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Thursday, March 31, 2011

English novelist Bawden / FRI 4-1-11 / Serving in John Betjeman's poem / 2002 Katherine Frank political biography / Hammer accompanier

Constructor: Elizabeth A. Long

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: Two-way street — Down answers on west side of grid head south (like normal Downs), while Down answers on east side of the grid head north (i.e. they're upside-down). Theme is indicated by three grid-spanning Downs: in the west, ONCOMING TRAFFIC (4D: Passing preventer); in the middle, MIDDLE OF THE ROAD (7D: Conventional); and in the east, NORTH-BOUND LANES (which is to say, SENAL DNUOB-HTRON) (10D: Half of almost any odd-numbered Interstate highway)


Word of the Day: M.I.A. (23A: Hip-hop singer with the 2008 hit "Paper Planes") —
Mathangi "Maya" Arulpragasam (Tamil: மாதங்கி 'மாயா' அருள்பிரகாசம், Mātaṅki 'Māyā' Aruḷpirakācam ?; born 18 July 1975), better known by her stage name M.I.A., is a British singer-songwriter, rapper and record producer whose eclectic compositions combine elements of hip-hop, electronica, dance, alternative and world music. // M.I.A. began her career in 2000 as a visual artist and designer in West London. Since rising to prominence in early 2004 for her singles "Galang" and "Sunshowers," she has been nominated for an Academy Award, two Grammy Awards and the Mercury Prize. She released her debut album Arular in 2005 and second album Kala in 2007. Kala went gold in Canada and the United States and silver in the United Kingdom, and the singles "Boyz" and "Paper Planes" became North American top ten chart favourites in 2008. M.I.A.'s third album Maya was released in 2010 soon after the song-film short "Born Free," and reached the top ten in numerous countries worldwide. She has embarked on four global headlining tours and is the founder of her own multimedia label, N.E.E.T.. In 2008, M.I.A. was listed in Esquire magazine's list of the 75 most influential people of the 21st century and in 2009, Time magazine included M.I.A. in its annual Time 100 list of the world's most influential people. (wikipedia)


• • •

Very cool puzzle. I was looking for something tricky today, so the NORTH-BOUND stuff didn't faze me. Much. Did take me a while to uncover the trick. Had great success early when I threw down MIDDLE OF THE ROAD with hardly any effort, after solving only the little northern part of the puzzle. First indication that something was amiss came when I couldn't solve the little southern part of the puzzle with the same rapidity. Acrosses made sense—seemed unimpeachable—but I was getting nonsense in the Downs. So I ended up doing the (very conventional, untricky) west first, and then hitting that MIDDLE OF THE ROAD barrier. Just looking at the two long Downs I had at that point let me know that there was some kind of TRAFFIC theme, and finally I realized that "-C-T Bell" was, in fact, TACO Bell. From that point on, it was just a matter of thinking upside-down. Not a problem. It's a smooth, elegant little puzzle, with hardly an ugly or obscure answer in sight. A one-trick pony, yes, but it's a good trick. Truly AHA.


The only "huh?" moment I had (after grokking ... is that the word? ... the theme) came with the biography "INDIRA," which I had never heard of (27D: 2002 Katherine Frank political biography). That clue is an outlier. It's mildly obscure trivia, where the rest of the grid ... isn't. Still, pretty easy to infer. Crosses were a cinch. Oh, no, wait—37A: English novelist Bawden (NINA) is pretty INDIRA-ish too. Never heard of her. Oh, and never heard of John Betjeman or his poem, "How to Get on in Society" (43A: Serving in John Betjeman's poem "How to get on in Society"=>SCONES). Wow, how did I not have trouble in that section? I guess the clues were written in such a way, and the crosses were reasonable enough, that I could fight through it all without too much pain. LEONAS (SANOEL) was a fat gimme in that section, a sharp contrast to the other names in that section (and a very sharp contrast to NUBILE46A: Available, in a way).

Bullets:
  • 14A: Elvis follower (ARON) — this seemed obvious, unlike some other stuff up there in the NW, which I flubbed: PORE for GAZE, RICE for ZINC, SHOO and SCAT for GO! GO! etc.
  • 3D: Hammer accompanier (GONG) — probably a lot of people went with NAIL at first.
  • 5D: They're subject to rapid inflation (AIRBAGS) — ooh, good clue.
  • 42D: It starts "Tell me, muse, of the man of many resources" ("ODYSSEY") — see also "The wrath of Achilles..." or "Arma virumque cano..." or "Of Man's first Disobedience..." (we talk about epics a lot in my Brit Lit class). Interesting ODYSSEY news: Virgil thinks Odysseus is an asshole for coming up with that whole Trojan Horse thing; Dante concurs, putting Odysseus (Ulysses, actually) way, way down in the 8th ring of hell (Fraud). And then there's Milton's Satan. And then there's Maude!



Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

Since it's a heavy-traffic day, I'll take this opportunity once again to plug the Crosswords L.A. Tournament, which takes place one month from today, 5/1/11, at Loyola-Marymount University. It's always a blast, the puzzles this year are fantastic (I've seen them), and all proceeds go to a wonderful charity ("Reading to Kids"). Go here for details.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

P.S. Patrick Blindauer has a new puzzle up at his site this month. It's pretty sweet. You should do it.

P.P.S. You could also do this puzzle. There's a decent likelihood it will annoy the hell out of you, but ... if there's any day to distribute such a puzzle, it's today. (Go here —to Amy Reynaldo's "Island of Lost Puzzles"— to print a .pdf or get a .puz version, or just print the puzzle out from here).

SOLUTION (and puzzle discussion) HERE.
Endless Fun

"ENDLESS FUN"

"Endless Fun" — a Rex Parker puzzle released 4/1/11

Download .pdf or .puz file HERE (or below, using the scribd interface)

Solution below, following Spoiler Kitty...

Endless Fun





Ah du soleil !

Tout d'abord, un grand Merci à tous pour vos mails concernant U Got A Wish !

Avec tout ce qu'on a reçu, on devrait même songer à créer plusieurs magazines !

La semaine dernière, j'ai vraiment cru au retour de l'été... Et bien non, il va falloir patienter encore un peu.

Salomée et son vélo...

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Pause déjeuner en terrasse avec Salomée et Margaux...

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Ouh la touriste !
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Martin en studio...

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La jolie station de métro Gare d'Austerlitz...

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Joujou avec l'Iphone... Encore !

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Orioles hurler 1966 champs / THU 3-31-11 / Solo crooner Oh My Pa-Pa #1 1954 / 140 pounds in Britain / 1970s sitcom ended with title character Congress

Constructors: Jeremy Horwitz and Tyler Hinman

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: PERFECT PITCH (19D: Something the eight people at 3-, 9-, 28- and 30-Down have all strived for?) — theme answers are all names shared by World-Series-winning Major League baseball pitchers and #1-charting singers / musicians


Word of the Day: TAI CHI CHUAN (62A: Dojo discipline) —

Tai chi chuan (simplified Chinese: 太极拳; traditional Chinese: 太極拳; pinyin: tàijíquán; Wade–Giles: t'ai4 chi2 ch'üan2) (literal translation "Supreme Ultimate Fist") is an internal Chinese martial art practiced for both its defense training and its health benefits. It is also typically practiced for a variety of other personal reasons: its hard and soft martial art technique, demonstration competitions, and longevity. As a consequence, a multitude of training forms exist, both traditional and modern, which correspond to those aims. Some of tai chi chuan's training forms are especially known for being practiced at what most people categorize as slow movement. // Today, tai chi has spread worldwide. Most modern styles of tai chi trace their development to at least one of the five traditional schools: Chen, Yang, Wu/Hao, Wu, and Sun. (wikipedia)

• • •

As much as yesterday's puzzle was outside my wheelhouse, this one is in it. Right in it. I just clobbered this one. Minute and a half faster than yesterday, and a good minute faster than last Thursday. Seven of the eight men involved in the theme answers are well known to me—the only one I'd never heard of was the pitcher EDDIE FISHER, but I was able to get singer EDDIE FISHER off just the EDD-, so no sweat. Even TAI CHI CHUAN was in my back pocket—I'm guessing most folks know the TAI CHI part, but not the CHUAN. Annoyed to see that the same damn stupid clue for TAI CHI (CHUAN) is still being used — "Dojo" is from a different language and refers to different martial arts from a different country. Come on. Have some respect—China and Japan are different. Their martial arts are different. Terminology is different. Practiced TAI CHI for years and never saw or heard the word "Dojo" (for good reason). I see that there are a few places out there using the word "dojo" to describe their TAI CHI studios, but that's probably for commercial purposes, i.e. people are familiar with the term from pop culture. Please keep "dojo" away from TAI CHI clues. I'm sure "Dojo" is, in some rigmarolish way, defensible, but I don't care. It's not right. Thank you. End rant.



