Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Wednesday, April 19, 2017, Emanuel Ax and Brad Wilber


I don't know who, exactly, I was expecting to do these celebrity puzzles, but it wasn't Emanuel Ax! He just went up a few notches, and he was already up there.

This was a fun one that I thought was a themeless until I hit the revealer, way off in the SW - 52D: Word that can follow the ends of 20- and 54-Across and 4- and 26-Down (NOTE). That gives "mash note," "sour note," "half note," and "high note." We also have the lovely eighth note in the center. Nice touch.

I like all the theme answers, but I was not familiar with the term "mash note." I thought it might be something that whiskey reviewers talk about when explaining the various flavor profiles... but no, it's a raving fan letter, or maybe a love/stalker letter - I'm still not entirely sure. The others are well known to me. I also like the nod to Mr. Ax's instrument in 32A: What the keys are to a pianist? (PLAYAREA). Ha!

There are some pretty questionable entries - EREI, LIENEE, UVRAY, and a few others, but I think that the theme and the fun material far outweigh them today. QUAKERGUN (11D: Log painted deceptively to look like a cannon) is a new one to me, but I love it! VICUNA (42A: Andean animal with expensive wool) is quite exotic, and MANGIA (35A: Trattoria order?) is hilarious. For those who speak Italian, anyway.

1A: BBQ platter side (SLAW) - B-. Interesting word.
Favorite: ANECTDOTAL (34D: Not statistically based, as evidence). I just like this one.
Least: NCAR (55D: Nascar Hall of Fame locale: Abbr.) - Yikes.

Overall, thumbs up.

- Horace


  1. 17:53 (FWTE)
    ARM/MATT cross, where I tried a "c" (ARc made sense to me somehow), and UNAS/VICUNA, where I tried an "l" for no good reason whatsoever. Anyway, the rest was easy enough, and I, too, enjoyed the theme. I saw Mr. Ax at Mechanics Hall in Worcester a while back. As I recall, he was billed to play some Debussy, but wasn't ready for it (or that was my guess as to the reason for the abrupt substitution), so he tried to toss of the Waldstein and was humbled by the Mighty Beethoven. As an American of Italian descent, I'm quite familiar with MANGIA. DAYMARE is good, as is RUNNERSHIGH (although I've not experienced one of those as yet). The JAKE/KERRI cross was rough, but I guessed correctly there. I've seen HALLO recently, but the RHODE Island Red hasn't made an appearance for a while. LIENEE is terrible.

  2. 5:56 (FWOE) - I tried ARc and cATT, because I couldn't believe that MATT Dillon would be clued by a reference to "Gunsmoke" rather than the somewhat more contemporary actor. I'd heard of QUAKERGUN, but tried shAKERGUN first. This all made the NE corner the hardest section. I love the eighth note in the center of the puzzle, and the lack of any symmetry.

  3. 23:22
    The center right played really tough for me as I have no familiarity with QUAKERGUN, DAYMARE, MANGIA, LIENEE, RUNNERSHIGH, HASANIP, or the Thurber piece (FILE and Forget). I actually got a bit of "Crossword High" when I refused to give up and managed to get it all filled in correctly.

  4. Hmm, I had alpacA before VICUNA, and required a bunch of trial and error for a lot of things like NORMARAE and ABERDEEN. Felt like that in a lot of the grid. Had to run the alphabet to get the JAKE/KERRI cross. FIrE before FILE. Ultra before UVRAY. That sort of thing. Somehow I did get everything in 22:13 without turning to Google, so based on that evidence it wasn't as hard as it felt.

    As for the theme, I noticed the asymetry pretty much immediately but it wasn't until I got the revealer and had a chance to think about it that I realized that the black in the middle looks like a note.