Tuesday, January 29, 2013

“Silent film effect”

[Hello, solvers. If you’re looking for an answer to the clue “Silent film opener” (August 16, 2017), please read all the way to the end. It’s complicated.]

A baffling answer in today’s New York Times crossword, 32-Down, “Silent film effect”: IRISIN. Even after getting it, I was lost: was irisin a chemical used to treat film stock? No, the answer is iris-in. An explanation:

Iris: A technique used to show an image in only one small round area of the screen. An Iris-Out begins as a pinpoint and then moves outward to reveal the full scene, while an Iris-In moves inward from all sides to leave only a small image on the screen. An iris can be either a transitional device (using the image held as a point of transition) or a way of focusing attention on a specific part of a scene without reducing the scene in size.


Here is an iris-out, from Buster Keaton’s Neighbors (1920), found here. Please imagine that it is an iris-in.

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August 16, 2017: A reader has let me know that IRISIN appears in today’s Times crossword, 47-Down: “Silent film opener.” Today’s clue is, well, problematic. I checked a few (reputable) books about film: three define iris-in as the move inward and iris-out as the move outward; two others reverse the terms. So is an iris-in a “silent film opener”? It depends. But no matter what the Times crossword says, Mel Tormé still isn’t a “cool jazz pioneer.”

comments: 5

zzi said...

and they were done "in camera"

Peggy Harrison said...

Thank goodness! I've never heard the term irisin or iris-in, and was convinced I'd done something wrong to get that answer, but couldn't figure out what. Thanks for the explanation!

Michael Leddy said...

You’re welcome. I think many solvers have been baffled by this term.

DR said...

Appears again in NYTimes x-word today, 8/16/17.

Michael Leddy said...

Thanks for the heads-up, DR. My stats show that this post has had many, many visits today. (Hello, solvers.) I do the syndicated puzzle these days, so I won’t get to fill in the answer for another six weeks.