonymous 8:07 AM  

Tribute puzzzles are a mixed bag. If you know the personality then you have a better chance of handling the puzzle. Like Rex I thought initially that this puzzle was about AL PACINO. I had a relatively easy time with this puzzle. But the combination of DANAE and SEINE stumped me. Ran the alphabet but could not come up with the intersecting N.
Have to agree with REX - not a very enjoyable puzzle.

CY 8:15 AM  

Did anyone else have WAR for 39 across at first? Took me a long time to realize that the D. W. Grawfith award did not exist.

Judith 8:23 AM  

@Princess Kosmonopolis Agree totally on the pre-law answer. We alway mocked anyone who said their major was pre-law. Besides being pompous, they either didn't know or didn't think we knew there was no such major at IU.

Greene 8:31 AM  

@joho: I once indulged in a double feature of Schindler's List followed by Shadowlands. Two beautiful and impressive films. I was depressed for days.

thursdaysd 8:33 AM  

Well, a lot of lucky or inspired guessing got me most of this, but I still had to google ERNO and LUMET. and then I stared at RUNA for a while before it became RUN A (I too, wanted room). I'm a book person, not a movie person, so I'm surprised that Serpico and Al Pacino just showed up when needed.

After I got PBA from crosses I had to google it to find out what it was. Didn't we just have OBERON? And I agree with CoffeeLvr - I've only been doing these puzzles - aside from Sundays - for a few months, but already I am SO tired of UEY and variants. Could we have a moratorium on that for a while?

John V 8:50 AM  

Can someone explain 51 across, Far?

The Bard 8:50 AM  

A Midsummer Night's Dream > Act IV, scene I

OBERON: [Advancing] Welcome, good Robin.
See'st thou this sweet sight?
Her dotage now I do begin to pity:
For, meeting her of late behind the wood,
Seeking sweet favours from this hateful fool,
I did upbraid her and fall out with her;
For she his hairy temples then had rounded
With a coronet of fresh and fragrant flowers;
And that same dew, which sometime on the buds
Was wont to swell like round and orient pearls,
Stood now within the pretty flowerets' eyes
Like tears that did their own disgrace bewail.
When I had at my pleasure taunted her
And she in mild terms begg'd my patience,
I then did ask of her her changeling child;
Which straight she gave me, and her fairy sent
To bear him to my bower in fairy land.
And now I have the boy, I will undo
This hateful imperfection of her eyes:
And, gentle Puck, take this transformed scalp
From off the head of this Athenian swain;
That, he awaking when the other do,
May all to Athens back again repair
And think no more of this night's accidents
But as the fierce vexation of a dream.
But first I will release the fairy queen.
Be as thou wast wont to be;
See as thou wast wont to see:
Dian's bud o'er Cupid's flower
Hath such force and blessed power.
Now, my Titania; wake you, my sweet queen.

TITANIA: My Oberon! what visions have I seen!
Methought I was enamour'd of an ass.

thursdaysd 8:52 AM  

51 across: Prefix of a sort as in "It's a far cry from what I hoped".

jesser 8:54 AM  

What Alia said. Word for word. I'll only add: Yuck.

Repur! (What this puzzle needs by a good crossword mechanic) -- jesser

P.S. Thanks for yesterday's captcha love. :-)

John V 9:05 AM  

Thanks, @thursdaysd. Seems opaque to me, but whatever.

joho 9:08 AM  

@Greene, depressing for sure! But your comment made me smile.

@thursdayd, I still don't know what PBA means.

Anonymous 9:12 AM  

You've never seen Schindler's List? Man, it's in black and white and everything so you know it's arty and good. Above and beyond that, it breaks the B&W motif with one short scene partially in color, a little girl in a red dress - It's like god came down and changed things to show hope. Genius I say, pure Genius!

thursdaysd 9:15 AM  

@joho - Professional Bowler's Association. I agree that "Strike force" is a bit of a stretch even with a question mark.

GLR 9:16 AM  

I'm with @David L and @joho regarding referential cluing. Annoying enough when solving on paper - a major pain in AcrossLite.

Finished with errors in, of all places, Lumet's last name. Had aND for UND and oLEMIS for ELEMIS (just a guess). Recognized all of the movies in the puzzle, and was able to get them pretty easily from a few crosses. I'm just not much of a movie fan, and I think I'm doing well when I can keep track of actors and titles. I can probably count the number of directors I recognize on one hand (well, maybe a hand and a half). However, after I saw the solution, I did recall seeing articles about Lumet when he passed away last month, so I guess it should have clicked.

I'm not much of an opera fan, but for some reason, O PATRIA MIA was familiar, so that was no problem.

Hand up for WAR at 51A and ROOM at 26D. Both hands up for banning UEY and all its variants - ick!

chefbea 9:16 AM  

Took a while but I finally got through it. Don't like movie themed puzzles

Anonymous 9:20 AM  

Got Al Pacino, so quickly put in Scar (55A) and Face (23A) since I had the 's' and the 'f'...all uphill from there.

Still, I agree with the posters who say it might not have been a super puzzle, but it wasn't a waste of time. I'm going from here to my netflix account to re-see some of those classics. So thank you, DJK and WS.

(And, as always, Rex, etal)

Tobias Duncan 9:21 AM  

Well one thing I seem to have in common with Rex is a large list of movies I have not seen.I've heard of but never seen Serpico.I hate movies about stupid people so I only made it trough about 15 min of Dog Day Afternoon(and Forest Gump for that matter).
I know an awful lot about varnishes and resins but have never ever heard of elemis.
This puzzle was full of things I did not know but my time was about normal.Go figure.
I wish 55 across was EPIC.

Oh and speaking of movies I have not seen, there are films I missed but can quote vast swaths of, how weird is that?In fact I could sit down and write (I think) a fairly accurate synopsis of Caddyshack including lots of quotes.
When you tell some people that you are not interested in seeing some movie or other, they feel compelled to transfer all the information they have about said movie from their brain to yours.

tptsteve 9:29 AM  

I enjoyed it. Maybe it's because I didn't realize that Sidney Lumet was associated with all of these films, all of which I've seen and all of which I enjoyed. 27D and 47D got me LUMET, and from there, the rest was pretty quick-- likely faster than yesterday for me.
To be sure, there's some mediocre fill, but overall, this was a fun solve.

M07S 9:35 AM  

17 entries where the clue or answer had a name in it. Ugh. 16 clues referencing other clues. Double ugh. Sum effect: triple ugh. File 13 material.

efrex 9:37 AM  

Lots of slogging through this one, especially since I'm not a movie person at all. Haven't seen a single one of the movies on the list (or anything by Lumet for that matter), so only ORIENT fell at the first glance. Throw in the O PATRIA MIA thing, and we've got a recipe for disaster. Too-tough cluing for OBI and FAR, and I've never heard of SEINE being anything other than a river in France. Didn't mind OVERMAN, or even AZO, but ELEMIS, ERO, and of course UEY are just junk.

If I were a Lumet fan, I'd probably be thrilled.

Lindsay 9:45 AM  

Glad it's not just curmudgeonly me. Did not like. Never heard of Sidney Lumet. Never seen the movies.

And ELEMIS????? I had ELEneS. Thought this was an opportunity to combine the puzzler's favorite chemical suffix (ene) with a stem to form an actual word!

Crossing with AnC (random letters, right or wrong) & O PATRIA MeA it looked okay. Alas, no.


solasoletta 9:53 AM  

I had Network instead of Serpico. It took me until I got Al Pacino to figure out that it was wrong.

Joe 10:03 AM  

Easy get for the theme but lots of bad fill with bad cluing.

My count for both: 11.

Many already mentioned so I wont get into it.

quilter1 10:19 AM  

Not hard, but I was a little disappointed when I put in ORIENT first, scanned the clues and saw it was movie titles, then got the D for DOG DAY AFTERNOON and hoped it was Dame Agatha Christie and would be a Christie themed puzzle. I knew the movie titles, though never saw any of them. I believe I've seen O PATRIA MIO in a puzzle before.

Hey, constructors, how about an Agatha Christie puzzle.

syndy 10:33 AM  

somehow when I clicked on 4 across the clue for 1 down came up and I filled in ZIGARAT! still my favorite answer! Also had HAYLEY instead of Juliet until SUPE of all things knocked it out! Puzzle goes to show theme density inn"t everything! O PATRIA MIA didn't bother me nearly as much as ORIENT NEWYORK and ANGRY did. Crap fill ate my puzzle! ORGLET:a nude version of an old play!

jackj 10:35 AM  

How nice to have a tribute puzzle to one of the great contemporary film directors, Sidney Lumet.

