TUESDAY, Nov. 3 2009 — Gila woodpeckers nest in them / What Fred Ott did in first movie to be copyrighted / Flu fighters Abbr
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Constructor: Barry Boone
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
THEME: Election-day puzzle = a quote from MARIO CUOMO (1A: With 73-Across, former New York governor): "YOU CAMPAIGN IN / POETRY, YOU / GOVERN IN PROSE"
Word of the Day: Gila woodpeckers (17A: Gila woodpeckers nest in them => CACTI) — The Gila Woodpecker (Melanerpes uropygialis) is a medium-sized woodpecker of the desert regions of the southwestern United States. They range through southeastern California, southern Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico. [...] This woodpecker's habitat consists of low desert scrub typical of the Sonoran desert. They build nests in holes made in saguaro cacti or mesquite trees. Cavities excavated by these woodpeckers in saguaro cacti are later used by a variety of other species, including the Elf Owl. There, they typically lay 3-5 white eggs.
Good that this ran on an off-year election day, because it's pretty forgettable. I've heard the quote before, though it took me a while to get enough crosses to figure it out. It's a virtual cliché by now. It's not a terribly insightful quote. The politician is bygone. But it would be a decent puzzle anchor, I suppose, if the rest of the fill were good, which it's just not. Has a strong autofill feel to it. You have to wrestle with your software, not acquiesce to its first suggestions. Words like TOWLINES (39D: Water-skiers' holds) and RAREE (30D: _____ show (carnival attraction)) suggest not a lot of effort's going into making the fill tight and interesting. These are convenient answers that a computer offers up, not words anyone's likely to want or come up with on their own (despite their not being particularly obscure). Never mind the avalanche of abbreviations and the ridiculous FIFTEEN (15) fill-in-the-blanks (incl. at least three partials). What in the world is "Gimme DAT ding?" Is that supposed to be Brooklynese? I will give the puzzle dis ding — it's more wide open, with more 7+ non-theme answers, than you usually see on a Tuesday. But for what? Not a lot.
Stuff you wouldn't want in your grid if you could help it (i.e. less than ideal short fill): KPS, ATA, CUZ, A DRY, YOS, UAR, IN RE, ENE, DAT, PFC, PDQ, DE LA, FEU, plus crosswordese like EDO, SLOE. You know who likes all these "words"? OOXTEPLERNON! (he is the God of Bad Short Fill, and he approves this message). Wish I had a rubber stamp that said simply "OOXTEPLERNON" so I could stamp it on puzzles. Might have one made.
- 26A: What Fred Ott did in the first movie to be copyrighted (sneezed) — Love this clue. I really wanted answer to be SNEEZE, though. Can't explain exactly why the past tense feels weird to me, since the clue has "did" in it (which indicates the past ... what DID he do? He SNEEZED ... seems unimpeachable).
- 2D: Flu fighters: Abbr. (AMA) — really? The AMA is fighting the flu? In that they are doctors and therefore are theoretically fighting Every disease, OK, but this is a bad fit. Pun on "Foo Fighters" no payoff here.
- 12D: "Beware the fury of a _____ man": John Dryden ("patient") — again, I don't get why there are so many fill-in-the-blanks today. That said, this is a cool quote. Ditch CUOMO, put in DRYDEN.
Get out there and vote. Or not. Whatever. It's a free country.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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