Mother of Peer Gynt — WEDNESDAY, Dec. 2 2009 — Back to the Future bully / Banshees boast / Irish-themed Vegas casino
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Constructor: Jack McInturff
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
THEME: HASTE MAKES WASTE (62A: Advice to the rash, and a hint to this puzzle's theme) — three theme answers are familiar phrases where "H" has been changed to "W" in the first letter of the final word.
Word of the Day: Ken WAHL (40D: "Wiseguy" actor Ken) — Ken Wahl (born October 31, 1954) is an award winning American film and television actor popular in the 80’s and 90's. In addition to co-starring with such greats as Paul Newman and Brad Pitt, Ken's accolades include a critically hailed television show, two-time recipient of the title of Sexiest Man on TV, an Emmy nod for best actor, and winning a Golden Globe. He was in high demand for lead roles until an unfortunate accident forced him to retire from acting and rendered him completely reclusive. (wikipedia)
Wow, where to begin? HASTE MAKES WASTE isn't a good "hint" — HASTE turns into WASTE, HASTE becomes WASTE, OK. But MAKES? I see that that phrase is the basis for this puzzle, but as a theme cue, it's really, really awkward. Further, the answers are in two cases really boring, and in the case of SO PROUDLY WE WAIL ... not based on a self-standing phrase. "O say can you see by the dawn's early light what so proudly we hail at the twilight's last gleaming?" You can just pick out parts of familiar phrases now? And use them as your base phrase in a theme answer? I'd give you DAWN'S EARLY LIGHT or TWILIGHT'S LAST GLEAMING, as they are noun phrases and don't mind standing alone so much. But SO PROUDLY WE HAIL is completely dependent on the "what." It's not a declaration. The basic meaning = "Can you see WHAT we hail so proudly?" Bah. [update — "SO PROUDLY WE HAIL" is apparently a WWII-era movie starring Claudette Colbert. That helps, some. Thx, knowledgeable readers] And yet SO PROUDLY WE WAIL is light years more interesting than PICTURE OF WEALTH or HEAD FOR THE WILLS, so I am ambivalent about criticizing it, since it at least shows imagination. BASE WIT is the clear winner of the day. Then there's the issue of changing "H" to "W" but still having "H"s in your phrases that you *don't* change. Never been a fan of that. WEAD FOR TWE WILLS, I say.
- 17A: Bill Gates snapshot? (picture of wealth)
- 28A: Banshees' boast? (so proudly we wail)
- 39A: Comedic soldier during training? (base wit)
- 47A: Words to estate attorneys? (head for the wills)
But beyond the busted theme, this puzzle has even bigger problems. It is an enormous sacrificial pyre of bad short fill. And such a pyre can appeal to only one deity:
The God of Bad Short Fill is glutting himself today. Don't believe me? (Deep breath ...)
- ILEA (yuck)
- ASE (the hurtiest of all)
I had to hack my way through this grid with a machete. Progress felt very labored and slow. Checked the NYT site when I finished and found I would have been in second place at that point (!?!). So lots of people must have been finding this a slog, for whatever reason. I honestly can't say where the difficulty lies. I think there's just a cumulative sloggy effect. Inexact theme might be contributing as well.
- 1A: Whole bunch (ton) — once again, the NW was my main stumbling point. Yesterday it was KOUFAX for ALOMAR, today a far smaller, stupider LOT for TON. Dumb dumb dumb.
- 4D: In an ark, say (safe) — but ... ARKs can be raided.
- 42A: Lead role on "Providence" (Syd) — are you kidding me? People watch(ed) this? This show has been dead for seven years, and didn't last four to begin with. And her name (I see) was technically "Syndney." So ... "for short," maybe?
- 45A: Carrier with a hub at LAX (UAL) — always looks like some bygone Arab republic (e.g. UAR) to me.
- 12D: Heavy metal band with the triple-platinum album "Out of the Cellar" (Ratt) — I featured their "Round and Round" video here very recently. It has Milton Berle in it, in several roles (and in drag). Encore:
- 32D: Adams who co-founded Group f/64 (Ansel) — great clue on a very common answer.
- 39D: "Back to the Future" bully (Biff) — along with SLUGGO (4D: Nancy's friend in the funnies), my favorite thing about the puzzle.
- 48D: Codgers (old men) — seems kind of mean to OLD MEN everywhere. "Codger" has at least a mildly pejorative connotation, doesn't it?
- 59D: Old Sinclair rival (Esso) — maybe you could do a puzzle theme based on crosswordese? [Kiss from a señorita at an old gas station?]=> ESSO BESO. On second thought ...
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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