Friday, June 13, 2008

Friday, June 13, 2008

Title: Tony-Winning Fivesome
Author: Ogden Porter (Peter Gordon)
Theme: Five winners of a Tony Award each contain exactly one of each VOWEL (1a: Any letter of 67-Across), namely AEIOU (67a: Fivesome found in the five Tony winners in this puzzle).

I knew before I started that this puzzle was "not for me" (inside joke that a few of you may get). The Tony Awards are for theater. Specifically, New York theater. We don't get much theater up here in New Hampshire, and I'm horrible with names to begin with, so this puzzle was aimed directly at my weak spots. Let's see how the carnage unfolds.
  • 17a: Actress who won a Tony for "Evita" (PATTI LUPONE). I've at least heard of Patti Lupone, mostly from crosswords. And I credit the theme for saving me from spelling PATTI with a Y. The crossing didn't help me there at all; LAYNIE seemed as plausible as LAINIE for 5d: Kazan of "My Favorite Year".

  • 24a: Actor who won a Tony for "Bedroom Farce" (MICHAEL GOUGH). I've not only never heard of him, I don't recall ever seeing the name Gough before. Turns out he's been in a ton of movies, including a lot of old horror films. I'm guessing at least one has probably been skewered by MST3K. Anyone? More recently, he's played the butler, Alfred, in several Batman films.

  • 36a: Actress who won a Tony for "Wonderful Town" (ROSALIND RUSSELL). The name is vaguely familiar. That's all.

  • Paul WinfieldPaul Scofield
  • 48a: Actor who won a Tony for "A Man for All Seasons" (PAUL SCOFIELD). I thought I knew who this was, but I was thinking of Paul Winfield. Not at all the same guy.

  • 58a: Show that won the 1976 Tony for Best Musical (A CHORUS LINE). This one I knew. Well, I didn't know the answer from the clue, but I know of the play and it was easy enough to discern.

Before we get to the rest of the fill, let me talk a little about this puzzle from a constructor's point of view. Here we have five long theme entries, one fifteen, two twelves, and two elevens, plus two "helper" fills at the first and last across positions. Trust me, that's not something that beginners pull off. I also want to point out the excellent symmetric balance in the clues. Sure, we have two actresses, two actors, and a play. That's standard fare. But notice the vowels. The first, third, and fifth long theme entries have each vowel separate. The second and fourth have two vowel pairs and a single vowel each. Also none of the vowel pairs are repeated (AE, OU, AU, IE). 98% of solvers probably would never notice this sort of thing and, in fact, you might think it's all coincidental. I can almost guarantee you that it is not.

Ok, back to the massacre.

Sunny Spots:

  • 27a: Full of harsh cries (SHRIEKY). This is a favorite adjective of Simon Cowell on "American Idol".

  • How about the identically clued 42a/63a: Shortstop teammate of Derek on the 1999 A.L. All-Stars, which refer to OMAR (Vizquel) and NOMAR (Garciaparra), respectively.

  • 50d: Verbal white flag (UNCLE). This reminds me of a funny scene involving "safe words" from the movie "Eurotrip". I'm not going to link it here, as its mature content is not for everybody, but a YouTube search of "Eurotrip Lucy Lawless" will get you there. It's not high-brow humor; proceed at your own discretion.

  • 6a: Nonplus (STUMP). I like the clue for this one.

  • 15a: Disinfectant brand (LYSOL). Easy, for a Friday.

  • 19a: Creator of Rosemary and her baby (IRA Levin).

  • 21a: Smoke detector? (NOSE). Cute, KINDA (64a: Somewhat, slangily).

  • 30a: Equity members pay them (DUES). This one kind of ties in with the whole entertainment theme.

  • 57a: "War, ___" (2008 movie) (INC). I don't recall seeing this one in the local theaters. Maybe it hasn't hit wide release?

  • 65a: Driving holdup? (TEE). I've seen too many TEE clues to get fooled by this one.

  • 66a: Act badly, maybe (EMOTE). Befitting the theme.

  • 4d: Suffix with depend and descend (ENT). Very un-Peter-Gordon-like to go with a weak suffix clue. Personally, I would have preferred a "Lord of the Rings" reference.

  • 6d: Tritely sentimental (SLUSHY).

  • 7d: Competitive by nature (TYPE A).

  • 10d: Fraternity members, e.g. (PLEDGERS).

  • 11d: Literally, "to God" (ADIEU).

  • 12d: Good start? (HARD G). Crytic clue! Watch out for these.

  • 13d: Big hit (SMASH). Both literally (e.g., in tennis) and figuratively (e.g., at the box office). Another fill that complements the theme.

  • 18d: Sure thing (LOCK). Big Brown was a lock to win the Triple Crown. Oops!

  • 23d: Aurora's Greek counterpart (EOS). I always confuse EOS and IOS. IOS is the ISLAND.

  • 26d: Outdoor feast (LUAU). Luau Cinder? (Shout out to Denise.)