But, trying to cram so many theme entries into a 15x15 grid diluted the impact and gave the finished puzzle a desperate feel.

It seemed that David Kahn felt he just had to get as much as possible in, (which is too much), but, still, he ignored some of Lumet's greatest films in the process. Where is NETWORK?

SET and LOT as theme answers gave the puzzle a tinge of TV Guide level cluing and should not have been made theme entries.

A for effort; D for end product.

Kurisu 10:41 AM  

I did not like this puzzle. I'm not a film buff so I've never heard of SIDNEY LUMET. The bottom area was just mean. Crossing the director's name with ELEMIS and ISAK is bad enough, but then having JULIETS, OPATRIA, and NEWYORK all on top of each other crossing PRINCE OF THE CITY made that section impossible for me without googling. GRIFFITH and AL PACINO were the only theme answers I had heard of. For me this had the most Natick squares I've ever seen in a puzzle. I can't remember being as frustrated by a puzzle since that Tinkers/Evers/Chance one from a few years ago.

Then even outside the theme there was ugly stuff like UEY, AZO, ISAK, and NOLO.

Just ugh.

Kurisu 10:44 AM  

Also I definitely had OILIEST for 18A -- I couldn't figure out why SOON was "Planted"; I only realized the mistake when I came here.

David 10:51 AM  

slow start, with ROOM for RUNA, DOTISH for DOTING, but esp. SER for REL, which threatened to make this is a long slog, as it hid SERPICO, and thus PRINCE OF THE CITY. Fortunately the first 2 write-overs were very quick, and once I got WILIEST for WIRIEST I blasted thru the puzzle. About 7 minutes, a bit better than my Wed. average (I was at least a full minute slower than avg on Mon. and Tues.)

20A (Murder on the ORIENT Express) was the first clue I saw when I printed this off, and I was thinking an Agatha Christie puzzle, which might've been fun. Only movie I never heard of was FAIL SAFE, but that is a common enough term, so wasn't tough.

There is a beautiful PAGODA in the city of Reading PA, next to where I live, and I was there just this past week. It was featured in the "other" Avatar movie, based on the cartoon series, not the megahit that has been panned here over the last few days. From what I've read it was a horrible flick.

Two Ponies 11:05 AM  

I knew all but one of the movies but not the director. I just don't follow that sort of thing. Very unfortunate that getting his last name depended on such an obscure word as elemis. I mean, c'mon!
One for the circular file.

mac 11:14 AM  

This one wasn't hard to me, just not smooth with the hopping down to the lower part. I expect to do my early/midweek puzzles NW to SW...

Azo and elemis I consider crosswordese, bronze for tanned was somehow hard to get! I liked the symmetry of set and lat, and don't understand the dislike of "New York" as the answer to 68A.

All in all, perfectly fine as a tribute to Sidney. Haven't seen them all, but it almost feels as if I have.

@Greene: I can't even imagine seeing those two films in a row...

mac 11:15 AM  

That is: set and lot.

castrus. I was born in Castricum.

Sparky 11:23 AM  

@CoffeeLvr. I, too, hate UEY and its variants. Never heard anyone call the Super the SUPE. Hand up for ROOM. I thought PBA was Patrolmen's Benevolent Assoc. A Police Union being a Strike force. My father was a cop.

On the other hand, caught on to Sidney Lumet quickly. Huge coverage in Times obits and articles. And, quite a few comments about him on the day here on the blog.

Had nicky knacky errors: F-R/DAN-E, RE-/WI-IEST, RU-A/ER-O (which I should memorize as it will come up again). Am put off by so much cross cluing but suppose with this kind of theme it is necessary unless the subject did only short title works.

Happy Wednesday one and all.

Fair is Fair Fare 11:47 AM  


I won't urge you to see Schindler's List if you don't ask me to appreciate The Simpsons.


CoolPapaD 11:58 AM  

I can't believe everyone - seriously! When I went to sleep last night, I was so happy to have completed this, and enjoyed every minute it took (there were about 45 of those). Great director, great movies, and challenging grid. I thought this was going to be one of those blog-days where the gushing didn't stop. This is one tough crowd!

Mel Ott 12:01 PM  

Let's see. Proper names yesterday. Movie theme today. Tomorrow's just gotta be a better day.

Not a big opera buff, but for some reason O PATRIA MIA was a gimme. One of those random bits of information that just stuck someplace in my brain, I s'pose.