Only places I struggled were in a couple of corners—a little bit in the NE (where PEDICAB took its sweet time showing up (7A: Way around Shanghai), and where I had DORA for CORA (11D: Mrs. Dithers of the comics)), and a lot in the SE, where SIC for SUE (65A: Go after) and NAB for NET (71A: Capture) made a hash of things down there until MAUDE (55D: 1970s sitcom that ended with the title character in Congress)! And then there's MAUDE! She saved the day (god bless you, Bea Arthur). The only weird thing about the theme is that DAVE STEWART of the Eurythmics is *not* a singer, which makes PERFECT PITCH slightly odd, since that's a phrase I've only ever heard in relation to the voice. But instruments have pitches too, obviously, so ... it'll stretch. I especially like that all the pitchers won World Series and all the music folk hit #1. That's oddly serendipitous, theme coherence-wise. KENNY ROGERS actually once pitched a PERFECT game. DAVE STEWART didn't, but he did throw a no-hitter.



Theme answers:
  • 3D: Yankees hurler (1996 champs) / Solo singer of "Lady" (#1 in 1980) (KENNY ROGERS)
  • 28D: Orioles hurler (1966 champs) / Solo crooner of "Oh! My Pa-Pa" (#1 in 1954) (EDDIE FISHER) — father of Princess LEIA
  • 9D: A's hurler (1989 champs) / Eurythmics musician on "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" (#1 in 1983) (DAVE STEWART)
  • 30D: Giants hurler (2010 champs) / Beach Boys vocalist on "Help Me, Rhonda" (#1 in 1965) (BRIAN WILSON)
Bullets:
  • 20A: 140 pounds, in Britain (TEN STONE) — had ...-TON- part and really wanted something-TONS, despite the fact that 140 pounds isn't anywhere near a ton.
  • 24A: Distant sign of affection? (AIR KISS) — nice clue, nice answer.
  • 47A: 1994 Costner title role (EARP) — Wow, there was a movie called "EARP?" That one got by me.

  • 57DA: "Less Than Zero" (ELLIS) — more wheelhouseness. "Less Than Zero" was a Big movie when I was younger. ELLIS's "American Psycho" was big (controversial) news when I was in college.
  • 67A: Car co-created and named by John DeLorean (GTO) — well that's some odd trivia that I am sure to forget right ... now.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

Que nos voeux soient exaucés !


Revisitons encore et toujours la robe longue !
Je me demande bien quand est-ce que j'en aurai ma claque.
Mais pour l'instant, rien n'y fait, je ne m'en lasse pas.

Cette fois-ci, j'y ai associé mon petit tee-shirt en molleton et pour éviter une allure faussement négligée, hop, un collier typique que l'on trouve au Maroc, orange s'il vous plaît !

En revanche, pour cet été, j'ai envie de couleur, la tendance Color Block passera par moi.

Jusqu'à présent j'avais toujours eu du mal à associer différentes couleurs à une tenue, d'autant plus avec ma peau mate, j'avais vite l'impression de faire "bimbo".
J'étais convaincue que la couleur en force était bien plus jolie sur une peau blanche.

Il faut dire que je me suis complètement plantée... Au contraire ! Tout dépend de la façon dont on associe ses articles et si l'on se contente de basiques sans en rajouter des tonnes (accessoires etc), on ne tombe pas dans le cliché de la pouffe.

La transition hiver/noir - été/couleur va m'être difficile mais je vous signe dès maintenant que d'ici quelques semaines, j'y arriverai les doigts dans le nez !


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Photos : Sarah D

Robe - H&M
Tee-shirt - Zara
Collier - Acheté au Maroc
Chaussures - L.K Bennett


Ps : Des news de U Got A Wish , enfin !