  • 28d: Nabe (HOOD). This makes me think of the phenomenal parody that the band Dynamite Hack did of Eazy E's "Boyz N the Hood". It's a hilarious statement of how gangsta rap has reached white suburban yuppies. I'm not a big rap fan, but I suggest you listen to just enough of the original to get a sense of it. Then check out the Dynamite Hack version. It's even funnier with the video. (EXPLICIT LYRICS WARNING FOR BOTH LINKS!).

  • 32d: WWII POTUS (FDR). President of the United States.

  • 33d: Team that finished last out of ten teams in each of its first four seasons (METS).

  • 34d: Medicinal succulent (ALOE).

  • 39d: Its flag has a compass rose on it (NATO).

  • 44d: Bug with its own season? (FLU). I started here with FLY. Up in these parts we have multiple seasons named for bugs: black fly season, mosquito season, etc.

  • 45d: City with the newspaper Capital Journal (PIERRE). This was a "name a state capital that fits" clue.

  • 47d: Setting for part of "The Simpsons Movie" (ALASKA).

  • 49d: Early role for Sarah Jessica Parker (ANNIE). On Broadway, where else? At least this one was guessable. Another tie-in to the theme.

  • 51d: Tool for smoothing wet concrete (FLOAT). I was not familiar with this tool.

  • 54d: Over, overseas (FINI). French.

  • 55d: ___-European (INDO). This is much more straightforward than Wednesday's "Chinese prefix".

  • 56d: Good name for an archer (BEAU). I'll laugh when I see "Good name for a swinger" (CHER).

Suns of Bitches:

  • 14a: Menzel of "Wicked" (IDINA) crossing 2d: Jazz singer Anita (O'DAY). I was pretty sure it had to be a D, but the across looked suspect. Thought it might be an R.

  • 33a: Winnie ___ (Wiley Post's plane) (MAE). This was a guess that fit. It didn't help any that it crossed the Zelkovas clue, below.

  • 37d: Character in "Kiss Me, Kate" (LOIS LANE). "Kiss Me, Kate" won the very first Tony for Best Musical. Was the choice of name intentionally snagged from Superman comics? That I don't know. I include this clue in this section partly because I didn't remember that Lois Lane was the name of the character, but also because of the cool tie-in with the next entry.

  • 53a: Nyman of "I Am Curious (Yellow)" (LENA). I had no idea what the actress's name was (it's also the character's name), but I know of the film. It's a 1967 Swedish film that was banned in Massachusetts for being pornographic, until a Court of Appeals overturned the decision. It's also a much parodied title, as in this controversial edition of "Superman's Girl Friend, Lois Lane", where Lois becomes a black woman for a day (November, 1970).

  • 24d: Costar of Woody in "Mighty Aphrodite" (MIRA Sorvino).

  • 25d: 1997 Theatre World Award winner Linda (EDER).

  • 29d: Snowboarder Rebagliati (ROSS). Yeah, whatever.

  • 35d: Zelkovas' relatives (ELMS). I was looking at __MS for a while, with absolutely no clue what a zelkova was: YAMS? ARMS? ELMS? ALMS? Had to resort completely to crossings.

Actually, considering my lack of knowledge in this area, I was able to plow through the puzzle with only a couple of question marks. It was a little name-heavy for my taste, but considering we were due for Weekend Warrior, it could have been worse. For you theater buffs out there, it was a great puzzle.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.


Joon said...

this must be another playbill crossword that ended up in the NYS. a pity. i mean, this was a nice construction, but the theme couldn't really have done any less for me, and the fill was packed with yet more stuff i had never heard of from show business. i really wish it had been a WW instead.

Bill from NJ said...

This puzzle's theme was one of my favorite types but not in the way you might think.

Broadway is not an area that is in my expertise but is what I like to call incidental knowledge that is, things I know that I don't know that I know.

It is my opinion that there is nothing that is not worth knowing. In a way, I think all knowledge is sacred from third-tier soap opera characters to istotopes of plutonium.

Today, I wondered if all that time I spent looking at Herschfeld's cartoons on Sunday mornings was going to hold me in good stead. It turned out that I remembered the actor that played Alfred on the old Batman series, incidentally won a Tony for Bedroom Farce. I remember that Wiley Post was killed in a plane crash with Will Rogers in 1935 because, incidentally, I saw his plane, the Winnie Mae, on display at a museum in Virginia when I was young.

And THAT"S why I love Crossword Puzzles!

janie said...

a day late 'n' a dollar short, but i'm guessin' that this puzzle was published at this time because the tony awards'll be announced tomorrow.

it's perhaps not an event that's on everyone's radar (the televised event is practically one of the "award show" non-events...), but for folks with proximity to nyc (and that would be most readers of the sun) and to theatre-goers, -lovers, -professionals and -amateurs everywhere, it's a chance to see which of their faves will get the recognition they've probably earned.

thought the "vowel" thang in this puzzle was a star in its own right.



Juan said...

i know "luau cinder" is a pun but i don't get it. what's the joke?

Pete M said...

@juan: Lew Alcindor was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's name in college and for the first couple of years in the NBA.

Welcome to last month's blog. :)