I don't know about elsewhere, but I think that in NEW YORK that guy who takes care of an apartment building is called a SUPER, not a SUPE.

Rube 12:07 PM  

In the light of day, I realize that being out of touch with civilization for the last two weeks was probably why I missed all the news coverage of Sidney Lumet's demise. It's often the obits of show biz people that I learn of their existence, e.g. Mary Murphy who played opposite Brando in "The Wild One" and who's obit appeared yesterday.

Didn't anyone else want "bag" for "Bean holder"?

Anonymous 12:19 PM  

i'm probably on my own here...if memory serves, i was underwhelmed by schindler's list and had trouble staying awake...becuase of the subject matter and hype i felt like i had to like it...reminded me of shakespeare in HS english...snore...

speaking of films i felt like i was supposed to like..don't get me started on titanic.

it was fun discovering all those movies that i do remember fondly came from one person - hats off to mr. lumet.

- deion

captiva - CROMEN - slang for the missing links

Two Ponies 12:28 PM  

@ Rube, I didn't think of bag but considered hat for a moment.

Kurisu 12:41 PM  

@Sparky: I thought it was the policemen also; hearing "PBA lawyer" many times in Law and Order made me think of that.

I was happy I had done this puzzle when I opened this week's Chronicle of Higher Education puzzle and saw "O Patria ____" as a clue.

John V 1:22 PM  

My candidate for best line from, "Dog Day Afternoon": Pacino: "Kiss me". Have to see the film to see why. VERY highly recommended, IMHO.

KarenSampsonHudson 1:25 PM  

Agree 100%, Rex. No natural flow to this one---forced clues, bad fill, rather irking to complete.
A for effort, much lower grade for content.

John V 1:27 PM  

Actually, search here for "Kiss Me" quote:

Rex Parker 1:28 PM  

Or, you know, just play the clip I posted.

jberg 1:32 PM  

Gotta learn the Greek alphabet (as opposed to just knowing the letters); I had two writeovers at 45A, PSI and CHI before PRELAW (not a field of study, I agree) gave me PHI.

My experience with this puzzle was more path-dependent than usual. First, I got DOG DAY AFTERNOON early, then TREE soon after (though I did want ORAL first- no one else?), and said 'hmmm - FT across, FT down - is there a movie of Death in the Aftenoon? Fortunately it didn't fit - nor did my latter attempt to put in PRINCE OF TIDES after I had more crosses at the top. I had heard a lot about LUMET when he died, but I never know which directors made which movies unless they are Ingmar Bergman, Woody Allen, or maybe Orson Welles.

Similarly, I don't know actresses, and by the time I got to 61A I already had AXIAL, BRONZE, and SUPE, so I was looking for it to start with a Q. Too short for Quentins, and I couldn't think of anything else; but JON Stewart was unmistakable, so that straightened me out.

I don't usually know the names of arias either, except Mil y Tre in Don Giovanni, but had enough crosses to make it obvious - given the plot, Aida is obviouly going to sing something like that.

A quibble with 36A though; seems to me that if you are BRONZE then you are tan; if you are tanned, then you are BRONZEd.

Never saw AZO; caught many a minnow with a SEINE; neither bothered me.

Matthew G. 1:38 PM  

I've heard the name SIDNEY LUMET and knew he was a director, of course, but before solving this puzzle I couldn't have named any films he directed. That said, this was still pretty easy because I'd heard of most of the films, even if I didn't know who directed them.

I still don't like tribute puzzles, although I think this was better than the Liz Taylor tribute by a larger margin than Rex gives it credit for. Rather than approaching it as a SIDNEY LUMET puzzle, I approached it as a names-of-movies puzzle, and it worked well enough for me on that level.

My only real gripe is with OVERMAN, which is a b.s. word when clued that way. It would still be a terrible clue if there were no other way to clue it, but a nice Nietzsche clue could have solved the constructor's problems here.

Oh, and yeah, GRIFFITH and ELEMIS stink too. That's true. Otherwise, I guess I liked this better than most.

John V 1:39 PM  

@Rex, hadn't played the clip, sorry 'bout that.

imsdave 1:51 PM  

Re: "Schindler's List" - took me two nights to watch, and my wife would not join me for the second night. Terribly depressing, but brilliant film making.

I liked the puzzle a bit better than most, just because I am sad to see this giant gone from our world.