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Dolly matchmaker / WED 3-30-11 / Foreman portrayer House / Illness caused eating Cheetos / Newspapers read by royalty

Constructor: Erik Wennstrom

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: RED-SHIFTED (47A: Lie light from stars moving away from us ... or like the answer to this puzzle's starred clues?) — familiar two-word phrases where first word is a color that is re-colored by the addition of red, i.e. BLUEPRINT becomes BLUE+red PRINT, or PURPLEPRINT


Word of the Day: Atacama (69A: Like the Atacama=SERE) —
The Atacama Desert is one of the few deserts on Earth that does not receive any rain. It is a plateau in South America, covering a 600-mile (1,000 km) strip of land on the Pacific coast of South America, west of the Andes mountains. The Atacama desert is, according to NASA, National Geographic and many other publications, the driest desert in the world, due to the rain shadow on the leeward side of the Chilean Coast Range, as well as a coastal inversion layer created by the cold offshore Humboldt Current. The Atacama occupies 40,600 square miles (105,000 km2) in northern Chile, composed mostly of salt basins (salares), sand, and felsic lava flows towards the Andes. (wikipedia)
• • •

The theme and much of the fill here was simply way, way outside my wheelhouse. Never heard of ... ugh, so much of this stuff. Never seen or heard the phrase RED-SHIFTED before, first of all. Never. And since I didn't know if 30D: ___-Grain cereal bars was NUTRA or NUTRI, and since "SHAFTED" seemed (possibly) related to light, I was kind of screwed there for a bit. The theme phrases just did not feel natural or funny or ... anything. PINK WASHED? (29A: *Like a baby girls' laundry?) I got that and thought "I don't get it." Had PURPLE and wrote in PURPLE PROSE. It really seemed to fit the clue (11D: *Newspapers read by royalty?=>PURPLE PRINT). And then ORANGE FEVER—that just killed me. First, I misread "Cheetos" as "Cheerios" in the clue (25D: *Illness caused by eating Cheetos?), so I was never going to get ORANGE, though Cheerios box is yellow, so ... thought that was related somehow. But that whole section was brutal to me. Didn't see how [Done for] = GONE. If you're done for, you're a goner, but the clue/answer pair here didn't work for me. Never heard of Atacama (or I have and just couldn't place it), and even if I had, it would've taken some time/thought to get SERE. Never heard of Dolly LEVI (apparently the protagonist of "Hello, Dolly"!?!?) (60A: Dolly the matchmaker). Nooooo idea what kind of "Vista" AMER. could be a part of. Apparently Vista is an acronym (lack of capital letters notwithstanding—what the hell!?), standing for "Volunteers in Service to AMERica." Pfft. OK. Painful all around. Theme concept seems interesting, actually, but with the revealer meaning nothing to me, with the theme answers being not really funny or clever, and with so many answers bafflingly clued, I didn't enjoy the puzzle at all. I mean, even DVORAK flummoxed me (23A: Typewriter keyboard format). I know one keyboard. QWERTY. Just not my day, I guess.


Started out pretty easy as I moved diagonally through the grid, but the theme stuff just didn't make any sense to me for the longest time. Also, let me tell you that when you are looking at an answer that reads ---TNT, you are bound to doubt the accuracy of your answers. MUSTN'T, ugh. Clue did nothing for me, yet again (a theme!) (52A: "___ touch!"). I only hope that others liked this more than I did. My distaste is much more a matter of, well, taste than it is a matter of truly poor construction.

Bullets:
  • 22A: Foreman portrayer on "House" (EPPS) — "How am I supposed to know the characters on ... oh, right, that's the one with Omar EPPS. Nevermind." He's the ESAI Morales of the 21st century (which will probably be news to ESAI himself, who is still working, as far as I know).
  • 43A: Often-mocked cars of the past (YUGOS) — another clue that took me way too long to solve. My mocked car list had one model on it: EDSEL.
  • 51A: Opportunities for discussion (FORA) — another toughie. Unusual plural.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

ANNOUNCEMENT:

West-coasters should consider coming out and supporting the Crosswords L.A. Tournament on Sunday, May 1, 2011, at Loyola-Marymount University. It's a charity tournament that benefits "Reading to Kids." This year the tournament will feature all original puzzles commissioned specifically for the tournament by some amazing constructors (I know—I've seen/tested the puzzles). You can compete as an individual or as part of a pair, and those who would rather not compete can register as a spectator. But really, you should compete. Don't worry if you don't think of yourself as "competitive." Most people will be there to have fun, solve good puzzles, and socialize. The vibe is very laid-back (it's practically on the beach, after all). For more information, and to register, go here. Better yet, go here, to the "Frequently Asked Questions" page. Very thorough. And spread the word.

Cocooning


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