Port of old Rome — TUESDAY, Dec. 15 2009 — Weapon using high-arcing ammo / Cynical Bierce / Spitfire-flying grp / Bigfoots asian cousin
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Constructor: Steve Dobis
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: EAGER BEAVER (17A: Zealous sort whose schedule may include 27-, 50- and 64-Across, i.e. PLACES TO GO, THINGS TO DO, PEOPLE TO SEE)
Word of the Day: OSTIA (36A: Port of old Rome) — Ostia Antica is a large archeological site that was the harbour city of ancient Rome, which is approximately 30 kilometers (~20 miles) northeast of the site. "Ostia" in Latin means "mouth". At the mouth of the River Tiber, Ostia was Rome's seaport, but, due to silting and a drop in sea level, the site now lies 3 kilometers (~2 miles) from the sea. The site is noted for the excellent preservation of its ancient buildings and magnificent frescoes. (wikipedia)
Short write-up today. Not a lot to say about this one. EAGER BEAVER seems a not great fit with the three-part PLACES TO GO... phrase. An EAGER BEAVER is eager to perform a specific set of duties, where the three answers suggest someone who's just generally busy (more like a bee). Here's Webster's 3rd Int'l on "EAGER BEAVER":
n : one who is overzealous, overdiligent, and impatient not only to perform his part with promptness but to volunteer for more.
Both the sense of excess and the sense of task-specificness are lost in today's cluing. "EAGER BEAVER" kind of skews toward deliberate ass-kissing show-off with a specific goal in mind, i.e. advancement or impressing others. PLACES TO GO, THINGS TO DO, PEOPLE TO SEE might as well be out of a Dr. Seuss book — a phrase implying happy activeness. The upside: once I got the first two theme answers, I could fill in the next two instantly, with no crosses.
The grid shape is ungainly. Look at those NE and SW corners. Nobody wants to see 3-letter answers stacked 5 (FIVE!) deep. Other things nobody wants to see:
- OSTIA (36A: Port of old Rome) (an oddity that stands out like a SORE, vowel-swollen thumb on a Tuesday)
- ELYS (43A: Golf innovator Callaway and bridge maven Culbertson) (right under OSTIA?)
- OTTOI (30D: 10th-century Holy Roman emperor)
Least favorite answers of the day, though, is MISSENT, esp. as clued — 35D: Loaded onto the wrong truck, say. The word itself is not pretty — sounds like the winner of a beauty pageant for tree people (i.e. "... and your MISS ENT for 2009 is ... Oaky!" — uh oh. I'm being told that, tragically, there are no female ENTs. There were, but ... oh, just read about it here). But mainly, with MISSENT, I don't like the clue's equation of loading with sending. Simply having loaded something doesn't mean I've sent it. People misload and then unload before sending all the time, I'd imagine.
Do like the long Downs, AFICIONADO (11D: Devotee) and AFTER SHAVE (29D: Item in a man's medicine chest), and the north and south portions are pretty solid (and kind of make up for the claustrophobia-inducing NE and SW), but overall, just a so-so solving experience today.
- 1A: Lamebrain (simp) — went with DODO at first, SIMP not being a word that comes readily to mind (despite my oft-professed love for "The SIMPsons").
- 12D: Sci-fi automatons (droids) — went with DRONES at first. Been hearing too much about the unmanned fliers in Afghanistan (and elsewhere) lately, I guess.
- 48D: One on deck (seaman) — needed virtually ever cross. Just not seeing it until ... it was there.
- 33A: Rapper Kanye (West) — much maligned, mostly by people who already hated rap before Kanye went and acted like a clown at the MTV Video Music (VMA) Awards. Most of those haters are busy hating Tiger now.
- 62D: Bigfoot's Asian cousin (yeti) — even imaginary beasts have "cousins" in CrossWorld
- 45A: She-bears, south of the border (osas) — crosswordese, so not great, but there's something about "She-bears" that I find amusing, so OSAS gets a pass.
- 47A: Barker (dog) — not necessarily. Maybe. Sometimes. With a basenji, never.
- 20A: Weapon using high-arcing ammo (mortar) — had no idea what to make of this one until after I was done. I thought the MORTAR was the ammo, i.e. the missile, but it's the gun that fires the missile "high in the air over short distances" (google dictionary)
- 52D: Movie camera lens settings (T-stops) — never heard of this. Ever. I thought a T-STOP was the way some ice-skaters stopped their forward momentum. What an odd, obscure word, esp. for a Tuesday. Weirder still — there are just three instances of TSTOPS in the cruciverb.com database (one skating, two camera) ... but NO instances of the singular TSTOP. How does that happen? That suggests TSTOP is really uncommon and used only in desperation.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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