Works in Translation

New York Times, Jan. 2 (posted Jan. 10)

Funny that I am solving this “translations” puzzle just after vacationing on an island where many people are quadralingual. (Aruba’s native tongue is called Papiamento, but my guidebook says students there are taught Dutch, English and Spanish as well …)

This neat theme by constructor David Levinson Wilk tests your language (and deduction) skills by translating popular geographical titles into the local language. So the “1951 film ‘Une Personne des Etats-Unis'” (90 Across) is AN AMERICAN IN PARIS. Not so hard, even if you don’t know French. Others include ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO (“2003 film ‘Erase una Vez’,” 68 Across) and DEATH IN VENICE (“1912 novella ‘Morte’,” 99 Across).

Then the puzzle uses some pretty awesome fonts to give clues in Arabic, Russian and Thai (though unfortunately I can’t replicate them here): “1934 novel [Arabic characters here]” is APPOINTMENT IN SAMARRA (27 Across); “1968 hit song [Cyrillic characters here]” is BACK IN THE USSR (38 Across); and a “1985 hit song [Thai characters here]” is ONE NIGHT IN BANGKOK (47 Across). Full disclosure: I actually owned that single. On 45. As in vinyl. It’s from the musical “Chess,” which I’ve never seen. But boy did it get played a lot on the radio.

Yet perhaps the grid’s best translation is from Nu Yawkese into American English: “1943 novel ‘Whaddya Tink? A Sapling Stays a Sapling Fuhevah?'” — A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN (114 Across).

The foreign words continued throughout the puzzle, including ICI (“Starting point on a French map,” 91 Down); OLA (“Greeting in Lisbon,” 33 Across); ALTO (“It’s high in Peru,” 19 Across); and ISSEI (“Immigrant from Japan,” 28 Down), just to name a few.

Latin Can Be Fun Dept.: I never had to take Latin, and am pretty sure I’m happy about that, but this is an awesome scientific name  for an EEL — “Electrophorus electricus, for one” (64 Across).

Comedy Central Dept.: Kudos for not trotting out Eisenhower in the clue for IKE (“‘South Park’ sibling,” 100 Down). Kyle’s little brother is pretty cute. Just don’t leave him alone with the kindergarten teacher.

Sounds Like Woody Allen Dept.: “Comic who said, ‘A short summary of every Jewish holiday: They tried to kill us. We won. Let’s eat.'” — ALAN KING (94 Down).

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