Art supplies since 1903 / TUE 10-13-15 / Looney Tunes character with strong Southern accent / Ali G portrayer Baron Cohen / Back to Future hero Marty

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Constructor: Patrick Berry

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: —  both words of two-part names and phrases occupy same space in grid (so you have to read the Across twice to get the full answer). The two parts mostly share letters, and where they don't, two letters share the same square, with the letter from the first part coming first in the Down cross, and the letter in the second part coming second. So with HERMAN'S HERMITS, the answer is HERM--S ... then just write "A" and "N" in the top halves of the remaining two boxes, respectively, and "I" and "T" in the bottom halves. This will make the Downs make sense.

Theme answers:
  • CRAYOLA / CRAYONS (17A: Art supplies since 1903)
  • FOGHORN / LEGHORN (18A: Looney Tunes character with a strong Southern accent)
  • CHARLIE / CHAPLIN (39A: Director with three films on A.F.I.'s list of 100 greatest movies, all of them silent)
  • HERMAN'S / HERMITS (41A: "I'm Henry VIII, I Am" band)
  • LILLIAN / HELLMAN (63A: "The Little Foxes" playwright)
  • WASHING / MACHINE (66A: Laundromat feature)
Word of the Day: LILILAN HELLMAN (63A: "The Little Foxes" playwright) —
Lillian Florence "Lilly" Hellman (June 20, 1905 – June 30, 1984) was an American dramatist and screenwriter known for her success as a playwright on Broadway, as well as her left-wing sympathies and political activism. She famously was blacklisted by the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) at the height of the anti-communist campaigns of 1947–52. Although she continued to work on Broadway in the 1950s, her blacklisting by the American film industry caused a precipitous decline in her income during which time she had to work outside her chosen profession. [...] Hellman's reputation suffered after her veracity was attacked by Mary McCarthy during a 1980 appearance on The Dick Cavett Show. Hellman sued McCarthy for libel. It was revealed that Hellman's popular memoirs such as Pentimento were rife with errors, but that the "Julia" section of Pentimento, which had been the basis for the Oscar-winning 1977 movie of the same name, likely was a fabrication based on the life of Muriel Gardiner. Martha Gellhorn joined McCarthy in the attack on Hellman's veracity, showing that Hellman's remembrances of Gellhorn's ex-husband Ernest Hemingway and the Spanish Civil War were wrong. Tagged with the onus of being an unrepentant Stalinist by the staunchly anti-Stalinist McCarthy and others, Hellman remains a divisive figure of American letters. (wikipedia)
• • •

This is wonderful, but it doesn't feel like a "New Idea." It feels like a nice Thursday puzzle that is dressed up in kids' clothes. Words are all really easy and common, so that's Tuesday, but the concept ... isn't. Nice to introduce early-week solvers to the idea of the wacky rebus-type puzzle. But if the idea is to do things that have "never been done before" (and it is), then it's hard to see how this puzzle, good as it is, fits.

This is definitely a puzzle that works better if you solve on paper. My sofware can put both letters in the same square, but it can't put one on top of the other. That is possibly the most interesting thing I have to say about this puzzle. The difficulty was *entirely* in figuring out how to write in the Downs that crossed the double-letter squares. Everything else was vanilla. I always pause at DO-SES because I can't remember if it's "W" or "U." I thought MANETS might be MONETS, of course. Uh ... yeah, honestly, that's all I got. It's a very clever concept, but once you've explained it, there's not much else to say. Non-theme stuff is just too plain. If anyone gets stuck in this thing, it'll probably be in the tiny latter section of HERMAN'S HERMITS. I know them, but did Not know they sang "I'm Henry VIII, I Am," so until I figured out that that was a theme answer, I didn't know what to do there. BOAT seemed like a reasonable answer to [36D: Fisherman's purchase] (BAIT). But ultimately, all was gettable.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. Peter Noone once wrote me hate mail. He thought I had slagged on him and his band. He'd confused me with one of my commenters. Surprise.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Where Picture A might be found / MON 10-12-15 / 1994 sci-fi film turned into series on Showtime / Wrinkle-reducing injection / Navy's gridiron rival

Monday, October 12, 2015

Constructor: Patrick Merrell

Relative difficulty: Easy (under 2:30, and w/o the pictures!)

