NBC parent beginning in 2011 / THU 10-2-14 / Nickname for Fogell in Superbad / Parallel Lives writer / Gloucester haul

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Constructor: David Woolf

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: E = MC … squared — Puzzle about Albert EINSTEIN (19A: 20th-century figure with a famous 56-Across represented literally six times in this puzzle) and his most famous EQUATION (56A: See 19-Across), which relates to his theory of RELATIVITY (26D: Subject explored by 19-Across), which probably has something to do with his having won the NOBEL PRIZE (9D: Recognition received by 19-Across) in Physics (1921).

Word of the Day: MR. SUN (33A: He's asked to "please shrine down on me," in song) —
Uh … this? 

• • •

This is very nicely done. I like that every "E" in the grid is involved in the equation/rebus. I like that every "E" in the grid is actually in a longer theme answer. And I like the way the "squared" part of the equation is represented visually by the fact that the E and the MC are inside a single "square." Also, for a pangram, the fill isn't terrible. It's not great, but I've seen grids tortured in pursuit of alphabetic completion, and this one's really no worse than your average NYT grid (which, true, hasn't meant much of late, despite recent laughable claims that fill standards have risen in recent years) (side note: always a classy move to throw the constructor under the bus). The main thing to focus on here is the theme, which is Thursday-worthy and expertly executed. One could quibble that the E/MC directions are not consistent (i.e. sometimes E is the Across letter, sometimes E is the Down), but you could counter that quibble by noting that the puzzle maintains consistency by having all the "E"s appear in the long themers, whatever direction they're headed. And counter-quibbler you would have the stronger argument.

  • COMCAST (21A: NBC parent beginning in 2011) — Hit a late snag with this one, as I wrote in NOBEL PRIZE off just the -IZE, but forgot that all "E"s had to be "MC"s in the other direction. So I had the NBC parent as -OEAST. Having no idea what a 21D: Gloucester haul could be (thought SOD … it was COD), I made a confused face for a bit. Then sorted it out.
  • MCLOVIN (31A: Nickname for Fogell in "Superbad") — you ever have one of those moments where you hit a clue and you Know you know that answer, you can picture the answer, you can feel the answer, but you just can't remember the answer, so you peevishly refuse to go on until your aging brain starts behaving again? No? Oh well. Nevermind. 
  • PLUTARCH (44A: "Parallel Lives" writer) — I knew he wrote "Lives." I didn't know they were "Parallel." This clue makes him sound like a rom-com screenwriter.
  • FILM CANON (5D: Most important movies) — probably the biggest stretch, answer-wise, in the grid. But it's got a wikipedia entry (of sorts), so maybe it *is* enough of a thing...
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Violinist Leopold / WED 10-1-14 / Apollo Daphne sculptor / Robert Redford's great 1975 role / Lexicographer James who was OED's first editor

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Constructor: Elizabeth C. Gorski

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: INSIDE DOPE (61A: Lowdown … or a hint to 17-, 24-, 36- and 53-Across) — letter string "DOPE" hidden inside four theme answers:

Theme answers:
  • GRAND OPERA (17A: Genre of Verdi's "J√©rusalem")
  • AVOCADO PEAR (24A: Guacamole base, in British lingo)
  • PRIED OPEN (36A: Used a crowbar on, say)
  • WALDO PEPPER (53A: Robert Redford's "great" 1975 role)
Word of the Day: "The Great WALDO PEPPER" —
The Great Waldo Pepper is a 1975 drama film directed, produced, and co-written by George Roy Hill. Set during 1926–1931, the movie stars Robert Redford as a disaffected World War I veteran pilot who missed the opportunity to fly in combat and his sense of dislocation post-war in the America of the early 1920s. Margot KidderBo SvensonEdward Hermann and Susan Sarandon round out the cast. […]  Leonard Maltin noted that the film disappointed at the box office … (wikipedia)
• • •

Wow, the bulk of this puzzle must've been waaaaay on the easy side, because I finished with a Tuesday-like time despite not having any clue about two of the theme answers (AVOCADO PEAR, WALDO PEPPER). Why would add the "PEAR" part, British people? What other kinds of AVOCADO are you distinguishing it from? Puzzling. As for the Redford movie, you have to be reasonably old and/or a Big fan of Redford (and/or aviation) movies to have heard of that movie, I think. I was alive in 1975, but at six years old, not really the target audience for the Redford movie (I'm guessing). I love doing Liz Gorski puzzles because I know I'm in the hands of a pro. If you're a fan of hers, or if you're just looking for another good easyish (M/T-level) puzzle to do each week, you should really check out her Puzzle Nation puzzles (subscribe here). She is perhaps the only independent constructor I know dedicated to making good Easy puzzles.

This puzzle didn't excite me as much as some of her other puzzles, for a number of reasons. The short fill is too often quite stale and the longer Downs don't have as much character as I'd like (though the NW is pretty decent, and I like the pair of longish Across answers that she manages to squeeze into the grid: BRUCE LEE and LIME TREE—not easy to do in a grid already crowded with five themers). Also, this theme was overly familiar to me. I've seen a version done with INFO (it was a Sunday puzzle actually titled "INSIDE DOPE" from five years back). I then wrote a response-puzzle with a similar title ("Inside Dope, Part 2"), but with a completely different theme (you can get that puzzle here) (or just read about it here). So the theme didn't strike me as original—but I do a ****-ton of puzzles, so that's not that surprising. As an example of its kind (the hidden-word theme), it's nicely done. Only non-theme answers I had trouble with were MURRAY (which I got entirely, albeit quickly, from crosses), BERNINI (whom I confused with Roberto BENIGNI and Brunetto LATINI and whoever BELLINI is simultaneously), and OWLISH (which is … not a word I know) (47D: Studious looking).
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


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