Agree with Greene that you should see "Twelve Angry Men" first. It speaks to his whole career.

Masked and Anonymous 2:12 PM  

You folks are missin' some great flix, if you haven't seen the ones listed in this puz. Thought it was a pretty decent tribute, considering how quick it might have been rushed into production. Thumbs up.

I of course was suckered into Room temperature at 26-D. Fave clue was a tie between "butterfly wrapping?" and "strike force?: Abbr." Way to spice up the 3-pointers.

william e emba 2:32 PM  

AZO dye and Nobel-prize winner ISAK Denisen are both common enough crosswordese. Don't bother griping--just memorize them.

I have no issues with D W GRIFFITH being in the puzzle--he is famous as one of the earliest great directors, so any link with LUMET, however tenuous, is fine by me.

I highly recommend the original novel FAIL SAFE. I also highly recommend the original "novel" Schindler's List. In neither case have I seen the film.

(My usual irritation with the NYT bias towards the film version does not apply here, since Fail Safe is here as part of the LUMET tribute, and the Schindler clue did not mention book or film.

I very rarely find a puzzle unpleasant (once every three or four months), but yes, this one was dull. Michael Jackson and Liz Taylor were absolutely unavoidable, but like some others here, I did not even here the news LUMET had died. (And while Al Hirschfeld was not important enough to warrant a NYT tribute puzzle, the Nina gag was a unique opportunity.)

Anonymous 2:35 PM  

I didn't like the style of moviemaking in Schindler's List. But, I saw it on Christmas day on a gigantic movie screen in San Francisco. The huge theatre was sold out. If you didn't have advance tickets, you couldn't go. I am not Jewish and it was one of the only times I had not spent the holiday with family. It was exciting to participate in the Christmas movie tradition I had always heard about -- especially for that particular movie.

I enjoyed the puzzle because Sydney Lumet and his movies are on the outer date range of what I am aware of, movie-age wise. So I knew them, but they weren't totally obvious, except for Serpico and Dog Day Afternoon.

JenCT 2:49 PM  

@Sparky: I'm with you on UEY, SUPE, and PBA! We've never, never called the Super "SUPE" - that's just stupid.

Didn't like PRELAW (how is that a "field?") or ONE for Wedded.

Can we agree to disagree on "must-see" movies??? That's like arguing religion, politics, or music...

Nighthawk 3:06 PM  

"Or, you know, just play the clip I posted." RP.

Wry and hilarious.

Agree that this was a bit too chock full of references to LUMET, but I actually liked that it was a bit overstuffed.

Sure, some clunky fill, but I want to give Mr. Kahn plenty of leeway for the theme density.

Hand up for Room before RUN A. SERPICO and FIX ON were other stumpers for me.

treedweller 3:06 PM  

I used to think "UHF" with "Weird" Al was a must-see movie, but several people I encouraged to watch it persuaded me otherwise. I still like it, if only for the dire straits/beverly hillbillies video.

Glitch 3:07 PM  


Kinda like the saying *For a fat lady you don't sweat much"?

Rushing a puzzle to publication, tribute or not, just to tie in to some [relatively] current event is no excuse for a lower quality.

AFAIK Will is not responsible to the News Desk.

*Tributes* are fine, but perhaps should be limited to events (e.g. Holidays, Moon Landing, Pompeii, etc.) with enought lead time to allow *polishing* to the level expected.

Other than the awsome Election Day offering, I'm at a loss to name one *tribute puzzle* that wasn't defended with that qualifier.


sanfranman59 3:22 PM  

Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation of my method):

All solvers (median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Wed 12:11, 11:46, 1.04, 64%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Wed 6:33, 5:48, 1.13, 82%, Challenging

CoffeeLvr 3:31 PM  

@CoolPapaD, you are so right, this is a very tough crowd. That's why I favor this blog over WordPlay.

BTW, I figured out how I lost my first post early this morning. If you use a Blogger Identity, at least through a Google account, sometimes (unpredictably) Blogger takes you to another screen and demands your password. I didn't recognize what was going on, didn't enter PW and lost the post. Next time I was more alert. I am posting this info in the hopes of helping others, but I am not sure it makes any sense.

chefwen 3:38 PM  

I'm with @David L and @joho with this one. Can't stand it when I have to keep jumping around. See 23A no see 58A, wait, look over here, no look down there. AARGH! Got the puppy done but if made me cranky.

