Thursday, November 3, 2011

Controversial one-act play by Mamet / FRI 11-4-11 / 1994 sci-fi film about alien artifact / 1990s cartoon dog / R&B drinking song covered by Ray Charles

Constructor: Patrick Berry

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: none

Word of the Day: "EDMOND" (56A: Controversial one-act play by Mamet) —
Edmond is a one-act play written by David Mamet. It premiered at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, on June 4, 1982. The first New York production was October 27 of the same year, at the Provincetown Playhouse. The play consists of twenty-three short scenes. In the original production, each of the actors took on multiple roles, save the two playing Edmond and his wife. Kenneth Branagh starred as Edmond in a production of the play in London in 2003. [...] Despite its critical praise, the racial content of the play, particularly the numerous slurs against African-Americans, has caused controversy at colleges and universities attempting to stage it. (wikipedia)
• • •

This was mostly delightful, and remarkably easy. Well, remarkably easy except (for me) in the SW corner, where I had serious name issues. Never heard of Hugh Lofting, so DOLITTLE didn't come quickly (32D: Doctor in Hugh Lofting tales). Never heard of *any* of the 6-letter Acrosses down there—not a one. Not TRIJET, not LESLIE, and not "EDMOND." Also never heard of "ONE MINT JULEP" (36A: R&B "drinking song" covered by Ray Charles). The MINT JULEP part was easy to pick up; the ONE part, less so. Because of this corner, I was going to rate this puzzle "Easy-Medium," but then I noticed that my peers at the NYT applet (the ones whose times normally compare with my own) crushed me—by several minutes in some cases. So I was slow. And I was still faster than normal. So, Easy.

For a Patrick Berry puzzle, this one didn't have too many "wow" moments. I think I exclaimed something adulatory with WEASELS OUT OF, and I know I did with CHUMP CHANGE (my favorite answer) (25D: Amount scarcely worth arguing over). There's a bit of overreliance on obscure names here. I'd include MORTIMER and STU Redman and "ODELAY" in that category (despite the fact that I actually knew "ODELAY"), along with the aforementioned LESLIE and EDMOND. Puzzle remains pleasurable, however, because the names all have ultimately fair crosses, and the general quality of the fill is (unsurprisingly) stellar. FER is about as rickety as it gets, and that's not very rickety (Odd sidenote: I somehow got FER-de-Lance confused with pot-au-FEU ...).

["Hey! EYES LEFT!"]

Started out with 1D: Bach's "Mass in ___" (B MINOR), and despite not remembering the key off the top of my head, I knew it was something MAJOR or something MINOR, and so I put in the "M" and "R." Tested the "N" and got NEATEN, and tore through that section from there. Beyond the struggles in the SW, I can't think of much that went wrong. Prudishly wanted DARN instead of DAMN at 27D: Confounded. Thought FEMINISM was so obvious for 34D: Doctrine associated with Betty Friedan that I refused to believe it was right at first. Pulled ERIS out of my crosswordese bag of tricks (30D: Ninth-largest body known to orbit the sun). Cheated by looking down at my keyboard at 24D: Symbol above the comma on a keyboard (LESS THAN), and still screwed it up because I confused the comma with the apostrophe (?).  Otherwise, a smooth, enjoyable, problem-free journey. 

  • 20A: African migrators (GNUS) — off the "G" in FRAGILE. No sweat. 

  • 49A: Foul ball's landing spot, often (STANDS) — Have you ever read The Natural? There's some amazing foul ball action in that book, including a foul ball that Roy Hobbs tries to hit at a dwarf in the STANDS named Otto Zipp, but that then caroms off the dwarf and hits Roy's former lover Iris Lemon, who has come to the game (unbeknownst to Roy) to tell him that she is pregnant with his child, and that he has to win the game rather than throw it (as he's being paid to do). I just read it. Can you tell? It's an amazing piece of writing. You know that famous shot from the movie, where Robert Redford (as Roy Hobbs) hits that triumphant homerun, the one that smashes the ballpark lights? Not in the book. Not even close. To understand what the movie did to the book, imagine a movie version of "King Lear" where Lear is restored to the throne and he and Cordelia go on to usher in a new era of benevolent monarchy. Or a "Marley & Me" where Marley lives to a ripe old age. Or a "Midnight Cowboy" where they actually make it to Florida and open a surf shop. You get the picture.
  • 55A: 1994 sci-fi film about an alien artifact ("STARGATE") — I tried to watch the TV series. I got part of one episode in.
  • 11D: 1990s cartoon dog (REN) — This is what I mean by "Easy." Anyone who does puzzle regularly is going to get this instantly. [Cartoon Chihuahua] is the most common "cartoon"-containing clue in the database, by a mile.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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