Old fast-food chain — WEDNESDAY, Jul. 1 2009 — Riksdag locale / Popeye creator Elzie / Moviegoer's chocolate bite
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Two things are impressive about this puzzle — how fast it was constructed/edited/published, and how many damned theme answers there are. I count FOURTEEN (14), though that's including 38A: Dir. from Gary, Ind., to Sault Ste. Marie (NNE) — Gary, IN was Michael Jackson's home town. But despite the impressive turnaround time and impressive density of theme answers, I didn't enjoy this puzzle much at all. It REEKs of rush-job (70A: Stink up the joint). How in the world are you "honoring" MICHAEL JACKSON if leave out "Off the Wall" and "Bad" but give *four* answers over to the manifestly crappier "DANGEROUS?" I understand that "GONE TOO SOON" has a nice tributey sound to it, but it was not what you'd call a memorable hit. Stuffing the partial "ASK ME" into the middle of the puzzle is a pretty ugly move — again, that's not even close to a memorable or significant MJ lyric. I mean, if you Google "Don't you ask me for no favors dangerous" you get — crossword blogs. As a feat of construction, this puzzle is indeed something else, but it does not feel like it was constructed by someone who had any sense of MICHAEL JACKSON's musical significance at all. I didn't even know there *was* an album called "FOREVER, MICHAEL." What the hell is on that?
Nedick's was an American chain of fast-food restaurants that originated in New York City in either 1913 or the early 1920s, per differing sources, and expanded in the 1950s to Newark, New Jersey, Albany, New York, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Baltimore, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. Originally known for making and selling an orange drink, it added coffee and donuts to its simple menu, and later hot dogs. The name was formed from the last names of Robert T. Neely and Orville A. Dickinson, who founded the chain with the original stand in a hotel storefront of the Bartholdi Hotel at 23rd Street and Broadway. The chain was known for its orange and white decor and its slogan, "Good food is never expensive at Nedick's".
Following intense competition in the 1970s from such national chains as McDonald's and Dunkin' Donuts, and much criticism in 1981 for the quality of its concession at the Central Park Zoo, Nedick's ceased operations. (wikipedia)
At least you could've taken out BYE (69A: "Farewell") and put in the MJ album "BAD" — that would have taken no effort at all. Again, I see that "BYE" expresses an attitude toward one who has just died, but I'd rather the puzzle honor him by cracking out the Good Stuff. If you cared about him at all, you'd have left "DANGEROUS" off the table, not built half the puzzle around it, is what I'm saying. I'm imagining that a lot of NYT solvers are going to be annoyed at this puzzle for reasons very different from my own: namely, the puzzle's perpetuation of celebritymania. NPR got hate mail just for running a single segment discussing the cultural significance of Michael Jackson ("With so many truly important things going on in the world..." etc.). I'm sure those same people are gnashing their teeth at this puzzle this morning. "No! Not my puzzle! Is nothing sacred!?"
- 11A: First word of 10-/25-Down's "Billie Jean" ("She")
- 14A: Richie who wrote "We Are the World" with 10-/25-Down (Lionel)
- 15A: 1982 blockbuster by 10-/25-Down ("Thriller")
- 32A: 1991 hit album by 10-/25-Down ("Dangerous")
- 38A: Dir. from Gary, Ind., to Sault Ste. Marie (NNE)
- 40A: "Don't you _____ for no favors" (42-Down lyric on 32-Across) ("ask me")
- 47A: Nickname for 10-/25-Down (King of Pop)
- 67A: Vocal style of 10-/25-Down, at times (falsetto)
- 68A: First record label of 10-/25-Down (Motown)
- 3D: Classic part of a 10-/25-Down stage act (moonwalking)
- 27D: Song on 32-Across ("Gone Too Soon")
- 42D: First song on 32-Across ("Jam")
- 44D: With 10-Down, 1975 album by 10-/25-Down ("Forever Michael")
This puzzle was tough in parts. Though I live just an hour from ELMIRA and teach there on occasion, I wrote in ITHACA for 1A: City SW of Syracuse. Told wife, who thought my mistake was funny ... until she neared the end of her solve and realized that she, too, had the wrong answer there. Hers was far more inventive, I think: ERIE, PA. Never ever heard of NEDICK'S (22D: Old fast-food chain), which seems to have been an NYC institution of sorts. Not big on NYC provincialism, but you gotta give the natives red meat from time to time, I guess. I have heard of a LAPTOP, and I've heard of PALM as a company, and I've heard of a handheld device or PDA, but PALMTOP is not that familiar to me (46D: Handheld device), though it's very inferrable. The non-theme fill is generally very solid, especially considering theme density.
- 17A: Moviegoer's chocolate bite (Sno-Cap) — I've seen these on the candy rack at movie theaters since I was a kid, but I don't think I've ever tried them.
- 21A: Its symbol is omega (ohm) — OHMEGA!
- 24A: Trek to Mecca (hadj) — like the rhyming quality of the clue.
- 51A: Popeye creator Elzie _____ (Segar) — also known as E.C. SEGAR. He's in crosswords a lot.
- 57A: Juan's uncle? ("no mas!") — maybe this clue is old hat, I don't know, but I loved it.
- 16D: Ring-tailed primate (lemur) — daughter used to be obsessed with movie "Madagascar," which is full of LEMURs. Thankfully, she has moved on to superheroes and wizards and whatever Betty & Veronica are.
- 56D: Rose family member (Pete) — that GAPES / PEP / PETE nexus was the very last thing to fall, and had me temporarily baffled. PETE Rose is, of course, the baseball player. He had a tribute puzzle of his own (of sorts) not long ago.
- 65D: Riksdag locale: Abbr. (Swe.) — "Riksdag" is the unicameral Swedish Parliament. I probably should have known that.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
PS at noon today, I will start running a contest on my paperback blog, "Pop Sensation" (contest now up and running, here!) Grand prize = three pretty choice books from my vintage paperback collection. Contest should be amusing. I got a panel of guest judges and everything.
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