TUESDAY, Sep. 29 2009 — War aid program passed by Congress in 1941 / Irish Rose's beau / Big chipmaker / Osprey's claw
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Constructor: Paula Gamache
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: AT SEA (71A: Clueless ... or where the answers to this puzzle's starred clues were all first used)
Word of the Day: LEND-LEASE (8D: War aid program passed by Congress in 1941) — Lend-Lease (Public Law 77-11) was the name of the program under which the United States of America supplied the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, China, France and other Allied nations with vast amounts of war material between 1941 and 1945 in return for, in the case of Britain, military bases in Newfoundland, Bermuda, and the British West Indies. It began in March 1941, over 18 months after the outbreak of the war in September 1939. It was called An Act Further to Promote the Defense of the United States. This act also ended the pretense of the neutrality of the United States. Hitler recognized this and consequently had his submarines attack US ships such as the SS Robin Moor, an unarmed merchant steamship destroyed by a German U-boat on 21 May, 1941 outside of the war zone. (wikipedia)
This was a fun puzzle to solve, but as I was solving, I had no idea what the longer phrases had to do with one another. They sounded kinda slangy, but their connection seemed tenuous. Then (as if by design ...) I hit the final Across clue at the very end of my solve, and all became clear. "Huh ... interesting." The concept seems a bit straightforward, since there's no wordplay and nothing binding the phrases except the very general fact of their nautical origins, BUT ... I do love repurposed crosswordese, and this has to be the best use to which AT SEA has ever been put in a crossword puzzle. Further, the idiomatic theme phrases are all colorful, and there are crammed CHOCKABLOCK inside the grid, so high marks for construction prowess. The non-theme fill is kind of dire, but the fine execution of the theme mostly makes up for this.
- 17A: *Dangerously unpredictable sort (loose cannon)
- 11D: *Likely to happen (in the offing)
- 39A: *Junk (deep-six) — I always get this phrase confused with "eighty-six," which also means to "junk" or "scrap" something (originally, unwanted clientele at Chumley's bar in N.Y. — oh no, that's wrong. Dang. Leave it to World Wide Words to shed a light on the origins of idiomatic expressions: see note on "eighty-six" here).
- 25D: *Jammed (chock-a-block)
- 61A: *Inviolable, as rules (hard and fast)
Same basic grid shape as yesterday — or rather, same theme answer placement, with each theme answer relegated to a corner with an extra theme answers stuck in the middle, only this time that middle answer has long answers running through it connecting it to other theme answers. So it's actually a somewhat more restrictive grid than yesterday's, and that shows in the non-theme fill, which is decidedly sub-Gamache. Leaving aside crosswordese, there's a lot of suboptimal stuff:
- NONONO (OK, it's fun to say, but it's not much of an answer)
- IFAT (I think I said this after finishing off daughter's birthday cake this past weekend)
- TADAS (really? More than one?)
One thing I will say about NONONO and AAH — they make for interesting parts of the puzzle's lone sex scene: "NO NO NO, HARD AND FAST! AAH ... OH YES." I would add that HARDANDFAST, AAH, and OH YES are interpenetrating, but that would be overkill.
- 1A: Moth-repellent closet material (cedar) — tripped on this, since I was looking for the material that moth balls are made of, and not the material that the closet itself is made of.
- 6A: Osprey's claw (talon) — lots of raptors up near the woods where we walk every day. Doubt there are ospreys, though, since they are sea hawks and we are quite far from the sea. Mostly we get ... land hawks. And owls.
- 38A: Sleuth, slangily (tec) — no one really says this. It should be put in the moth-repellent closet.
- 56A: Three-stripers (sgts.) — a fine abbrev., but part of the worst section of this grid: the far east. VIENNA is By Far the prettiest thing over there (50A: _____ Boys' Choir).
- 4D: Marketers' "language" (adspeak) — I like this a lot. I'm working my way through season 1 of "Mad Men," all about the advertising industry in 1960. Great stuff.
- 13D: Roster at the Oscars (stars) — "roster?" I had SLATE.
- 22D: Collette of "The Sixth Sense" (Toni) — speaking of the Oscars ... I mean the Emmys, TONI Collette just won one for "The United States of Tara," which hardly anyone has seen 'cause it's on "Showtime." The fact that TONI Collette is a great actress only somewhat mitigates my anger at the failure of the Emmy voters to give the award to Ms. Applegate of the unjustly canceled "Samantha Who?"
- 24D: Big chipmaker (Intel) — computer chips, not tortilla chips.
- 47D: Healthful claim on labels (less fat) — lots of trouble interpreting this one quickly, for some reason. Plural "labels" might have been part of it, but I think overall density on my part was the bigger factor. I wanted LESSONS (!?).
- 54D: Any Beatles tune, now (oldie) — I was thinking something like the Opposite of this word, given that no band has been more in-the-news of late, what with the remastering and rerelease of their entire catalogue (an instant sell-out), and the release of The Beatles: Rock Band across multiple gaming platforms. [Any Dave Clark Five tune, now] would have felt more solid, though the given clue is true enough.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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