Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Former Meet the Press Host Marvin / TUE 10-4-11 / Pricey bubbly / Raptorial seabird / Bejeweled headgear / Pseudonym of artist Romain de Tirtoff

Constructor: Dan Feyer

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: JUGGLING PINS (54A: 51-Down's talent ... or what the circled squares represent?) — 51D: Circus performer = CLOWN; eight sets of three contiguous circled letters are scattered around the grid, each of them containing the word PIN.

Word of the Day: Marvin KALB (9D: Former "Meet the Press" host Marvin) —
Marvin L. Kalb (born June 9, 1930) is an American journalist. Kalb was the Shorenstein Center's Founding Director and Edward R. Murrow Professor of Press and Public Policy (1987–1999). The Shorenstein Center and the Kennedy School are part of Harvard University. He is currently a James Clark Welling Fellow at The George Washington University and a member of Atlantic Community Advisory Board. // Kalb spent 30 years as an award-winning reporter for CBS News and NBC News. Kalb was the last newsman recruited by Edward R. Murrow to join CBS News, becoming part of the later generation of the "Murrow's Boys." His work at CBS landed him on Richard Nixon's "enemies list". At NBC, he served as chief Diplomatic Correspondent and host of Meet the Press. During many years of Kalb's tenures at CBS and NBC, his brother Bernard worked alongside him. // Kalb has authored or coauthored nine nonfiction books (Eastern Exposure, Dragon in the Kremlin, The Volga, Roots of Involvement, Kissinger, Campaign ’88, The Nixon Memo, and One Scandalous Story) and two best-selling novels (In the National Interest and The Last Ambassador). His most recent book is about the haunting legacy of Vietnam ,co-authored with his daughter. // He hosts The Kalb Report, a monthly discussion of media ethics and responsibility at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. sponsored by the Shorenstein Center and George Washington University. He is a news analyst for Fox News, and a contributor to National Public Radio and America Abroad. (wikipedia)
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Hey, it's reigning American Crossword Puzzle Tournament champion Dan Feyer. Nice guy, cool puzzle idea. Can CLOWNs really juggle *eight* pins? That seems like a lot. No wonder one of them hit the ground. This will sound extra-weird, but I think of CLOWNs as having minor juggling talent, i.e. maybe four balls or pins at once. I think of the real professional (?) jugglers as human beings, not CLOWNs. Not to dehumanize CLOWNs. Anyway, eight seems like a lot for your run-of-the-mill circus CLOWN is what I'm saying.

Seems like PIN in JUGGLING PINS should be circled. It's a PIN, it's in the grid ... circle it. If you can do eight, you can do nine, CLOWN. Also, would've been nice if JUGGLING PINS' symmetrical counterpart were somehow theme-related. NIPS IN THE BUD isn't juggly or clowny (20A: Squelches early) ... not that it isn't a great answer—possibly the best bit of fill in the whole grid. It's just a bit strange to have a non-theme answer be the only other long-Across in the grid. This puzzle's success rests entirely on the theme, as the fill is pretty ordinary. Ordinary, leaning crosswordese-ward (at least the crosswordese gets tricked out in fancy clues like 15A: Bejeweled headgear => TIARA and 42A: Raptorial seabird => ERN). But that's somewhat understandable given the number of PINS that have to be accommodated. DOM PERIGNON is fantastic (3D: Pricey bubbly). Most of the rest is just tolerable. Minor speed bumps for me included KALB and DONEN (who went in first as DONAT—an old-timey actor, not an old-timey director) (49A: Stanley who co-directed "Singin' in the Rain"), as well as the PACE part of KEPT PACE (41D: Stayed with the leader). SHRILL (29A: Like the sound of a teakettle) and HAIRDO didn't come right away either, possibly because I kept misreading the clue for HAIRDO (my eyes wanting to include "Butter or mayo" (29A) in the clue's own list of Weave, shag or braids). Is a "weave" a haircut? I thought it was fake hair.

 I missed "Jeopardy" last night, but the buzz is that crossword constructor and speed-solver Joon Pahk won and will appear again tonight. This time I'll remember to DVR it. I'd say "good luck," Joon, but the show isn't taking place in real time, so ... congratulations! Here's a song from the Band with the 22x platinum album "Back in Black" (AC/DC), in your honor.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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