Early Sony recorder / TUE 6-30-15 / 1990s Indian PM / Singer Josh whose self-titled 2001 debut album went 4x platinum

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Constructor: Susan Gelfand

Relative difficulty: Tuesdayish, maybe a tad harder than normal

THEME: famous person does something — noun phrases are reimagined as verb phrases involving famous people of various sorts:

Theme answers:
  • ROCK GARDENS (17A: Comedian cultivates flowers?)
  • POUND SIGNS (23A: Poet inks a contract?)
  • PRICE TAGS (33A: Opera singer scrawls graffiti?)
  • FIELD TRIPS (48A: Actress stumbles?)
  • BACON STRIPS (53A: Philosopher removes his clothes?)
Word of the Day: BETACAM (38D: Early Sony recorder) —
Betacam is a family of half-inch professional videocassette products developed by Sony in 1982. In colloquial use, "Betacam" singly is often used to refer to a Betacam camcorder, a Betacam tape, a Betacam video recorder or the format itself. (wikipedia)
• • •

This felt a bit hack-y, the noun-to-celebrity-name gimmick. ROCK GARDENS in particular seemed really, really familiar. So I did a little archive digging. Actually ROCK GARDEN(S), though it has been used many times, has never been used in a Chris Rock switcheroo theme answer, the way I had imagined. But I knew this basic concept had been done before, possibly to death, so I went after a few more of the theme answers. Then I just searched *POUND* in the cruciverb database and, well, bingo, of sorts. A Monday NYT puzzle from seven years back with the following themers:
  • 18A: Poet Ezra's favorite desserts? (Pound cakes)
  • 4D: Writer Anne's favorite dessert? (Rice pudding)
  • 27D: Writer Jack's favorite entree? (London broil)
  • 62A: Essayist Charles's favorite entree? (Lamb shanks)
Now, it's been seven years, and the theme this time around has a different slant (verb phrases intstead of food types), so, probably no harm done. It's just ... two things. One, I'm quite sure this one example of the theme type is not the only one out there. With more digging, I'd certainly find more. And two ... this earlier puzzle, this food one ... is by the same constructor. She seems to have semi-plagiarized herself, or at least recycled a basic (very basic) wordplay concept that she had used before. I think as a constructor, if you have only one guiding principle, let it be that you don't make lame Ezra Pound jokes twice in your career. Pound me once, shame on me, etc.

In terms of difficulty, it's interesting that this puzzle didn't provide the famous person's first name, the way that 2008 puzzle did. Definitely adds a modicum of difficulty, withholding that name. But providing it, esp. in the case of someone with a name like Leontyne (!), would perhaps have rendered the puzzle too easy. Who knows? My time came out Tuesday-normal, so this cluing seemed fine to me. Fill is OK today—more junk than you want to see, but lots of interesting longer answers in the Downs. I had trouble coming up with both LOSER and POSER, which is probably telling, hopefully to my credit but maybe not from where you're sitting. My only real struggle, though, was in the SW, where I went with BRAVERY and BETAMAX, side by side. Luckily, the wrongness thereof was readily apparent. Finished with the "G" in Josh GROBAN, whom I once saw on the streets of Carmel, CA. This was peak GROBAN (so, like, a decade ago), and man the middle-aged ladies were happy to see him. He wasn't mobbed (Carmel's too sleepy for mobs), but he was, let's say, surrounded. Politely and lovingly surrounded.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Bot that systematically browses internet / MON 6-29-15 / French city historically known for silk / Liesl's love in Sound of Music / Capital of Bangladesh old-style / Boo follower in triumphant shout / 1982 Harrison Ford sci-fi film

Monday, June 29, 2015

Constructor: Todd Gross and Andrea Carla Michaels

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (FOR A MONDAY) (3:11)

THEME: evolutionary succession of some kind

Theme answers:
  • WEB CRAWLER (17A: Bot that systematically browses the Internet)
  • ALICE WALKER (28A: "The Color Purple" novelist)
  • BLADE RUNNER (48A: 1982 Harrison Ford sci-fi film)
  • RADIO FLYER (64A: Classic red wagon)
Word of the Day: LYON (30D: French city historically known for silk) —
Lyon or Lyons [...] is a city in east-central France, in the Rhône-Alpes region, situated between Paris and Marseille. Lyon is located approximately 470 kilometres (292 miles) from Paris, 320 km (199 mi) from Marseille, 420 km (261 mi) from Strasbourg, 160 km (99 mi) from Geneva, 280 km (174 mi) from Turin. The residents of the city are called Lyonnais. // The small municipality (commune) of Lyon proper has a population of 491,268 (January 2011), and as such is France's third largest city after Paris and Marseille, but together with its suburbs and satellite towns Lyon forms the 2nd-largest metropolitan area in France with a population of 2,188,759 at the January 2011 census. Lyon is the capital of the Rhône-Alpes region, as well as the capital of the smaller Rhône département. // The city is known for its historical and architectural landmarks and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Lyon was historically known as an important area for the production and weaving of silk. Since the late 20th century, it has developed a reputation as the capital of gastronomy in France and in the world. // It has a significant role in the history of cinema due to Auguste and Louis Lumière, who invented the cinematographe in Lyon. The city is also known for its famous light festival, 'Fête des Lumières,' which occurs every 8 December and lasts for four days, earning Lyon the title of Capital of Lights. (wikipedia)
• • •

OK I guess. I don't really understand the progression. That is, I see that it goes from earth to sky, but I don't know why—what is being suggested or imitated in that progression? Some vague evolutionary idea, I guess. I don't know. It's a 76-worder and felt a little heavier, a little slower than your average Monday. Fill's not great, but it's also not terrible. I mean besides XCI and YAH and ONEG and DACCA (Mondays should not have to resort to "old-style" anything). Mostly I found this one dull. Not much to say about it. What to say? YAH is not detachable from BOO, no way no how. LYON, in my mind (and in reality, too) has an "S" at the end, so that was tougher than it should've been. ROLF was unknown to me. I know about "The Sound of Music" largely by rumor. I think of "Requisite" as an adjective, so NEED was odd. This dull accretion of solving details is precisely how exciting this puzzle was to me. Adequate. That's what the puzzle is. It's adequate.

I just finished watching "From Here to Eternity" (1953), which features several of today's answers, most notably SERGEANTs and LEIs (it's set in Hawaii in late 1941, and concludes with the attack on Pearl Harbor and its immediate aftermath). The rolling-in-the-surf bit with Deborah KERR and Burt Lancaster takes all of 5 seconds, and it comes early in the movie. Given how iconic that scene is, I expected more. A lot more. More surf-rolling! Instead it was a lot of drinking and men punching each other. I liked it a lot, it's just ... my surf-rolling expectations went unmet. It did cause me to look up Jack Warden because he has one of those "wait I know that guy from everywhere!" faces. Turns out he was the president in "Being There," which I saw earlier this year, and also had Matthau's coach role in the TV version of "The Bad News Bears" (this is *surely* how his face was imprinted onto my brain). Warden used to be a boxer, and "From Here to Eternity" was a lot about boxing. Also, Lancaster's character in "From Here to Eternity" was named Warden. Frank Sinatra and Ernest Borgnine and Montgomery Clift and Donna Reed and Claude AKINS were in it too.

Maybe this theme was supposed to evoke a speech given by MLK (27A: "I have a dream" monogram) at a high school in Cleveland, OH on April 26, 1967 (text and audio here). It is, as usual, eloquent and moving, and it ends like this: "Well, life for none of us has been a crystal stair, but we must keep moving. We must keep going. And so, if you can't fly, run. If you can't run, walk. If you can't walk, crawl. But by all means, keep moving."

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


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