Sunday, July 15, 2018

Sunday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: July 15, 2018

My time: 26:01.

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Kudos and plaudits for Sam Ezersky and Byron Walden, who in this puzzle clue several phrases as if they were complimentary phrases.  For example, "compliment to a lawmaker?" is OUTSTANDING BILLS.  "Compliment to a lecturer?" is SWEET TALK.  My favorite is "compliment to a vegetable gardener?" which is SMASHING PUMPKINS.  And "compliment to a charity organizer?" is SOLID FOUNDATION.

A couple of these puns didn't come to me easily because I didn't recognize the original phrases.  "Compliment to a composer?" is RADICAL MOVEMENT, which actually refers to a neophyte progressive political party in France.  "Compliment to a taxonomist?" is STELLAR CLASSIFICATION, which is a system for grading stars.   Most stars are currently classified under the Morgan-Keenan (MK) system using the letters O, B, A, F, G, K, and M, a sequence from the hottest (O type) to the coolest (M type).

In addition to this funny but sometimes tricky theme, the fill was a real bear today.  Just lots and lots of unknown material to me.  (And that's in addition to the groan-worthy stuff like "worlds external to the mind" --- NON-EGOS.  Seriously?)

Why should I know that Garth Brooks sung "THE DANCE" on Jay Leno's last "Tonight Show?" Who cares?  Why is that worth remembering?

I watched "The Flintstones" as a kid, but I'd forgotten the name of Fred's boss, MR. SLATE.

I haven't watched "Downton Abbey," so Lesley NICOL is a new name to me.  She played Mrs. Patmore.  She's been on a lot of British TV but not much else.  (I was held up for a little by this one.  The crossing clue is PRICED to sell, but I had *PRIMED to sell, which is also a phrase.  That left me with the name Lesley *NIMOL, which didn't look right, but hey, it's a name.)

"Cornbread variety named for where it's baked" had me trying to think of geographical places.  Wrong!  It's ASHCAKE, baked in hot ashes.

I'm a Thin Man fan, so I know the dog ASTA, but I didn't know he was played by a dog named Skippy.  He was a big star in his time.  He earned $250 per week at a time when most dogs were being paid about $3.50 per day.  He didn't just do the Thin Man films.  In 1937, he appeared in The Awful Truth, where he was the subject of a custody dispute between Cary Grant and Irene Dunne.

Hungarian author and 2002 Nobel winner in Literature IMRE Kert├ęsz is a household name, surely!  A survivor of Auschwitz, he lived in Germany and wrote about the Holocaust.

"Gettysburg general" is a very broad and bland clue for George MEADE, the Old Snapping Turtle who defeated Lee at that battle.

I wasn't sure about JARTS at first, but there it is.  A portmanteau of javelin darts, they have in fact been banned in the US and Canada.

Is "why, you little..." really equivalent to "SON OF A---"?  They seem to have very different implications to me.

Did you know NIGER is a major exporter of uranium?  Me neither.

Monument Avenue is a street in Richmond, Virginia, lined with statues of Confederate generals.  This trophy room of traitors hosts many quaint customs, such as the annual spring Monument Avenue 10-K race, and when the anti-American hicks in the Sons of Confederate Veterans gather along Monument Avenue dressed in absurd period military costumes and yearn for the days of slavery and privilege.  Also there is a statue of Arthur ASHE, the tennis great and Richmond native.

I'm tired of clues about what key various pieces are in.  So what if Mozart's "Odense" is in A MINOR?  Who cares?

"Alternative to Parmesan" is ASIAGO, a hard cow's milk cheese.  Asiago has a protected designation of origin, which means that the only "authentic" Asiago is produced around the alpine area of the Asiago Plateau, in the regions of Veneto and Trentino-Alto Adige.

Another sports guy I've never heard of is Chuck NOLL, a football coach who took the Pittsburgh Steelers to the Super Bowl and won four times.

Being only familiar with the Robin Williams and Nathan Lane film version, I didn't know that LA CAGE aux Folles is set in Saint-Tropez, a village on the French coast of the Mediterranean.  I probably should have gotten this one sooner, though.

Speaking of French geography, the Quai d'Orsay is found on the left bank of the SEINE.

Yet another fact that surely every American schoolkid knows: in The Three Musketeers, D'Artagnan is from the city of TARBES!  Now seriously, how is that a reasonable clue?  Interesting trivia: the name is supposedly derived from an Ethiopian queen who founded the town after wandering dejectedly because she had been turned down romantically by Moses.

Never heard of actress GABY Hoffman, who plays Ali Pfefferman on "Transparent" and Caroline Sackler on "Girl," both of which I've never seen.

OLY is supposedly hipster-short for Olympia, a brand of beer that used to be made in Tumwater, Washington, but now is made by faceless corporate giant MillerCoors.

Today in the wide world of words, we learn that a PASTICCIO means a musical work composed of bits from other musical works.  It also means, and the musical meaning is derived from this original meaning, a dish of ground beef with noodles.

Again in the "why should we care" department: Whitney Houston's record label was ARISTA.

Apparently in New England a milkshake is called a FRAPPE?  It's pronounced "frap."  In Rhode Island a shake seems to be called a... cabinet?  That's interesting.

Actress Tess Harper I know, but author Tess Gerritsen is a new one to me.  They're both TESSES.

I'm not much of a classical music buff, so I thought I recognized the aria "Ave Maria," but the famous one is from Charles Gounod.  The clue in this puzzle refers to an aria of the same name in Verdi's OTELLO.

Tiny bone OSSICLE appeared on June 8.

On May 13, we learned that Trinidad is the southernmost of the Lesser Antilles; today we are told that BARBADOS is the easternmost!

MALALA Yousafzai was featured in the theme of June 26.

Clever clues: "Lucky strike?" is OIL (and not *ORE like I wanted it to be).  "John, Paul, or George, but not Ringo" is SAINT.  "Water cooler?" is BRIG.  "Long lines?" is EPIC POEM (which also sounds like it could be one of today's themes). "It may be checkered" is PAST.

Well, that was AWFUL.  I'm looking forward to Monday.  And SO TO bed.

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