Don't know how a knew ELEMIS right off the git go, I thought it was from X-word puzzles.

Shout out to my husband JON (he hates that expression) at 61D.

Masked and Anonymous II 3:50 PM  

Arguing about crosswords and our comments is kinda like arguing about "religion, politics, or music", (and movies) I reckon. But...
Viva the blogginess of it all, y'all!

Doc John 4:15 PM  

Not much to add to what's already been said.
Just this:
I can understand the My Cousin Vinny thing (although it is funny- worth it just to see Herman Munster ask "what's a yoot?") but Schindler's List is a must-see. Spielberg definitely deserved his Oscar for that one.

Bob Kerfuffle 4:24 PM  

@CoffeeLvr - Not sure how universal this is, but I find that for my first post of the day Blogger does not have my identity in the comment box, and I used to have to go through re-entering my password etc., but now I just click on Preview instead of Publish Your Comment, and then the comment appears, and my ID is in the Comment box, so I can click the box to have further comments sent to my email.

retired_chemist 4:29 PM  

Late to the party. What everybody said.

In case you care, you can find out what azo dyes are (sort of) by Googling the term. They have the structure Ar-N=N-Ar' (Ar is some aromatic part structure) and are intensely colored. What Ar and Ar' are determines the color, which varies enormously. Since all are synthesized by pretty much the same reaction(s), they are generally simple to make. This easy, cheap set of dyes in fact greatly accelerated development of the chemical industry in England and Germany in the latter half of the nineteenth century, which makes them of historical as well as ecomomic importance.

Did anyone else try PRINCE OF THEIVES @ 7D? Looked right and I was sure of REBA, so I was seduced into the misspelling THEIVES. Got it right when 68A had to be NEW YORK.

Not much wrath today, Mr. Kahn. Thanks.

quilter1 4:43 PM  

OK, that's two votes for an Agatha Christie puzzle, zero votes against, motion carried. Now, who???

mac 5:41 PM  

@quilter1: Aye!

Lois 6:22 PM  

Loved the puzzle.

Stephen 8:19 PM  

PBA is pretty limp. The clever misdirection in the clue does not make up for the fact that the answer is just plain non-compelling. I'd want to hear the constructor confirm that that was the acronym he wanted. Way blah.

I have heard SUPE before. Dumb word, but I've heard it once or twice in the wild.

I had oILIEST and SOoN. I stared at the "planted" clue for a long time, and then decided the answer was "SO ON", which is interpretable as the modern exaggerative form of being firmly attached to something. I thought it was pretty clever to take an obvious 4-letter word and disguise it as two less-obvious 2-letter words. WILIEST was maybe even more clever, though.

I loved ONE for "wedded". Sorry JenCT.

Gotta whinge about the grammar in: "No matter what you choose for me is fine" (the clue for 8-Down). The answer is fine, but the clue is garblespeak worthy only of G W Bush. The better sentence "Whatever you choose for me is fine" has a noun phrase for a subject, and "is fine" for a predicate. But "No matter what you choose" is an adverbial phrase; it can't stand as a subject!

GLR 8:39 PM  


I think you have a good point on the clue for 8D. I think it would work if it were "No matter. What you choose for me is fine."

CFXK 8:43 PM  

Actually thought PBA was great. The clue was spot on but not at all obvious until one got the answer. Do I hear a prejudice against middle America where the PBA is a force to be reckoned with?

Speaking of regional and movie prejudices, and in solidarity with the South, I'm now measuring my solve time against my grits cooking time.

Thank God my car has positraction in case I need to make a quick get-away.

Kurisu 9:39 PM  

After doing the LA Times puzzle from today I can at least say one good thing about this puzzle -- it doesn't contain the "word" WEBIFY.

sanfranman59 10:04 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio, the higher this week's median solve time is relative to the average for the corresponding day of the week.

All solvers (this week's median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Mon 5:56, 6:52, 0.86, 5%, Easy (5th lowest median solve time of 99 Mondays)
Tue 8:30, 8:55, 0.95, 44%, Medium
Wed 12:20, 11:46, 1.05, 66%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:12, 3:40, 0.87, 5%, Easy (ditto)
Tue 4:11, 4:35, 0.91, 23%, Easy-Medium
Wed 6:20, 5:48, 1.09, 79%, Medium-Challenging

Sfingi 10:27 PM  

Found this easy, but odd.

Had "sin" for REL. Shouldn't have. Kahn wanted an abbrev.

