05.20 Fri

May 20, 2011
Mark Feldman

Theme: Composer puns — Theme answers are puns based on composers' names and movie titles.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Biopic about a time-traveling composer? (BACH TO THE FUTURE).
  • 27A: Biopic about a composer who is unrecognized in public? (HAYDN PLAIN SIGHT).
  • 48A: Biopic about a composer from a WWII hero's perspective? (SCHINDLER'S LISZT).
  • 63A: Biopic about a composer fighting his inner demons? (BATTLE OF BRITTEN).
So the first thing I did when I finished solving this puzzle was log on to cruciverb.com to see if this theme had been done before. BACH TO THE FUTURE seemed like such an obvious pun to me that I couldn't believe it hadn't already been used. About six years ago, Randy Hartman had a Sunday Washington Post puzzle using this same idea, but BACH TO THE FUTURE was the only overlapping theme entry. A year later, however, David Kahn constructed a puzzle for the New York Sun with this theme ... using exactly the same theme answers. I don't think I'm going to take the time to analyze this information here, but I thought I would at least share it with you. There is one difference between today's puzzle and Kahn's: today we have the composers listed in chronological order, which I think is probably good for something although I'm not sure exactly what. It does explain why I had so much trouble with the last theme answer. I grew up playing piano, so BACH, HAYDN and LISZT were obviously familiar to me. BRITTEN, though, is a 20th-century opera guy who, I must admit, I've never heard of.

There are a couple bonus non-theme answers in today's grid:
  • 69A: Itzhak Perlman choice (STRAD).
  • 9D: More, in music (PIU).
Highlights in the grid for me today include ZYDECO and NO-HITTER (51D: Louisiana folk music / 38D: Historic game). Seems like the NO-HITTERs are coming fast and furious these days, aren't they? For some reason, I really liked the clue [34A: Heavy] for SOLEMN.

Both COE (71A: Canadian LPGA golfer Dawn __-Jones) and TIANT (47D: Three-time A.L. shutout leader of the '60s-'70s) were complete unknowns to me and I got them only through crosses. I also never knew that the little cape worn by some clergy (including ABBOTs, presumably) is called a mozzetta.

Missteps include ERR for SIN (36A: Go astray) and, embarrassingly, ENGLAND for ONTARIO (10D: Where London is). The whole time I was writing in the letters for ENGLAND, this little nagging voice in the back of my head was going "That's too obvious, especially for a Friday. You know there's a London somewhere else in the world. Think, dammit, think!"

Crosswordese 101 Round-up:
  • 14A: "Exodus" hero (ARI).
  • 25A: __ avis (RARA).
  • 66A: Grenoble's river (ISERE).
  • 7D: Pub. of a "Distracted Driving" brochure (OSHA).
  • 12D: Limerick land (EIRE).
  • 55D: Wading bird (IBIS).
  • 56D: Brewery feature (OAST).
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Everything Else 1A: Pale (WAN); 4A: Mozzetta wearer (ABBOT); 9A: Sat (POSED); 15A: Intimate (CLOSE); 16A: Key scene for bursting bombs? (IN AIR); 20A: "... like __ buzzing in blind fury": Pyle (A BEE); 21A: Go after (CHASE); 22A: Traveling, in a way (ASEA); 23A: Builder's options (SITES); 35A: Rondeaux, e.g. (POEMS); 39A: Switch words (ON/OFF); 41A: Political pacifier (SOP); 42A: Ruled quarters? (ROOST); 45A: Devised, with "up" (DREAMT); 53A: Absorbed by (INTO); 54A: Legendary luster (SATYR); 55A: Tiny amount (IOTA); 57A: Sting (SMART); 62A: Zilch (NADA); 67A: Put to the test (TRIED); 68A: Former transp. regulator (ICC); 70A: Takes to the cleaners (HOSES); 1D: Indiana county or its seat (WABASH); 2D: Where Mecca is (ARABIA); 3D: Civilized feature (NICETY); 4D: Put-on (ACT); 5D: Alliance (BLOC); 6D: This and that (BOTH); 8D: Some shirts (TEES); 11D: Some links (SAUSAGES); 13D: "The Sopranos" actress __ de Matteo (DREA); 18D: Doesn't ignore (HEEDS); 19D: Spore producer (FERN); 24D: Cat lead-in (SNO); 26D: Old Egyptian symbol (ASP); 28D: Abbas's gp. (PLO); 29D: He appeared in eight consecutive U.S. Open finals (LENDL); 30D: Love overseas (AMORE); 31D: Figure (INFER); 32D: Ins. plan (HMO); 33D: 1/48 cup: Abbr. (TSP.); 36D: Yearbook sect. (SRS.); 37D: Games org. (IOC); 40D: Musical syllables (FAS); 43D: 1953 Best Supporting Actor Oscar winner (SINATRA); 44D: Big bang producer (TNT); 46D: L.A. Galaxy's gp. (MLS); 49D: Pharmacy concern (DOSE); 50D: Trouble (STATIC); 52D: Daze (TRANCE); 58D: Evening flier (MOTH); 59D: Full do (AFRO); 60D: Sluggers' stats (RBI'S); 61D: Corner (TREE); 64D: Brought (LED); 65D: Some tags (ID'S).