THEME: a spoonerism letter-switch thing, with pictures — so I guess there is some NURSERY RHYME that contains the phrase "A POCKET FULL OF RYE" (which is depicted in Picture A) and then if you switch the "P" and "R" you get (sound-wise) ROCKET FULL OF PIE (which is depicted in Picture B):

Word of the Day: "STARGATE" (5D: 1994 sci-fi film turned into a series on Showtime) —
Stargate (French: Stargate, la porte des ├ętoiles) is a 1994 French-American[3] adventure science fiction film released through Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) and Carolco Pictures. Created by Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich, the film is the first release in the Stargate franchise. Directed by Roland Emmerich, the film stars Kurt Russell, James Spader, Jaye Davidson, Alexis Cruz, Mili Avital, and Viveca Lindfors. The plot centers on the premise of a "Stargate", an ancient ring-shaped device that creates a wormhole enabling travel to a similar device elsewhere in the universe. The film's central plot explores the theory of extraterrestrial beings having an influence upon human civilization. // The film had a mixed initial critical reception, earning both praise and criticism for its atmosphere, story, characters, and graphic content. Nevertheless, Stargate became a commercial success worldwide. Devlin and Emmerich gave the rights to the franchise to MGM when they were working on their 1996 film Independence Day, and MGM retains the domestic television rights. The rights to the Stargate film are owned by StudioCanal, with Lions Gate Entertainment handling most distribution in international theatrical and worldwide home video releases, although Rialto Pictures handles domestic distribution under license from StudioCanal. (wikipedia)
• • •

Well I blithely downloaded and solved this and had no idea what "Picture A" meant. I figured it would be explained in some later clue. I went on to solve the puzzle in 2:28. That is only a few seconds away from my record—and this grid is 16 wide!? I never even saw the other theme clues. I just wrecked this thing. I am always happy to be superfast because it makes me feel like Hercules, but I probably shouldn't be able to lay waste to an extra-wide puzzle without even looking at the theme clues, let alone grasping the theme. A more visible note on the homepage would've been nice. I finally noticed there was a little yellow "note" symbol in my AcrossLite program, so I clicked on it and saw that I was supposed to go to a different URL to download a .PDF or something. I just went back to the NYT puzzle page and got the official grid from the applet there. My feeling is that this is some wordplay and Patrick is a good cartoonist, but it's just a very tiny bit of wordplay and you can't really tell how good a cartoonist Patrick is from the equally tiny pictures (here: go buy his wonderful cartoon / puzzle book, "Zep, in the Curse of the Evil Dr. Sumac Who Lives Next Door"). Further, the rest of the puzzle was barely there. It's clean and smooth (LOL on the entirely accurate LOSER clue, 64A: Put-down from Donald Trump), but it felt slight, and my lightning time suggests that the "New Idea" here (this is the NYT's "New Ideas Week," I'm told...) was not really integral. More superficial / decorative. I can see how adding pictures to the grid could be cool, though. I'm all for it, if a. they seem to matter, and b. I get a better heads-up that the downloaded puzzle isn't going to be able to handle the pictures.

One question: why is the grid 16 wide? It's not like POCKET FULL OF RYE (the "A"-less version) would've been excessively opaque. Maybe there just needed to be more white space, since the pictures took up so much real estate. Just wondering out loud ... anyway, gotta go work on a new crossword project that I'll be unveiling later today. A group project. It's gonna be fun.


Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. Solve the debut BuzzFeed crossword by Neville Fogarty
P.P.S. Read about BuzzFeed crossword, and indie crosswords, every day at the new blog, "New Grids on the Block." (Core Contributors: Lena Webb, Ben Johnston, Peter Broda, Erin Milligan-Milburn, and me)

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


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