Jazz Trumpeter Hargrove with two Grammys / FRI 3-24-17 / Novelist Hammond / Bronx Zoo has 265 of them / Bad occasion for anchor to drag / Hybrid business entity / In Luxury Beware painter 1663

Friday, March 24, 2017

Constructor: Michael Hawkins and John Guzzetta

Relative difficulty: Medium



THEME: none 

Word of the Day: Hammond INNES (61A: Novelist Hammond ___) —
Ralph Hammond Innes (15 July 1913 – 10 June 1998) was a British novelist who wrote over 30 novels, as well as children's and travel books. He was married to fellow author and actress Dorothy Mary Lang in 1937 who died before him, in 1989. He was awarded a C.B.E. (Commander, Order of the British Empire) in 1978. [...] The Doppelganger, his first novel, was published in 1937. In WWII he served in the Royal Artillery, eventually rising to the rank of Major. During the war, a number of his books were published, including Wreckers Must Breathe (1940), The Trojan Horse (1941) and Attack Alarm (1941), the last of which was based on his experiences as an anti-aircraft gunner during the Battle of Britain at RAF Kenley. After being demobilized in 1946, he worked full-time as a writer, achieving a number of early successes. His novels are notable for a fine attention to accurate detail in descriptions of places, such as in Air Bridge (1951), set partially at RAF Gatow, RAF Membury after its closure and RAF Wunstorf during the Berlin Airlift. // Innes went on to produce books in a regular sequence, with six months of travel and research followed by six months of writing. Many of his works featured events at sea. His output decreased in the 1960s, but was still substantial. He became interested in ecological themes. He continued writing until just before his death. His last novel was Delta Connection (1996).
• • •

Hey, solver solver. I have to be brief this morning because of early appointments, so I'll just say yes, I liked this. I've seen both constructor names before, but neither has left a very strong impression (ETCH!), so I had to go back to check out their earlier work, just to remind myself. I think it's fair to say that this is my favorite work from either of them. Solid grid, not much weak fill, and question-mark clues (which can be grating when off) really land. Often I just want to slap those punny little things ("Ooh, look at me, I'm a question-mark clue, aren't I just so coy and naughty?" [slap]). But if they land, then OK, question-mark clues, we're good. OK [Metal finish?] for WARE isn't much, but [Indications of one's qualifications?] for ASTERISKS is head-scratchingly wonderful (needed tons of crosses), as is [What'll give someone a bleeping chance?] for TAPE DELAY (same). For the latter, it came down to that last letter—my brain wanted it to be TAPED LAG (?). And then [Clip art?] for BONSAI? That's just good. Common phrase, completely (and validly) repurposed by the "?". This is definitely a puzzle where the fill, while good, isn't where the main entertainment value lies. Clue writing is crucial, and I'm told (... glares through the computer at someone ...) I don't talk about it enough. So I'm talking about it!


Daryl ISSA is gross, but his name is so crossword-friendly that I'll overrule my own objection and allow it (24D: California congressman Darrell). HEY, BATTER BATTER is glorious because it is baseball, and baseball is right around the corner, and I need something more than just TCM to take my mind off The World. The names might throw people a bit today, in that they all seem a bit old / obscure. I remembered there was a Judith besides Light somehow (IVEY), but I had no idea who this ROY was (5D: Jazz trumpeter Hargrove with two Grammys) (he's really good!), and while I know Sam RAIMI (I swear I just saw something about "Evil Dead" floating around Twitter in the last couple days), Hammond INNES seems like specialized knowledge. He was a mid-century thriller writer, and I know his name only because I have a massive vintage paperback collection in which his books appear a number of times. RAIMI over INNES might rough some people up, I don't know. Otherwise, while I thought the cluing kind of tricky, this played like a Friday. And look at that, it *is* Friday.

Good luck to all competing in this weekend's ACPT. I won't be there :( but I think I'm gonna "play from home," so ... we'll see how that goes.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

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One-horse carriage / THU 3-23-17 / Distinctive filmmakers / Old typesetting machine informally / Certain bourdeaux informally

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Constructor: Sandy Ganzell

Relative difficulty: Medium



THEME: straitened circumstances — three Down columns are less wide than the others; words meaning "the opposite of wide" must precede all the answers in those columns in order for them to make sense (i.e. you have to mentally supply the initial word)

Theme answers:
  • [Thin] MINTS (14D: Girl Scout cookie offering)
  • [Slim] CHANCE (42D: What a long shot has) (ironically, "Fat" also works as the initial word here)
  • [Lean] CUISINE (22D: Brand for weight-watchers)
  • [Narrow] ESCAPE (16D: Barely successful avoidance of calamity)
  • [Skinny] JEANS (49D: Form-fitting casual wear)
Word of the Day: CARIOLE (17A: One-horse carriage) —
noun
noun: cariole
  1. 1.
    historical
    a small open horse-drawn carriage for one person.
    • a light covered cart.
  2. 2.
    (in Canada) a kind of sled pulled by a horse or dogs and with space for one or more passengers. (google)
• • •

It's annoying when I have to read a "Note" to understand the theme because AcrossLite can't display it (apparently the "app" can't either), but tech problems aside, I think this is a wonderful little theme. Really uses *all* the viable synonyms for "the opposite of wide. I want to say the theme is thin ... because it is ... I mean it is, and it is ... sparse, I mean. You know what I mean—there aren't many theme squares. That kind of thin. Just 29 squares involved. Even a lightly themed puzzle will have a minimum of 40 or so. And yet this one feels complete as is. Seems possible that one could have added some THIN-related elements somewhere else in the grid, but it seems just as likely that that would've bogged the grid down and resulted in less clean fill. As it is, this grid is mostly very cleanly filled. CARIOLE, though (ugggggh) nearly destroyed me (17A: One-horse carriage). How on god's green am I supposed to keep all the carriage terminology straight, crossword gods! We've been on to the automobile for a century now, come on. Brougham, landau, phaeton, surrey, stanhope, sulky, fiacre ... I've seen most if not all of those in crosswords before. Well, landau for sure.  Maybe I dreamed the others. My point is that CARIOLE was one where I needed every cross and because it crossed a quotation word (TACT) and a vaguely clued clothing item (SARI), and *those* crossed a [random TV station], I was staring down the barrel of Fail for a bit. Had CAMI for 3D: Article of apparel that often leaves one arm bare, and that gave me _BC for 1A: Cable channel owned by Time Warner, which seemed *very* plausible. Ended up figuring out that it had to be TACT at 1D, which gave me TBS, and then SARI. But none of that trouble would've been real trouble without nutso time-traveling archaic CARIOLE. Blargh.

["Should I bring the brougham around, Dad?" "No! CARIOLE, my wayward son!"]

But as I say, nothing else rankled in the slightest. This appears to be a debut from this constructor, and it's a promising one. I like this better than the entire oeuvre of at least a couple oft-published NYT regulars. I mean, that bar's not terribly high, because those guys' puzzles are super-ugh, but still—nice to have a solid hit your first time out. Oh, wait. COSM is terrible. Very terrible. My general good feeling, though, is undiminished.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

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