Dancing Years composer Novello / THU 12-27-12 / Tito's surname / Balneotherapy locale / Output from old printer / 2001 French film nominated for five Academy Awards / Oenophile's installation
Thursday, December 27, 2012
Constructor: Julian Lim
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: Literal beginnings — theme answer are familiar phrases where first part of the phrase is a word or prefix that can suggest a part of a larger whole. This first word or prefix is understood literally, resulting in clues that looks like all-caps words but are simply parts of the words in the second halves of the theme answers.
Word of the Day: Josip BROZ Tito (38A: Tito's surname) —
Marshal Josip Broz Tito (Serbo-Croatian pronunciation: [jɔ̌sip brɔ̂ːz tîtɔ]; born Josip Broz; Cyrillic: Јосип Броз Тито; 7 May 1892 – 4 May 1980) was a Yugoslav revolutionary and statesman, serving in various roles from 1945 until his death in 1980. While his presidency has been criticized as authoritarian,due to his successful economic and diplomatic policies, Tito was "seen by most as a benevolent dictator," and was a popular public figure both in Yugoslavia and abroad. Viewed as a unifying symbol, his internal policies successfully maintained the peaceful coexistence of the nations of the Yugoslav federation. He gained international attention as the chief leader of the Non-Aligned Movement, working with Jawaharlal Nehru of India and Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt. (wikipedia)
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This theme is easy to understand but difficult to describe succinctly. It's a cryptic-ish type theme of a variety that I've definitely seen before. It also falls under the theme category "clue-answer reversal" (i.e. the clues are really the answers to the cryptic clues, which are found in the grid—we solve the problem backwards). I don't think the theme coheres very well. Two answers give you a precise *half* answer (FIN, SON), where the other two just give you completely arbitrary parts (TIN, LIP). At least with WRITING there isn't any viable option other than TIN. With ECLIPSE there at least three others besides LIP. If the theme is a bit stale and, let's say, less than taut, the grid is pleasantly spicy, with impressive NE/SW corners, and lots of vivid answers like HARDCORE, AVENUE Q (5D: Hit Broadway musical with the song "I'm Not Wearing Underwear Today"), SPAMALOT, and WOODCUT (23A: Output from an old printer). There are some bumps here and there (EXALLY more and more terrible the longer you stare at it, and BROZ looks like the title of a terrible buddy comedy, or the commercial name under which you might market bras for men), but overall I'd say the fill is pretty accomplished.
I would be shocked to hear that the AMARE did not originally have a basketball clue. AMARÉ Stoudemire is a huge basketball star (literally, he's huge—6'11"), and he's a New York Knick, which means he should be pretty dang familiar to solvers in the NYT's main base of operations (i.e. NYC). But instead we get fusty Latin (I mean, I love Latin, but this isn't one of your more interesting, or commonly known, Latin words—not in the infinitive, anyway) (22A: To love, to Livy). I like the combo of old school and new school illustration in the pairing of WOODCUT and INKER (51A: One working on some panels). I'm teaching both 17th-century literature and Comics next semester, so I'll likely have occasion to talk about both these terms. I was slow out of the box on this one, largely because it took me a ridiculously long time even to see the gimme at 3D: Hoi ___ (POLLOI). No idea what my eyes were doing. They were everywhere else but there, and I was failing left and right to get any traction. Once I grokked the theme and settled in, things eased up, and I ended with a fairly normal Thursday time.
- 20A: U.S./Canadian sporting grp. since 1936 (AHL) — I had N.H.L. Seemed reasonable.
- 2001 French film nominated for five Academy Awards ("AMÉLIE") — gimme. Never seen it, but I can see the movie poster in my head clear as day. The title has become something of a crossword staple, for obvious, vowelly reasons.
- 37A: Balneotherapy locale (SPA) — I saw three letters and the word "therapy" and just guessed SPA. I'm assuming "balneotherapy" has something to do with having your face rubbed with baleen or some such nonsense. (actually, it just means the treatment of disease by bathing)
- 40A: Rapper behind the 2012 "Gangnam Style"YouTube sensation (PSY) — it was just a matter of time before this guy made the grid. His rise to "fame" was so fast that he was on SNL before I'd ever even heard of him. Within two weeks I couldn't stop hearing about him, or hearing parodies of him, etc. Hyper media saturation.
- 50A: Oenophile's installation (RACKS) — pretty sure I had CASKS here at first. You'd have to Really love wine...
- 22D: Designer of the Tulip Chair (SAARINEN) — Yay for the EERO-less SAARINEN.
- 60A: Quarters in Québec? (ÉTÉS) — wanted "quarters" to mean "living spaces." Took me a few seconds to understand this clue even after I got the answer.
- 8D: "The Dancing Years" composer Novello (IVOR) — I think this was the first thing I put in the grid. This is sad, and shows you how deep my knowledge of crosswordese runs.
We're snowed in here. Going a bit stir crazy with everyone home from school and off of work and stuck inside. Gonna go shovel some snow now even though it's now after 11pm. Stay warm. See you tomorrow.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld