WEDNESDAY, Jul. 29 2009 — 1970s self-improvement program / Where Olaf I or Olaf II sat / Storied monster informally / Cold War propaganda disseminator
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Constructor: Tim Wescott
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: Division representatives — circled squares in theme answers contain the names of team members from each division in Major League Baseball
Word of the Day: GARRET (19D: "La Bohème" setting) — n.
A room on the top floor of a house, typically under a pitched roof; an attic.
[Middle English, from Old French garite, watchtower, from garir, to defend, of Germanic origin.]-----
What this puzzle has going for it is a rather intricate intersecting pattern of theme answers. Rare to see this much theme interlock — definitely a challenge to make it all work out. What the puzzle lacks is strong rationale. At first I thought the teams were completely arbitrary, i.e. "here are six team members from completely random teams. Enjoy!" I then searched for some kind of organizing principle and realized that each team represented one of the six different divisions in Major League Baseball. OK, that's something. But unless I'm missing something, there is no particular reason why these teams are here. Whole premise feels a little loose. Further, some of the theme answers were not so strong. I have no doubt the term "SHORT-WINDED" exists, but who says that? And, as my wife said last night, "Is NORWEGIAN THRONE ... a thing?" Of course, said throne does exist, but it doesn't make for a very nice stand-alone crossword answer. CROP SPRAYER felt a little forced. CROP DUSTER, sure. SPRAYER? Meh. Further, the incorporation of the team member into the theme answers is haphazard. RAY doesn't even stretch across two words. Ever other team member does, but some of those touch every word in their respective phrases, and others don't, adding to the overall arbitrary feel of the answers. Clearly concessions were made in the elegance of the construction in order to get the interlock to work out. This puzzle really needed a theme-revealing answer, a clue that gives us some sense of the puzzle's unifying principle. Something with "division" in it ... something. Would have liked puzzle much better if it had had a theme-revealer and no circles (please tell me you all had circles in the dead-tree version this time...)
- 28A: Pesticide spreader, e.g. (crop sp RAY er) — A.L. East
- 48A: Terse (shor TWIN ded) — A.L. Central
- 11D: Juicer remnants (o RANGER inds) — A.L. West
- 24D: Shake hands (co MET o terms) — N.L. East
- 17A: Argue forcibly (make ASTRO ng case) — N.L. Central
- 61A: Where Olaf or Olaf II sat (Norwe GIANT hrone) — N.L. West
Despite the fact that the theme execution is a mess, I mostly enjoyed solving it. But I like baseball.
- 32A: Brian of ambient music (Eno) — I really wish Brian ENO would do something ... this century. We need new clue material, Brian.
- 37A: Name in bankruptcy news (Enron) — what do you get when you cross Brian ENO with a registered nurse?
- 69A: Cold war propaganda disseminator (TASS) — Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union, usually seen as the second part of ITAR-TASS.
- 71A: Like Yogi Berra, physically (squat) — I misread this clue. Read it too quickly and thought it referred to the position Yogi had to assume during play. A rare instance where misreading led me to the right answer.
- 2D: Bibliophile's suffix (-ana) — I am a bibliophile, and yet I rarely have occasion to use -ANA, and I never have occasion to use it in relation to any of my own books.
- 9D: Bridge no-no (renege) — never played bridge, had to wait for almost all the crosses here. When is RENEGE ever not a "no-no?" It's a very ugly word, both in appearance and sound.
- 10D: 2007 Michael Moore documentary ("Sicko") — Haven't seen a Michael Moore film since "Fahrenheit 9/11."
- 26D: It's most useful when broken (bronco) — no fan of riddles. Got this one somewhere near the end. Football answer clashes with the theme.
- 40D: Storied monster, informally (Nessie) — Any reference to an imaginary creature is apt to be something less than "formal." "That's Ms. Monster to you, buddy!"
- 52D: _____ the custom (traditionally) (as was) — all kinds of OUCH. Horrible partial. Nothing to cue the past tense (AS IS makes just as much if not more sense). Ugly.
- 65D: 1970s self-improvement program (est) — Did people really "improve" their "selves?" "est" appears to have lasted into the 80s, btw. Surely some of you went through it. Stories welcome.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]