SUNDAY, Nov. 23, 2008 - David J. Kahn (What Ramona wore in a 1966 Chuck Berry song / Onetime political columnist Joseph / Revolutionary 1930s bomber)
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
THEME: "Picture This" - all about Matisse's "Le Bateau" and the fact that it once hung upside-down at a MOMA exhibition for forty-seven days before anyone noticed; circled squares kinda sorta form the outlines of the fluke-like "bateau + reflection" featured in the painting; further, and most impressively, the circled squares spell out SAILBOAT and REFLECTION (so you know which side is up!)
I really liked this puzzle despite the fact that the visual effect is hard to appreciate. Also, partial. There are other elements to the painting (though not many)
I am a big fan of art in general from about the Impressionists to the middle 20th century, but this painting managed to get by me completely. Thought it might be familiar when I looked it up, but no. Another thing that managed to get by me: the term WATER MEDIA (46D: Styles of 25-Across and the like). Will assures me it's a real term, and I believe him, but yikes. Not exactly in common parlance. The rest of the puzzle was a welcome challenge, and a real good time. Impressed by the number and length of the theme answers, and despite some clunker fill here and there, the puzzle is remarkably tight, smooth, and legit overall.
- 23A: Leader of the Fauvist movement (Henri Matisse)
- 25A: Title of a work by 23-Across ("Le Bateau")
- 120A: 25-Across, e.g. (painting)
- 122A: 23-Across, e.g. (French artist)
- 6D: N.Y.C. cultural event (MOMA exhibition)
- 46D: Styles of 25-Across and the like (water media)
- 41D: How 25-Across appeared at a 6-Down in 1961 (upside-down)
- 55D: How long 25-Across was 41-Down before being noticed and fixed (forty-seven days)
47 is also the atomic number for Ag (silver). Saw a silver ring in "Wired" yesterday that was like a class ring, sort of, only it had the "Ag" periodic table square carved into it. It was cool in a very nerdy way. Nerd bling. SCIENCES bling (47A: Academic area). OK, that "47" was a total coincidence. I'm starting to freak myself out now.
There were two particularly rough patches of this puzzle for me. The first was due North. Here's what I wrote in my initial feedback on the puzzle:
Criminy, this was HARD in places. The North in particular, where I stared at four blanks until guessing on ALSOP (10D: Onetime political columnist Joseph) and NEALE (21A: Football Hall-of-Fame coach Greasy _____) (a brutal crossing) and ANTARES (7D: Brightest star in Scorpius) and EARLAP (33A: Winter protection). Those are all Highly unusual, and their intersecting, I'm telling you, is going to make people cry. I somehow pulled ALSOP out of my brain, probably because he'd been in the puzzle. EARLAP still looks like it's missing a letter (namely, "F")I also wrote:
You have "user" in 94A: Cushion user? (bank shot) which I really didn't like and then realized I might persuade you to change by pointing out that "USER" is already an answer (in the plural, 60D: Web browsers => USERS).
That is what we call a "dupe," and sadly, my comments got to him too late (or vice versa) for anything to be done about it. Sometimes, all the king's horses and all the king's men still miss stuff. It happens. Which is why most of the "I can't believe Shortz blah blah blah" indignation sounds so self-righteous and hollow to me. People err. Smart people err. ERR, I say! (it's a perfectly cromulent word)
OK, the other rough patch, and my Last Stand, was the NE (sadly, the place where the name of the damned painting resides). Something about the cluing on WEARABLE just puzzled me (12A: Not useless, as clothing), and I think my brain would not allow me to accept the fact of WALLOPER's existence (12D: Cleanup hitter, e.g.) - the puzzle had already used up its one free Odd Job with THRIVERS (90D: Prospering ones). Actually, there is a short story called "Dock WALLOPER" by Benjamin Appel in an excellent hard-boiled fiction anthology I own (called, I believe, "Hard-Boiled"). Late 90s, Oxford UP. Good stuff. I remember liking the story a lot. Wow ... turns out, it's also the name of a newish comic. How'd I miss that? Must've blinked.
