Parsons of old Hollywood gossip / SAT 3-17-17 / Rotating part of tape recorder / Official on Segway / Epitome of completeness / Belbenoit noted escapee from Devil's Island

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Constructor: Roland Huget

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: none

Word of the Day: "LE CID" (46A: Massenet opera) —
Le Cid is an opera in four acts and ten tableaux by Jules Massenet to a French libretto by Louis GalletÉdouard Blauand Adolphe d'Ennery. It is based on the play of the same name by Pierre Corneille.
It was first performed by a star-studded cast at the Paris Opéra on 30 November 1885 in the presence of President Grévy, with Jean de Reszke as Rodrigue. The staging was directed by Pedro Gailhard, with costumes designed by Comte Lepic, and sets by Eugène Carpezat (Act I), Enrico Robecchi and his student Amable (Act II), Auguste-Alfred Rubé, Philippe Chaperon and their student Marcel Jambon (Act III), and Jean-Baptiste Lavastre (Act IV). The opera had been seen 150 times by 1919 but faded from the repertory and was not performed again in Paris until the 2015 revival at the Palais Garnier. While El Cid is not in the standard operatic repertory, the ballet suite is a popular concert and recording piece which includes dances from different regions of Spain. It was specially created by Massenet for the prima ballerina Rosita Mauri. (wikipedia)
• • •
Well that was oddly easy. Tons of white space—the part in the middle looked particularly daunting—but those 15s were easy to get from just a few letters, and gave you (I hope) a foothold in every corner of the grid. Those highly secluded corners (really hate that in a grid design) can be terrifying, but again, the 15s always gave you something to work with. The problem with a grid like this is that, beyond the 15s, nothing was very interesting about it, and a few of those answers, esp. the technical ones (SHEERED?) were kind of unpleasant. It's a pretty clean grid overall. Acceptable, solid stuff. But after the 15s, which were fun, the rest just felt like work, though admittedly the work was pretty light.

Got started in a semi-weird way, I think. Took one look at 1A: Official on a Segway, maybe, and, after ruling out some intensely dumb indoor sports thing (POLO REF?), I thought "Oh, it's some kind of COP. Put in COP, bam, Down goes CLEO, OED *and* PRIORENGAGEMENT (!!).

[so weird, I stopped to take a picture]

Then "What kind of COPs are there ...? MALL!" And sis boom bah the NW corner is done and I'm zooming across the grid with the next 15! (Do not come at me with '90s-era k.d. lang, crossword!)

LOL that I'd remember the name of the captain in "Billy Budd" (VERE), but the crosses were fair, so whatever. I slowed a teeny bit in the center, largely because of DIETETICS, a word I almost never see and definitely could not parse. Had _I_TETI_S and was baffled at how a "science" (21D: Nutrition science) could end with "-I_S." It was only when I realized the first part had to be DIET that DIETETICS (which sounds too much like DIANETICS for me to take seriously) became clear. The reason I had those particular gaps in DIETETICS? I thought the "honor" in 20A: It's an honor (ODE) was an OBE (this is your brain on crosswords); I didn't know if the thing about changing course "at sea" was SHEARED or SHEERED; and I was not parsing "LE CID" at all—thought "LE-ID" was one word (one usually encounters "LE CID" in his infinitely more common Spanish form). But again, done fairly quickly, and 15s again gave me the escalator / elevator help I needed to ascend / descend into the remaining parts of the grid.

It was only the technical stuff that stalled me in any way. CAPSTAN, not a familiar thing to me (8A: Rotating part of a tape recorder). TUMBLER ... I know it *is* a part of a lock, but I honestly couldn't tell you *which* part ("a pivoted piece in a lock that holds the bolt until lifted by a key." ... OK). My favorite part of the solve was getting KNESSET off just the "K" (nice clue) (40D: Mideast diet). Only had a few moments hesitation at the dumb "letteral" clue of the day (where the clue literally points (via a jokey "?" clue) to a letter of the alphabet): 59A: Depot's terminus (SILENT T). Those corners could've been brutal, even with assistance from the 15s, but they just rolled over. I'm not disappointed, exactly. It was all just a bit anti-climactic. 15s good, rest meh. But solid and clean, so that's something.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Restaurant cook on TV's Two Broke Girls / FRI 3-16-18 / Fictional queen of Arendelle / Hepatologist's study / Product introduced in 1984 with ad titled 1984

Friday, March 16, 2018

Constructor: Robyn Weintraub

Relative difficulty: Easy (with a detour into Medium territory because I made one stupid mistake that it took me far too long to undo)

THEME: none

Word of the Day: BEALE Street (42D: Memphis blues street) —
Beale Street is a street in Downtown Memphis, Tennessee, which runs from the Mississippi River to East Street, a distance of approximately 1.8 miles (2.9 km). It is a significant location in the city's history, as well as in the history of the blues. Today, the blues clubs and restaurants that line Beale Street are major touristattractions in Memphis. Festivals and outdoor concerts periodically bring large crowds to the street and its surrounding areas. (wikipedia)
• • •

HEMOPHILIA *and* ULCER *and* HEROIN ... Kind of a downer of a day at Crossword General Hospital. Beyond that, I thought the grid was pretty delightful. Pretty clean, with some interesting, lively answers. There's very, very little in the way of obscurity here, and the whole thing played very easy *except* for the part where I tried to come out of the west into the center / bottom of the grid. I should've just kept going right across the top, swept down the east coast, and then backed into the center and SW corner. In retrospect, that would've been pretty easy. But instead I tried to come through the VEGETARIAN / WINEMAKER nexus and got bogged right down. Why? Well, you kind of need VEGETARIAN and WINEMAKER to catapult or slingshot or other action verb you into the new sections of the grid if you're coming out of the W/NW.

And things looked good. Had VEGE- and WINE-, nice head starts on the front ends of both those answers. So what do I do? Well, first, and worst, I drop VEGETABLES into the grid. This doesn't *quite* feel right, but it fits. And then with WINE-, I ... just don't know. Since the clue is looking for an "authority," I am not not not thinking a wine producer. I'm thinking a wine aficionado, a wine enthusiast, a wine ... lover!? It fits. And that, my friends, is how you drop the ball. Hit the easy overhead smash into the net. Fumble on the five yard line. Again, choose your metaphor. I eventually figured it out (MIKES to -MAKER to MESONS, huzzah!), but given how fast I did the rest of the puzzle, that VEGETABLES fiasco took me from what would've been something like a record time to something like average.

Some of the cluing I could've done without. I have "F.U." written next to 14A: Partner of 5-Across (FREE) (it is not the "partner" of EASY as EASY is defined in its clue, 5A: "Calm down, ace"; so boo) and again at 4D: Where you might hear someone say "Duck!" (POND!? That scenario is preposterous. What are you, hanging out with sheltered 3-year-olds?). Clues on BIDEN (34A: 2017 recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom) and CHARON (44A: Largest moon of Pluto) were just [shrugs]—you gotta be able to do better than boring trivia clues like that. CHARON is the damned ferryman! Do some punning or wordplay or Something. My worst moment of the day (after The VEGETABLES Fiasco) was having -ARDEN at 40D: Make a bed? and having absolutely no idea what word that could be. I still can't see anything but HARDEN, even with GARDEN clearly written in there).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


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