TUESDAY, Sep. 15 2009 — Whacked old style / Singer who funded New York's Strawberry Fields memorial / Spherical home in tree / Rocker Stefani
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Constructor: Fran and Lou Sabin
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
THEME: THINGS WITH WINGS (38A: What the answers to all the asterisked clues are)
Word of the Day: AGITA (13D: Antsy feeling) — Agita: Heartburn, acid indigestion, an upset stomach or, by extension, a general feeling of upset. The word is Italian-American slang derived from the Italian "agitare" meaning "to agitate." (MedicineNet.com)
Note on the puzzle:
HALF-CENTURY PUZZLEMAKERS' WEEK-----
All the daily crosswords this week, Monday through Saturday, are by puzzlemakers who have been contributing to The Times for more than 50 years. Lou Sabin, of Milltown, N.J., sold his first puzzle to The Times in 1950. He now constructs crosswords with his wife, Fran. Altogether Lou has had more than 150 puzzles in the paper.
That's two days in a row that the puzzle has felt strange — harder than usual and (today especially) frankly old-fashioned. What I like about today is the insane grid structure / theme answer placement. Very original for a Tuesday. It's also what makes the puzzle somewhat harder to maneuver through. Pairing 11-letter theme answers with 11-letter non-theme answers = highly unusual Tuesday move (actually, highly unusual generally). Found the theme in general really sub-par, and that dull middle phrase did nothing to help me solve (though I can see how it might have given some folks at least a little nudge toward RAF INSIGNIA). What makes the puzzle feel old-fashioned is not just the quantity, but the quality of the crosswordese. Will Shortz had managed to pretty much kill "ORA pro nobis" (11A), and we were all grateful. We still see IDEATE from time to time, but no one likes it. Joanne DRU (27A: Joanne of "Red River") was big 50 years ago, sort of. Ditto ANDRES Segovia (DRU over SEGOVIA was my last stand in this puzzle) (31A: Guitarist Segovia). The crosswordese goes on and on from there, but there are additional problems like ... more than one OGDEN? General rule: if you Have to, it's OK to pluralize reasonably common names. But if there is really only one famous person that goes with a name, pluralizing it is a Bad Idea. A WEE? That's a pretty bad partial (20A: _____ bit (slightly)). That N/NW area had two abbrevs., an AWEE, a BAAED and an ULEE in it. Yuck. Lastly, ORIOLE'S NEST (11D: Spherical home in a tree) felt made up (in a way that CROW'S NEST wouldn't have) and SHIPSIDE (40D: Pier, during loading or unloading) is not a term I know at all. I still finished in reasonable, if slightly longish, Tuesday time (4:10). Overall, unusual/good was slighly outweighed by old-fashioned/bad today.
- 1A: *One attracted to a flame (moth)
- 17A: *Bygone $20 gold coin (Double Eagle) — would've liked a golf clue here. "BYGONE ..." is a dangerous way to begin a theme answer and only emphasizes the issue of oldness (even more than the puzzle note) (see also, "Old," as in 49D: Old "You press the button, we do the rest" sloganeer (Kodak))
- 58A: *President's ride (Air Force One)
- 69A: *Pest you might slap (gnat)
- 12D: *Mark on a Brit. military pilot's uniform (RAF insignia)
- 24D: *Nocturnal singer (nightingale) — frequently misspell this "NIGHTENGALE"
- 66A: Rocker Stefani (Gwen) — saw her in the audience of the U.S. Open final yesterday.
- 2D: Singer who funded New York's Strawberry Fields memorial (Ono) — have not seen said memorial. New / interesting clue for this ultra-common crossword name.
- 4D: Book after Philemon: Abbr. (Heb.) — needed all the crosses. Not the most common biblical book abbr.
- 23D: Whacked, old-style (smote) — Love it, but it was kind of hard to put together quickly off the initial "S" (wanted SLAIN, but that's not very "old" ... again with the "OLD"!)
- 22D: Karel Capek play ("R.U.R.") — "Rossum's Universal Robots"; by coincidence, I wrote about this play yesterday at the L.A. Crossword Confidential blog yesterday.
- 46D: Shock's partner (awe) — saw the OLIVER STONE (see yesterday's puzzle) film "W." this past weekend and was underwhelmed (except for Josh Brolin's performance, which was most excellent). The phrase "shock and AWE" comes up in it, not surprisingly (it's about the guy who was president before Obama, in case you haven't heard of it).
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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