But back to the puzzle. EDUC is short for "education," that I know. But WTF is "H.E.W." (19D: Part of H.E.W.: Abbr.)? O crap, this has been in the puzzle before - Health, Education and Welfare was a Cabinet post, a post now called Health & Human Services. Hasn't been H.E.W. since I was 10. BTEN (17D: Revolutionary 1930s bomber) eluded me even after I got all the letters - "man, that dude's got a really really weird name. How do you even pronounce that?" D'oh! LEAR (18D: Duke of Cornwall's father-in-law, in Shakespeare) was a gimme (thank god), everything else up there felt like it took some effort.
- 1A: Dr. Seuss character with a red hat (Sam I Am) - me: "Cat in the ... no, that's got 'hat' in it ..."
- 27A: Fictional spread (Tara) - wanted (kinda) OLEO
- 36A: Vegetable with yellow pods (wax bean) - looks pretty cool in the grid. Does someone name these things so they will sound as untasty as possible? We had Adzuki bean soup tonight (delicious). Different kind of "bean," I realize.
- 44A: Somewhat reduced (lowish) - well I don't like that.
- 54A: Flying grp. since 1918 (RAF) - British fliers
- 58A: On&On singer Erykah _____ (Badu) - she has such a cool, crossword-sexy name.
- 67A: First name in spydom (Mata) - "spydom" is a great word
- 70A: Suppliers of greetings (card stores) - I should hate this, but do not. Not at all. It's creative.
- 73A: What Ramona wore in a 1966 Chuck Berry song (tight dress) - don't know the song, but I sure want to now. Dang, can't find a single youtube performance. Here's "Maybelline" instead:
- 86A: Stone in a 2008 Olympic medal (jade) - interesting. My Tai Chi instructor (sifu) spent a chunk of the lesson today talking about the opening ceremonies and how her teacher was one of the masters who planned and designed the Tai Chi portion (I missed the ceremonies completely, so have no idea what she was talking about, but maybe some of you saw it).
- 107A: Musical for which Ben Vereen won a Tony ("Pippin") - I know squat about musicals, and yet I knew this. Why? Never saw it. It's just ... in my mind. A bit of trivia. Strange.
- 116A: Big D player (Mav) - nice clue for this common abbreviation of the Dallas basketball team's name
- 117A: Visiting the U.S. capital (in D.C.) - again, creative. I may be IN D.C. in January. Or I may be scared off by the masses.
- 119A: Sportage maker (Kia) - one of my least favorite car names ("Sportage," I mean)
- 129A: Fiber-yielding plant (sisal) - I think I've seen SISAL rugs in various catalogs that white people like.
- 1D: Old term of respect (sahib) - Something about this term just sounds racist. Not sure why.
- 8D: Tiki bar offering (lei) - I had POI
- 13D: Like the earliest Olympic festivals (Elean) - whoa, whoa, whoa ... what? Come on, ELEAN? Sounds like some kind of virtual meat product. Or that Cuban kid. It seems ELIS is a place ... and ELEAN is its adjective. News to me.
- 42D: Kipling short story, with "The" ("Maltese Cat") - Hey, did you hear the one about the Maltese Cat? No, you didn't. The Maltese Falcon ate the Maltese Cat. Avian revenge. This is a roundabout way of saying, "...?"
- 78D: Brad and 86-Down, e.g. (exes) - 86D: See 78-Down (Jen) - this look-here-look-there pair bugged me. Mainly because I could give a @#$#! about tabloid couples (though I do think the "Jen" in question is cute, Way cuter than that other one). I did not, however, have a problem with the here-there pair of VANCE (106D: With 112-Across, Okla. military area) and AFB. Thought that was pretty cool.
- 110D: Bridal path (aisle) - goes nicely with ALTAR (7A: Train stop?)
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld