MONDAY, Aug. 17 2009 — Nobel Prize-winning U.N. workers' grp. / Mark slightly longer than hyphen / Norwegian coastal features
Monday, August 17, 2009
Constructor: Mike Buckley
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: "BATMAN" / JOKERS (26A: With 51-Across, roles for 17-, 38- and 62-Across) — theme answers are all actors who have played The Joker
Word of the Day: TYR (19A: Norse war god) — Tiw (tē'ū) , Norse Tyr (tür) , ancient Germanic god. Originally a highly revered sky god, he was later worshiped as a god of war and of athletic events. He was identified with the Roman war god Mars, and among Germanic peoples Mars' day became Tiw's day (Tuesday). (Columbia encyclopedia)
Well, I do like Batman. I'm not sure how CLEVER this puzzle is, but it certainly gets three actors' names to line up symmetrically, and recalls one of the most iconic villains in American popular culture, and manages to get part of a villainous laugh (HEH => 31D: When doubled, a villain's chuckle) into a nearly central position, so I was entertained. Marginal thumbs up. My main issue with the theme is the somewhat inelegant quality of the theme-revealing clue/answer. I was certain CESAR ROMERO played JOKER, but when I got to 26A: With 51-Across, roles for 17-, 38- and 62-Across, I was surprised to see the answer beginning BAT-. I actually wrote in BATMEN (!?) thinking I had misremembered Mr. Romero's career. Later on I realized that "BATMAN" referred to the franchise, not the role. It's being used adjectivally. What kind of JOKERS? "BATMAN" JOKERS. But ... what other JOKERS are there? "Law & Order" JOKERS? "Little House on the Prairie" JOKERS? The awkwardness of the phrase "BATMAN" jokers made the theme feel a little wonky to me, but the JOKER is a little wonky, so maybe that was intentional, in which case: Genius.
- 17A: 1966 (Cesar Romero)
- 38A: 1989 (Jack Nicholson)
- 62A: 2008 (Heath Ledger)
Despite my thematic confusion, my time was pretty normal for a Monday. A bit on the low side of normal, in fact. This is all-the-more surprising given how many other times I stumbled while filling this grid in. Had REST STOP instead of REST AREA (3D: Place to pull over) — thanks to the elephant and his big EAR for helping me fix that (28A: Big part of an elephant). I couldn't figure out NEWS to save my life from the clue (41D: 6:30 p.m. broadcast). Talk about a 20th century clue. People still watch network news?? Core audience there is aging and diminishing (which is only partially a euphemism for dying — mainly the audience is going elsewhere for its news). Cronkite's death was symbolic as well as real. Showed my age / generational sympathies when I reflexively wrote in RAIN for 58D: Jimi Hendrix's "Purple _____" ("Haze"). In my defense, Prince and Hendrix do have a lot in common. Still, despite all this, it was Monday, Monday all around, so all ERRing was easily fixed (6D: Flub).
- 45A: Solar phenomenon (flare) — got it off the "E" — felt risky when I put it in (!), but FJORDS confirmed my rightness (45D: Norwegian coastal features).
- 48A: Laudatory poems (odes) — I just like the word "laudatory"; weird how ordinary this word seems in crosswords, where it's used regularly to clue ODES.
- 5D: Physicist Enrico (Fermi) — wanted him yesterday (in FARAD's place), and he shows up today. Do we have a word for that yet? :)
- 9D: Chocolate substitute (carob) — barf. My introduction to this abomination came at the racquet club my family belonged to when I was growing up: Four Walls West (racquetball was a big deal in the late 70s — I think that club was where my dad met my eventual stepmom). They served items made with carob at the snack bar (it was supposed to be "healthy," guess). And yet I have an odd memory of eating Beer Nuts there. Most vivid Four Walls West memory, though, involves crushing the middle finger of my right hand in the Volvo car door. Unreal pain. Purpling. Nail loss. The whole horrible bit. That finger looks @#$#ed up to this day.
- 39D: Nobel-Prize-winning U.N. workers' grp. (ILO) — common xword answer, but one I'm not particularly fond of.
- 27D: Leaps in ice-skating (axels) — utterly unworth mentioning, except that today it forms part of a symmetrical winter sports dyad with SKIER, which is nice (35D: One taking to the slopes).
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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