Hungarian writer Madach — FRIDAY, Jul. 17 2009 — Manhattan Mary V artist / Hoffman co-star Cusack / Outfielder Francona / Robert E Lee last victory
Friday, July 17, 2009
Constructors: Doug Peterson and Barry C. Silk
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
Word of the Day: KENTUCKY COLONEL (8D: Honorary title bestowed on Bill Clinton, Muhammad Ali and Mae West) — Kentucky Colonel is an honorary title bestowed upon individuals by approval of the governor of Kentucky. It is not a military rank, requires no duties, and carries with it no pay or compensation other than membership in the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels. Award of the title requires nomination from an existing colonel. Nominators are expected to consider the nominee's service and contributions to the global community before making a nomination. The sitting governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky bestows the honor of a Colonel's Commission, by issuance of a certificate. (wikipedia)
The fill on this one is very nice, but the cluing was all over the map. Sometimes on, but too often precious, cutesy, or out-of-left-field. Is there a reason anyone outside Kentucky knows what a KENTUCKY COLONEL is? I half-inferred it from COLONEL Sanders, but I kept putting in and taking out the COLONEL part, which helped make the whole SE *by far* the hardest part of the puzzle to solve. I know the names TITO and SINEAD, but I have No Idea who this TITO or this SINEAD is. None. I know TERRY Francona, but not TITO (52D: Outfielder Francona). Oh ... crap, they're the same person. TITO is a nickname. He's the @#$#ing manager of the Red Sox and hasn't been an "outfielder" in 19 years. Man, that clue blows on two levels. No cue for nickname. And ridiculously dated use of "outfielder" — "outfielder" shmoutfielder. Come on. [I am slightly less annoyed now that I've had it pointed out to me that the clue likely referred to Francona's father, TITO, who was a successful outfielder during the 60s. No Hall-of-Famer, but he had a solid career]. SINEAD was particularly brutal (45D: "Hoffman" co-star Cusack). Me: "Let's see, there's John ... and Joan ... and I'm out of Cusacks." I don't even know what "Hoffman" is. Is SINEAD O'Connor really too easy for a Friday? I get that BOHO is supposed to be an abbrev. of "bohemian," but something about the clue rubbed me the wrong way (53A: Eschewer of convention, in slang). Maybe it's the word "eschewer." Maybe it's the fact that the only way I know BOHO is from the phrase "BOHO chic," used to apply to fashion popularized by certain celebrities, and thus a far cry from unconventional. Aren't UGG Boots supposed to be "BOHO?" BOO HOO for me, I guess. How is OPEL a 2009 G.M. spinoff? OPEL existed before 2009. In fact, OPEL has been around about a century. I guess I understand only the sitcom meaning of "spinoff." Anyway, the only way I finally got this corner was by first committing to OTOS (44A: People of the Platte, once) over OTOE, and then trying very very hard to think of L--Y words for 49A: Symbol of innocence and purity (lily). Once I got that, I instantly got LEEKS (50D: Amaryllis family members), and the "K" gave me all the traction I needed. "K"s are good like that.
Is a TOW CAR (43D: Crash site sight) anything like a TOW TRUCK? Never heard of it. Thought the clue on ANKLE was super-cheap (48D: _____-high). I think of "Tawny" as a color a great deal more dynamic than ECRU (which, in my mind, is the official color of ENNUI). I don't know what's "literary" about JESU (22A: Pieta figure, literarily). I know JESU from Bach's "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring," but that's not literature.
As I say, the fill itself was mostly very nice. Loved the NW — would have loved it a hell of a lot more were it not for the cute but irritating clue on 15A: 63-Across? (ALMA MATER). No hope of getting that for a long time. Or I should say, no hope of "confirming" that, because I had many crosses up in the NW and really wanted to write in ALMA MATER before I knew why. Not thrilled about having to go to the other end of the puzzle to wait for an answer that would only obliquely ("?") clue my 15A, but that's life. At least when I got OLD SCHOOL, there was some payoff — it's a perfect complement for DR DRE (62A: Artist with the 1999 6x platinum album "2001"). N.W.A. (DRE's former group) is OLD SCHOOL for sure. Their "Straight Outta Compton," one of the most influential rap albums ever made, is over 20 years old. RAPS (4D: 62-Across offerings) always strikes me as an odd plural. Kind of like GAYS.
Got FAIR SHAKE immediately — shocking. So shocking, I wasn't convinced I was right, even when the "S" (from SMU, 5D: Big D campus) checked out. Guessed IVOR when answer was IMRE (3D: Hungarian writer Madach). Wanted ERTE but didn't trust it (9D: "Manhattan Mary V" artist), so the NW was a place I had to come back to. In fact, the SW and NE were, in general, way easier than the NW and SE. I got my first real foothold over at LSAT (31D: 180 is its max. score) and spread out from there, leaving the NW and SE for last. Is the juxtaposition of PETE (30D: Rose with a hit record) and NE'ER DO WELL (13D: Bum) intentional? It's kind of mean, kind of brilliant.
- 31A: Kind of door or window (louver) — like FAIR SHAKE, came to me in a flash *and* I had trouble trusting it was right.
- 46A: Lump in cloth (burl) — not sure which is the uglier word, "lump" or BURL.
- 58A: Comment from the beat ("I need a nap") — I groaned at this one when I finally got it. It's very clever ... but almost too clever for my tastes, mainly because I don't buy "I NEED A NAP" as a self-standing phrase any more than "I NEED A DRINK" or "I NEED A HINT" or "I NEED A NAPKIN."
- 60A: Big maker of communications satellites (Loral) — news to me.
- 6D: Berry with juicy parts? (Halle) — more clever cutesiness.
- 14D: Pentax Spotmatic and Nikon F2, for short (SLRs) — Single Lens Reflex cameras. An OLD SCHOOL answer.
- 24D: Site of Robert E Lee's last victory (Cold Harbor) — totally unknown to me, though clearly the phrase existed in my head somewhere, as it's the first thing I wanted after I got the "COLD" part.
- 26D: Shooting star, briefly? (MVP) — Cutesy Cutesingford strikes again.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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See my write-up of today's L.A. Times puzzle here.