Thursday, September 22, 2011

Gaston who wrote Phantom of the Opera / FRI 9-23-11 / He famously asked why didnt you burn tapes / Juicer detritus

Constructor: Mike Nothnagel

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none

 Word of the Day: Gaston LEROUX (24A: Gaston who wrote "The Phantom of the Opera") —
Gaston Louis Alfred Leroux (6 May 1868[1] – 15 April 1927) was a French journalist and author of detective fiction. // In the English-speaking world, he is best known for writing the novel The Phantom of the Opera (Le Fantôme de l'Opéra, 1910), which has been made into several film and stage productions of the same name, notably the 1925 film starring Lon Chaney; and Andrew Lloyd Webber's 1986 musical. (wikipedia)
• • •

I was slow on this one, but that's almost entirely due to the fact that I have residual head cold nonsense going on between my ears. It's a meaty puzzle, but there's nothing particularly brutal about it. I started out by crossing GEODE with "ERES TU" (5D: 1974 lyric repeated after "Como una promesa"). Sadly, only one of these was right, and cleaning up that little mess was more work for my brain than it ought to have been. Eventually sorted the AGATE business out (1A: It has rock bands), but not before putting in GURU for LAMA (24D: Asian spiritual guide). Then EXEMPT for EXCEPT (22D: Not counting). And then later: ADD ON for TAG ON (25A: Include as an extra) and GLUTES for GLUTEI (27D: Muscles strengthened by squats). Other than that, steady progress, though in a disconnected way: NW, then NE, then SW, then (finally) center, and (finally finally) SE. Note that EXCEPT and GLUTEI (both of which I initially botched) are major connectors between the center and the corners of the grid. SE was by far the easiest section. Felt like a Tuesday puzzle up in there. Strange. Anyway, the grid is lovely—fully of solid, familiar, yet lively answers that were mostly a pleasure to uncover. LOW PH was the one that tricked me the worst (44D: Vinegar quality), and THE SAUCE was the one I liked the best (58A: Something a drunkard is liable to hit). I continue to despise the word ROLF (48A: Give a good rubdown), but that's really just my personal hang-up.

Toeholds, by section:

NE: EDO (9D: Old Tokyo) and TORSO (13D: Many a sculpture)
Center: RATE (30D: Put on a scale)

In the bottom part of the grid, I slid in and out of sections using crosses—OFTEN got me OFFERS got me ROLF. GLUTES (wrong, but close) got me EATS AT got me MEET. Most helpful answer of the day was ABBEY ROAD (3D: 1969 #1 album for 11 weeks) (It also happens to be one of my very very very favorite albums). With the whole GEODE debacle, with nothing falling smoothly into place, I just thought "... must be a Beatles albums. Late Beatles. LET IT BE? No ... ABBEY ROAD! Ding ding!" Nice musical subtheme up there in the NW, with "ERES TU" parallel to ABBEY ROAD and crossing LEROUX—whose novel was the basis of a famous musical, and whose name is also the name of a band I kind of like (OK, so it's LA ROUX—close enough for me).

  • 15A: Informal show of approval? (STANDING O) — dang, that's a good clue. I was halfway through asking myself "How is a STANDING O informal?" when I got that it wasn't the thing but the (slangy) phrase itself that was at issue. Other Os of note are KAREN O, SANDRA OH, SADAHARU OH, and WENDY O. WILLIAMS.
  • 18A: Juicer detritus (PEELS) — briefly convinced myself that PULPS was a word (and it is, in reference to cheap magazines of the early-mid 20th century).
  • 2D: Series ender, sometimes (GAME SEVEN) — cool clue. I tried to stretch ET CETERA. Didn't work.
  • 31D: Music style derived from samba and jazz (BOSSA NOVA) — this music style always reminds me the Robert Palmer album "Heavy Nova." There is absolutely no good reason for this. 

  • 49D: Object frequently painted by Degas (TUTU) — interesting phrasing, as (presumably) he's painting the dancer, who happens to be wearing said "object." Unless there's some still life with TUTU I'm unaware of. 
  • 45D: Attachments to pronator quadratus muscles (ULNAE) — it's a very muscly puzzle, with the GLUTEI and the pronator quadratus and what not. Very BUFF.
  • 43D: He famously asked "Why didn't you burn the tapes?" (FROST) — the poet to his wife, just after their sex video went viral.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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