SethG said...

And Kevin Der did a NYT Sunday last year.

I didn't grow up playing piano, but I also didn't grow up listening to 20th-century opera. PIU.

*David* said...

Had a hard time finishing the puzzle in the SE quadrant with TIANT,COE, BRITTEN, and ICC. I first had FCC which slowed me down considerably. I look over the puzzle now and it wasn't overly difficult but it took some time.

In reference to prior puzzle themes being done before, I think the majority of solvers are only doing the LA Times or syndicated newspapers and that the theme re-use is of no consequence. In addition once three years go by I consider that a statute of limitations, that most people who do every xword won't remember. Getting a theme out to more people even if it is technically repetitive does not seem to be a big deal to me.

Pete said...

Composer puns are so old that I don't think it's fair to question the degree to which they get recycled. I'm sure there was a parlor game in Victorian England seeing how many composer puns one could make, so the puzzles of 5 years ago weren't exactly novel.

Nice puzzle.

C said...

I agree with @Pete, composer pun themed puzzles have been around for a loooong time, recycling them has become a cottage crossword puzzle constructor industry. No demerits from this solver and no demerits implied from @PGs, as usual, nice writeup.

I enjoyed seeing Luis TIANT in the puzzle. Non-baseball people might recall him for his unusual windup and delivery while pitching. He would completely turn his back on the hitter prior to throwing the ball.

Steve said...

I enjoyed this, HAYDN PLAIN SIGHT was really nice.

Took me quite some time to finish, although a couple of phone interruptions didn't help. Loved ZYDECO, SAUSAGES made me laugh for some reason (maybe I'm easily amused).

@PG - I thought England too at first, but resisted the temptation to fill it in, then saw POSED and ONTARIO went straight in instead.

Coming from the other side of the pond originally, Benjamin BRITTEN is very familiar.

Finally - and this might be the perfect forum to ask this question - the fill today includes the word DREAMT - I *think* that this is the only word in the English language that ends in "AMT" - does anyone know of any other?

Anonymous said...

pardon my ignorance, but are BACH and 'back' really sound-alikes?

MPPuzzler said...

I enjoyed this puzzle, about perfect for a Friday (much better than last Friday's). Several write-overs, but I had enough crosses to avoid the London misstep. Loved ZYDECO, as I was recently in NOLA.

I am very troubled, though, about the reuse of the exact same pun answers as a previous puzzle. I understand that composer puns are common, and enjoy them, but reusing four exact puns seems wrong.

Rube said...

I too started to write in England but thought, "No, no way... too obvious". Only other writeover was BRITTEN/BRITaiN... dumb mistake.

Mozetta is my WOTD, but had also never heard of ZYDECO.

This theme is too time worn. It takes only a few crosses to guess the rest of an answer. It's time to mothball it.

Nighthawk said...

Hand up for MOZZETTA being a WOTD.

At long last, last night happened to have watched (via NetFlix DVD) the last season of Friday Night Lights, though it didn't help with the Benjamin BRITTEN pun, but nice to see @PG thinking along the same lines afterwards.

TIANT was also unknown to me, as was COE, making STATIC obscure for a while, though I liked the cluing for SATYR. Also the cluing for 16A and 42A. RARA avis was one of the first to go in, so didn't fall for the England trap, just waited for a few crosses to see ONTARIO.

Enjoyable and no complaints about the re-gifting of the theme. I agree with @*David*, three years sounds like a good sunset time in the code frowning on theme re-use.

CrazyCat said...

This was my first composer pun theme, so no quibbles there. I was able to get COE and TIANT only through crosses. Both complete unknowns for me. I knew BRITTEN though. Back before public schools became so PC, my Jr. High choir sang his "Ceremony of Carols" in Middle English accompanied by a harp for a special Christmas performance.

Favorite clue was 42A Ruled quarters? Favorite answer was ZYDECO.

mac said...

Yes, the theme was familiar, but still nice. Wow, I learned a lot today: Coe, Tiant, mozetta, zydeco.

@CrazyCatLady: I knew Benjamin Britten, and the Ceremony of Carols is a favorite around the holidays in our house.

Ol' Man Keith said...

A good one. The theme was not all that winning, but I did enjoy SCHINDLERS LISZT & BATTLE OF BRITTEN. But my favorite of all was SATYR. For the longest time I could not see the other meaning for "luster."

Mokus said...

If you're up for a musical treat listen to Britten's War Requiem. You can even find it on YouTube if you want just a taste. The piece includes traditional Latin parts of the mass and the poems of Wilfred Owen. Britten was a pacifist so don't worry about it glorifying war. For opera haters like Seth you will find it totally unlike anything you ever heard. PS: If you ever listened to Paul Simon's Graceland album you have heard Zydeco.

Cool puzzle. I enjoyed the puzzle and the theme. I'm glad when themes get resurrected because I'm fairly new to CWPs.