Saturday, October 1, 2011

1983 domestic comedy / SUN 10-2-11 / Horror movie locale in brief / 1999 Broadway revue / Celestial being in France / Green-headed water birds

Constructor: Eric Berlin

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: "Masquerade" — Note: "Ten famous people are attending a costume party in this crossword. After the grid is filled, change the two circled letters in each theme answer to "unmask" a celebrity." 

Word of the Day: John GUARE (100D: "A Free Man of Color" playwright) —
John Guare (pronounced gwâr; born February 5, 1938) is an American playwright. He is best known as the author of The House of Blue Leaves, Six Degrees of Separation, and Landscape of the Body. His style, which mixes comic invention with an acute sense of the failure of human relations and aspirations, is at once cruel and deeply compassionate.
• • •

This was very smooth—so smooth that it was hardly there. Blew through it in near-record time without having any idea what the theme was, which is surprising given that every single theme answer is a made-up, odd, or unnatural phrase. Theme answers that require you to work crosses can be tedious to get through, but not this one. Torched it. Didn't look at the note until well after I was done. Figured out that there was something going on with the circled letters hiding celebrity names (ALEX TREBEK leapt out from behind ALERT REBEL pretty readily), but thought I must be missing something—maybe the letters in the circles had some significance, followed some pattern, etc. But no. The phrases are just two letters off from the names of famous people. Seems a little slight for a puzzle theme ... but it's always possible I'm missing some level of complexity (already happened to me once today with Patrick Blindauer's new free puzzle for October).

Theme answers:
  • 23A: Rods on a cowboy's truck (RANCH AXLES) => RAY CHARLES
  • 25A: Environmentally sound keyboard (GREEN ORGAN) => GREG NORMAN 
  • 42A: 007 strategy (BOND PLAN) => BOB DYLAN
  • 44A: High card up one's sleeve (INNER ACE) => ANNE RICE
  • 66A: Narrow overhang (SLIM AWNING) => ELI MANNING
  • 68A: Government resister standing ready (ALERT REBEL) => ALEX TREBEK
  • 85A: Shock a fairy-tale monster (JOLT OGRE) => JOE TORRE
  • 89A: Nocturnal birds liable to keep people awake (LOUD OWLS) => LOU RAWLS
  • 109A: Soup spoon designed for shellfish (CONCH LADLE) => DON CHEADLE
  • 111A: Last costume at a costume party (FINAL GUISE) => TINA LOUISE    

GUARE was the only answer I flat-out hadn't heard of before, and the only place I struggled in the slightest was at the very end, in the SE—couldn't come up with either author (semi-ironically), or OPOSSUM (92D: Smallish marsupial), and had ACNE before I had SCUM (116A: Cleaner target). Other than that ... I did have a little hesitation with both OIL SEED (26D: Canola, for one) and NUT TREE (45D: Cashew, for one), and for the same reason each time—I got the first word easily and then had no idea what second word could be. Canola is an oil. Cashew is a nut. The other parts of those answers needed help from crosses to emerge.

  • 33A: Only nonsentient zodiac symbol (LIBRA) — interesting clue. But can we really be sure that centaurs are sentient?
  • 48A: French river or department (AUBE) — ugh, one of my least favorite clues. In my attempt to remember what obscure four-letter French place name this could be, I came up with ... ARNE. I was probably thinking ORNE. ARNE is a British composer or an American Secretary of Education.
  • 99A: Former Portuguese colony in China (MACAU) — sometimes MACAO. No idea if MACAW live there. 
  • 103A: 1983 domestic comedy ("MR. MOM") — gimme! I was weirdly proud to come up with this one, no help from crosses. I watched a 1984 comedy today: "Ghostbusters"

  • 119A: 1999 Broadway revue ("FOSSE") — weird way to clue this famous choreographer. Weird to me, anyway, as I've never heard of said "revue."
  • 7D: Green-headed water birds (MALLARDS) — the most famous of which is, of course, politically conservative reporter Mallard Filmore
  • 10D: Celestial being, in France (ANGE) — another gimme. Sometimes seven years of French pay off. Classical literature also paid off today with "ORESTEIA" (12D: Trilogy that includes "Agamemnon").
  • 87D: Unfilled spaces (LACUNAE) — one of my favorite SAT-type words. I usually dislike preposterous-sounding and unnecessary Latinate words, but this one's an exception.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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