FRIDAY, Dec. 4 2009 — Molly title role player 1999 / Singer of 1940s blues hit One Meat Ball / Railway terminus with Victory Arch
Friday, December 4, 2009
Constructor: Martin Ashwood-Smith
Relative difficulty: Medium
Word of the Day: JOSH WHITE (30A: Singer of the 1940s blues hit "One Meat Ball") — Joshua Daniel White (February 11, 1914–-September 5, 1969), best known as Josh White, was a legendary American singer, guitarist, songwriter, actor, and civil rights activist. In the early 1930s, he also recorded under the names "Pinewood Tom" and "Tippy Barton." [...] In 1931, White moved to New York and within a decade his fame had spread widely, and his repertoire expanded to include urban blues, jazz, Tin Pan Alley, cabaret, folk songs from around the world, and hard-hitting political protest songs. He soon was in demand as an actor on radio, Broadway, and film. [...] White also would become the closest African-American friend and confidant to the president of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt. Ironically, however, White's anti-segregationist and international human rights political stance presented in many of his recordings and in his speeches at rallies resulted in the right-wing McCarthyites incorrectly assuming that he must have been a Communist. Accordingly, from 1947 through the mid 1960s, White was caught in the vise grip of the anti-Communist Red Scare, and combined with his resulting attempt to clear his name, his career was harmed immeasurably. (wikipedia)
This grid is all about the stacks of 15s (and to a lesser extent the long Downs in the NE and SW corners). To reveal those long answers, you have to fight your way through a mess of short fill, an experience which, in this case, wasn't entirely pleasant. With the short fill in this puzzle, it felt like every other answer was a. an abbrev., b. a prefix/suffix, or c. some person I've never heard of, clued in some deliberately obscure way. The end result was an average puzzle, difficulty-wise, for a Friday, so in that sense the cluing was spot-on. But there was perhaps more short fill (and more wincing) than I'd like on a Friday. The long answers up top are OK. Nothing too memorable. The bottom is much better, with TRUMPED UP CHARGE (50A: Framing need) being my favorite, and WATERLOO STATION (55A: Railway terminus with the Victory Arch) being very nice as well (though I have no idea what it is — never heard of it). DEATH TRAP (29D: Perilous place) and LEGAL LIMIT (13D: Ceiling one should stay under) also add nice zing to the grid, and I was very pleased to learn who JOSH WHITE was (though he caused trouble in the middle — last letter in the grid was the "S" in ASHY, right above JOSH's name) (23D: Wan).
Clues that made me go "Who?"
- 27A: "The Accumulation of Capital" author Luxemburg (Rosa)
- 28A: "Love Story" score composer (Lai) — feels like crosswordese, but I honestly can't remember ever having seen it.
- 30A: Singer of the 1940s blues hit "One Meat Ball" (Josh White)
- 44A: Moten who played Bess in Broadway's "Porgy and Bess" (Etta)
- 2D: "Molly" title role player (Shue) — I know the actress (Elisabeth), but not "Molly"
- 48D: Real-estate tycoon Olenicoff (Igor)
- 51D: Grand _____ (Annapolis Valley community) (Pre) — more a "Where?" than a "Who?"
This puzzle has "ONE'S" twice, which I don't like, but it also has ONE, TWO, and THREE, which I like a lot.
- 26A: Cashiers (cans) — not a familiar usage to me. "Cashier" here means "dismiss" or "fire"; common in military contexts, usu. in passive voice.
- 21D: Singer with the 5x platinum album "Nick of Time," 1989 (Raitt) — the one really familiar name I encountered today ... and yet my first thought was "... Stevie Nicks?"
- 4D: One may be conceived on Veterans Day (Leo) — well, that's one way to celebrate.
- 30D: Competition among mail carriers? (joust) — OK, that's a very good, very cute clue.
- 37D: Leader exiled in 1979 (The Shah) — not loving the "THE" here. SHAH is reasonably common.
- [41A: 4 letters (GHI) — I'm adding this just to stop the avalanche of mail that has already started (it's not even 9am yet). GHI are the letters on the number 4 on your phone's keypad.]
The Sun Crossword was arguably the best crossword in the country while it ran. Then the Sun folded and the crossword was without a home. Bad news for solvers and constructors everywhere. Now the Sun Crossword, edited by Peter Gordon, is being reborn as "Fireball Crosswords" (I only just now put the "Sun" / "Fireball" connection together ... D'oh!). Peter's puzzles rival those of the NYT for innovation, entertainment, and overall quality. He's offering a subscription of 50 puzzles (published roughly once a week for a year, starting in January) for the absurdly low price of $10. The more subscriber interest there is, the more likely the endeavor will continue in the future. You will not be disappointed in these puzzles — subscriptions would make great (thoughtful, cheap) gifts for the xword-lovers in your life. For more information, see his website here. And for all you pen-and-paper solvers, don't be put off by the electronic delivery mode. It's really Sooooo easy to print puzzles out and solve them like a Luddite. I can walk you through it :)
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
PS For those who weren't here early in the week (esp. you baseball fans), you are invited to check out a new free puzzle, which I wrote in honor of ... well, you'll see. It's called "Aces!" Get it here.
PPS Happy birthday, Jay-Z.
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