Mythical Hun king — FRIDAY, Oct. 23 2009 — 2001-05 Pontiac made in Mexico / Actor Ford of Snatch / Title girl in 1968 Turtles hit
Friday, October 23, 2009
Constructor: Barry C. Silk
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
Word of the Day: WYSIWYG (52A: Acronym for a kind of PC video screen display) — WYSIWYG (pronounced /ˈwɪziˌwɪg/), is an acronym for What You See Is What You Get. The term is used in computing to describe a system in which content displayed during editing appears very similar to the final output, which might be a printed document, web page, slide presentation or even the lighting for a theatrical event.
Hard and grating, as opposed to hard and rewarding. Lots and lots of precious cluing made for few AHA moments and many UGH moments. There's thorny / clever cluing and then there's ... trying-too-hard cluing designed to make the puzzle more difficult / mask the fact that much of the fill is really quite bad. Now, there is much to like about the grid too. With the exception of the dreadful STINTER (16A: Spendthrift's antithesis), the NW was fine, and I especially liked the SW, which popped and crackled from VROOM (40A: Dragging sound) all the way down to LARGOS (59A: They don't move quickly) (WYSIWYG isn't original fill, but it's always fun to say). The POORness starts right around POOR, which has one of those cutesy clues — 39D: Below C level? Get it? Below sea level / C level? Yeah, you get it. I had -OOR and still had not idea what it was after – and 25% of the grades I gave on my last midterm were "Below C level." I consider "F" (which is "below C level") worse than POOR. POOR is "D" (actually, "C" to many of these kids). OK, so D *is* "below C level" even if "F" isn't, fine ... I have professional reasons for thinking this one sux. No big deal. Let it go ... It's just that everything east of here was like nails on chalkboard to me, especially in the NW, where, despite BRYCE CANYON's coming to me early (23A: National park with the Pink Cliffs), I couldn't get anything north of it to work, and then when I (finally) did, ugh and ugh.
You can be ESTRANGED, but very few people these days ESTRANGE other people. That was ... valid, but yuck (35D: Turns away). WTF is ALAN Ford (51D: Actor Ford of "Snatch")? Biggest nobody I've ever seen in a puzzle. His wikipedia page looks like it was made-up yesterday. He's "famous" for being in Guy Ritchie movies? Hell, GUY RITCHIE is barely famous enough to be in the damned grid. Yeesh. I know you think it's cute that you got two [Actor Ford]s in a row in there, but only one of them (GLENN — 47D: Actor Ford of "Gilda") is a valid answer.
And does this puzzle really have ATKA (32D: Aleutian island) and ATLI (21A: Mythical Hun king) in it???? What year is it? PFC and NCOS??? Really, this is not good. The (to my mind) obscure cluing on NCOS only made matters worse (20D: Mil. E-4 to E-9). Your answer is crosswordese. All the thorny cluing in the world can't hide that.
The worst part for me was the NE. After I laid ATLI on top of BRYCE CANYON ... nothing. ANGLO-Egytpian Sudan???? Got me. I tried ITALO- at one point. WAY IN is horrible fill. [Door] did nothing for me when I had -IN. Just nothing. Should have remembered the perfectly fine GOLAN Heights (10D: _____ Heights). Finally cracked the thing by throwing SOOTY up there (11D: Blackened), even though its clue seems (over-)designed to make you think of fish. Without knowing AZTEK (15D: 2001-05 Pontiac made in Mexico) — and I surrrrrre didn't — couldn't see ZOOLOGY for a long time (17A: Natural history museum subject). That could have been CAVE MAN or ... anything, really. The one "O" from SOOTY somehow jarred loose ALTOONA (15A: Locale of a Penn State campus), which is the only way I got the puzzle done. J-LO is familiar enough, but as clued (8D: Quadruple-platinum 2001 album), and with no crosses, I had not shot early on. Never heard of this particular ITO — another obscure actor, ugh (9D: Klugman's "Quincy, M.E." co-star). Final letter was the "K" in COKED. COKED. Yes, the big finale was ... COKED (28A: Converted from coal via distillation). So, a study in contrasts today. Liking first half OK, but stunned by a. bad fill and b. overly cutesy cluing in the second half.
- 26A: One-named singer with the 2008 Grammy for Best New Artist (Adele) — more crosswordese, but hot damn! It's got the new clue that I knew was coming soon ...
- 48A: Sacrifice site, in Siena (ara) — did someone say "crosswordese?" Yeah, I think someone did. OK, you didn't clue it as a [Heavenly altar] or whatever, but ... come on.
- 51A: 1979 exile to Saudi Arabia (Amin) — I fear I'm just repeating myself here, but ... more tired fill from an earlier era. Only the "I'm going to throw you off" cluing toughened this up. I wrote in SHAH without even thinking. My bad.
- 31A: 1980s El Salvadoran president (Duarte) — not sure how I (eventually) remembered this. Seems like the leaders of Central American countries were just much more in the news in the 80s (into early 90s).
- 57A: Title girl in a 1968 Turtles hit (Elenore) — ... gee I think you're swell, and I can't believe that's how you spell your name. Weird.
- 4D: Opposite of dull (hone) — ah, the old "adj.-for-verb" trick. One way to toughen up your clues. Gets pulled out Twice today — here, and at 25D: Fancy to a fault (adulate).
- 30D: Fine with the Stooges (Larry) — pretty sure I learned this in another Barry Silk puzzle. I forgot it completely until today. More actors I don't know. Bah.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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