@Princess K - in our family Philo is Pre-Everything.

@Davko - Agree; and so few have seen The Pawnbroker. The gasp and moan of the audience when he...no I won't ruin it. I think it helps to be older to see the whole expanse of Lumet's work. He had the sort of impact on all media that followed that as each film moves back in time, it appeared to be obvious. Further, he was not stuck in one style.

@Rube - Hubster says Nolo Contendere is used in Federal Court, and it would be the attorney referring to it out of court, as in, "He pled to a Nolo."

@Greene - haha.

Didn't like UEY and SUPE is stupe, but we've had a lot of this stuff before.

Speaking of Rubik, has anyone seen the Megaminx Duodecahedron?

@Kartuffle - yes, it always helps to preview first - and early and often.

william e emba 11:13 PM  

I have seen LUMET's The Pawnbroker (way back when, on TV, so the nudity was removed, not that I knew any better) and have not read the novel it was based on. And the film is as powerful and impressive as everyone says it is.

Pythia 11:47 PM  

Love the puzzle. Late ... still, for the record:

--Dear DJK, great job of cramming in all that theme material and finding decent nontheme entries around it
--Dear WS, thanks for running this; an example of a puzzle that surely will appeal to NYT subscribers as well as to those who fit the profile

xyz 9:11 PM  

Absolute cr*p puzzle. Splits are just so annoying and yield nothig.

One major gripe as a Doc

You RUN A FEVER (sometimes)

But NYT Medical related clues are all very disappointing anyway, why should I ever expect better. Shame on you Will.

NotalwaysrightBill 9:25 AM  

Syndi-late solver.

Got it despite scads of stuff I wouldn't have even guessed at if it weren't for the crosses.

OVERMAN sounds like it would be a legitimate Human Resources term if "overstaff" weren't so much likelier to be used in today's business world instead. So it never gets used. So it sucks.

Kind of a yawn of a puzzle, but the discussion here has made me think a little bit anyway. Schindler's List is the only movie as great as it is that I've never wanted to watch ever again. And I've wondered at myself over that for a few years. But now I don't care; so that's good, right?

Deb 3:22 PM  

Glad to see so many others dislike cross-referenced clues. Ugh, ugh, UGH! Somehow though I managed to finish this one in my usual "medium Wednesday" time without bothering to look at the cross-references... which makes me feel like sticking my tongue out at constructors who favor this building block and shout "Neener, neener, neeeeener, you can't make ME run willy-nilly around your dastardly grid!"

Waxy in Montreal 5:10 PM  

Thought the theme-related answers were a great paean to a superb director, Sidney Lumet, but the rest of the puzzle was just a pain.

@NotalwaysrightBill, you're certainly right about "overman". As a manager for over 30 years in the public sector, we were sometimes overstaffed, never overmanned. Ugh!

And slip me into the OILIEST/SOON camp as well.

Captcha=dergospi, first four books of the German New Testament?

Red Valerian 6:14 PM  

I'm with those who don't like cross-referenced clues, or at least I didn't like them in this case. I solve on paper, which must make it easier, but it's still ugh.

I'm even more with those who thought 8D was nonsense! I very briefly considered IMdumb.

Got Naticked at the M in ELEMIS and AMC. If the latter had been clued as "Gremlin maker," I would have got it. (I guess 'C,' so DNF.

Interestingly, the first thing that comes up at Google for "elemis" is a British skincare/spa company. Apparently, elemis smell nice. urk.

Thought 11A was looking for an abbreviation, but I guess "stat" is common enough not to signal that.

Loved the 60A clue "butterfly wrapping," and thought 34A "Cubic Rubik" was cute, though the answer is crosswordese.

SEINE wasn't a problem for me, but only because I think of the ships that use them as seiners.

Took ages to get RUNA at 26D.

Captcha: boless... not worth diddley.

Dirigonzo 7:58 PM  

So the director was not SonNEY LaMoT? Rats - DNF on a Wednesday; that hasn't happened in a while.

@Red Valerian - "Gremlin Maker" = AMC; love it. Didn't they make the Pacer, too? I think now I know why AMC (the car manufacturer) is no longer around.

lodsf 4:39 PM  

(syndi+1). A third vote for an Agatha Christie puzzle from syndication land. This one. . . not a movie 'buff' -- see some, miss others -- and this was a Wednesday DNF for me.

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