Italian actress Eleonora / FRI 11-1-13 / Pre-WWI in automotive history / Fiacre to taxi drivers / Croupier's stick material / Tourist attraction on Texas Pedernales River / Isaac Bashevis Singer settings / Champagne for one sleuth / Arcade game prize grabber / Classic kitschy wall hanging
Friday, November 1, 2013
Constructor: Brad Wilber
Relative difficulty: Medium
Word of the Day: Eleonora DUSE (49D: Italian actress Eleonora) —
Eleonora Duse (Italian: [eleoˈnɔːɾa ˈduːze]; (3 October 1858 – 21 April 1924) was an Italian actress, often known simply as Duse. // Duse was born in Vigevano, Lombardy, and began acting as a child. Both her father and her grandfather were actors, and she joined the troupe at age four. Due to poverty, she initially worked continually, traveling from city to city with whichever troupe her family was currently engaged. She came to fame in Italian versions of roles made famous by Sarah Bernhardt. She gained her first major success in Europe, then toured South America, Russia and the United States; beginning the tours as a virtual unknown but leaving in her wake a general recognition of her genius. While she made her career and fame performing in the theatrical "warhorses" of her day, she is today remembered more for her association with the plays of Gabriele d'Annunzio and Henrik Ibsen. (wikipedia)
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OIL SHALE before. I see that claw game every time I walk into Wegmans, but have never heard it called anything, let alone a CLAW CRANE (22A: Arcade game prize grabber). I'm sure a FALLEN HEM is a thing, but it has a certain GREEN PAINT quality to it (GREEN PAINT = adj/noun pairing that is an imaginable thing but not a phrase that deserves to stand on its own). Never in my life heard of BRASS ERA (54A: Pre-W.W. I in automotive history). I was thinking HORSE ERA for a bit. Never heard of DUSE, but (very very) luckily I knew how to spell NIENTE. I can see that crossing possibly being lethal.
Found the NE very hard (even knowing the Oates novel "THEM"—[Novel in Joyce Carol Oates's Wonderland Quartet]) until I figured out the LBJ part of LBJ RANCH (9D: Tourist attraction on Texas' Pedernales river). Never a big fan of ENORME. Not a terribly big fan of NON-TITLE. So I'm in this strange position of having enjoyed the challenge while having winced or squinted at much of the fill. Perhaps it's because the cluing was good, as was some of the fill I haven't mentioned (TORT REFORM, PATRON SAINT, VELVET ELVIS, I'M RUINED, BLUE CRAB, E.L. DOCTOROW). I don't normally solve/write in the morning, so I might be a bit disoriented. Anyway, I'd say this is an above-average puzzle, but a below-average Brad Wilber puzzle.
And so to breakfast.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld