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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

1980s Rowan Atkinson sitcom series / THU 10-20-11 / Insincere flatter in slang / Defender in bridge column / Sarcophagus lid


Constructor: Patrick Berry

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: Black and White — Eight symmetrical (!) rebus squares contain the word "WHITE" when read in one direction and "BLACK" when read in the other

Word of the Day: KAREN BLACK (43A: Best Supporting Actress nominee for "Five Easy Pieces") —
Karen Black (born July 1, 1939) is an American actress, screenwriter, singer, and songwriter. She is noted for appearing in such films as Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces, The Great Gatsby, Rhinoceros, The Day of the Locust, Nashville, Airport 1975, and Alfred Hitchcock's final film, Family Plot. Over the course of her career, she won two Golden Globe Awards (out of three nominations), and an Academy Award nomination in 1970 for Best Supporting Actress, among numerous other honors. [She also starred in Return of the Roller Blade Seven and Decoupage 2000: Return of the Goddess] (wikipedia)
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"CROSS" WORDS CONTEST week! All the puzzles this week, from Monday to Saturday, have been created by one person, Patrick Berry. Have your solutions handy, because the Saturday puzzle conceals a meta-challenge involving the solution grids of all six. When you have the answer to the meta-challenge, mail it to: crossword@nytimes.com. Please do not post your answers here on the blog and please do not mail them to me! Only answers e-mailed to the above address will be considered. Twenty-five correct solvers, chosen at random, whose entries are received by 6:00 p.m. E.T. Sunday, Oct. 23, will receive copies of “Will Shortz Picks His Favorite Puzzles: 101 of the Top Crosswords From The New York Times.” Only one entry per person, please. The answer and winners’ names will appear on Friday, Oct. 28, at http://www.nytimes.com/wordplay. 

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One of my fastest Thursdays ever, but I see (by the times at the NYT site) that my experience was not quite the norm (if I'd solved on the applet, I'd be third on the board right now, as I finished in 5 flat). Rebus made things easier, not harder, and despite not knowing the phrases BANANA OIL (18A: Insincere flattery, in slang) or BEAN TREE (49A: Pod-bearing plant) (the latter of which caused me serious pain in the SE), I still sailed through this one with a well-below-average time. The crosswordy themes continue this week, what with yesterday's "Cross words" theme, and now today's B&W. The oddest thing about the grid is the poor interconnectivity; those NW and SE corners are connected to the middle patch only by a very narrow (one square) strip of land. I worked my way down into the western portion of the grid and realized I couldn't get out. Had to go back up. This slowed me down in the SE—didn't know BEAN TREE, as I say, and hadn't realized that the theme squares were symmetrical, so I felt trapped there for a bit when I couldn't make anything move. But once I put EMTS beside RONA, I was able to get moving again, and once VANNA came into view, the puzzle was pretty quickly done from there.



Theme answers:
  • LAMP B / W SALES
  • B ADDER (25A: 1980s Rowan Atkinson sitcom series set in various historical periods) / W WASH
  • B BART (8D: Famously polite Old West stagecoach robber) / W NER (this is the one answer that just looks weird, due to the non-self-standingness of "NER")
  • BACK IN B (15D: Iconic AC/DC album with the song "You Shook Me All Night Long") / B and W / W MATTER
  • KAREN B / LILY W (31D: Untainted by corruption)
  • EGG W / JACK B (44D: Star of 2010's "Gulliver's Travels")
  • VANNA W (40D: Woman of letters?) / B ANTS (58A: Nest-building pests)


That VANNA clue was brutal, in that I thought there was going to be a play on the word "letters"—or ... more of a play, I guess. I thought it might be some word for "landlady." I don't know anything about bridge, except that directions are somehow involved, which was all I needed to know today. I was looking for some technical Greek word for [Sarcophagus lid]. A bit surprised by the humble SLAB. Wanted VINNY for 40A: Title role for Joe Pesci but took it out because of the odd placement of the Y in the fourth position of a five-letter word (or, an apparently five-letter word which ended up being a nine-letter phrase). Medievalist training made BEDE a gimme (16A: The Venerable ___ (old English historian)). "Hunger enhancer" is the kind of phrase you see only in crossword clues (AROMA). I don't remember the word "organic" being in the clue for TAR (21D: Organic sealant). "Sealant" was enough. I think BRAD is a word I learned a long, long time ago from crosswords (pre-Shortzian crosswords) (6D: Fastener in a punched hole). Lastly, KIA Sorento (43D: Sorento manufacturer) was more of a gimme than in might normally have been because I've been doing a lot of car research. Mine died. Or, rather, mine is sick and I have decided to put it down. The whole process is making me not want to drive ever again. I just want a car to magically appear in my driveway. I'm not a fan of spending big chunks of money, but I'm especially not a fan of details, paperwork, haggling, and overall hassle. If any of you all want to make a car magically appear in my driveway, feel free. Just ... not a Sorento, OK?

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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