Ukase issuer / THU 1-14-10 / Happy Motoring sloganeer / Hit 1970s-'90s band with mythological name / Jamaican fellow
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Constructors: Caleb Madison and J.A.S.A. Crossword Class
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: COMMERCIAL BREAK (61A: TV movie interruption ... or feature of 16-, 21-, 31-, 43- and 49-Across?) — "AD" is added to familiar phrases, creating wacky phrases, which are clued "?"-style
Word of the Day: BMI (26A: Abbr. on every original Beatles song) —
Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) is one of three United States performing rights organizations, along with ASCAP and SESAC. It collects license fees on behalf of songwriters, composers, and music publishers and distributes them as royalties to those members whose works have been performed. In 2009, BMI collected over US$905 million in licensing fees and distributed US$788 million in royalties.
I know I've seen this gimmick before, or one very much like it (the "add-an-AD" gimmick, that is). The fact that the theme answers are all movies is a nice touch (I had wondered at first why the THEME-revealer clue mentioned "TV movie" so specifically, as a COMMERCIAL BREAK is not movie-specific). The puzzle is kind of cute (and the theme density impressive), but on the whole it doesn't really feel up to NYT Thursday standards. It's just fine, but with nothing terribly memorable, or tricky, or clever about it. The non-theme fill is especially dull. I suspect that there was a certain leeway given to this puzzle because of its unusual creative team; the puzzle appears to be the work of the continuing education class on crosswords that Caleb (who is in what we all hope will be his last year of high school) taught last year on crosswords. As with many recent NYT puzzle publishing stunts, I wasn't a huge fan of this one. Caleb did rightly predict, however, that I would like 1A: Paris Hilton catchphrase ("That's hot!").
In a puzzle where you add Ads, hard as it may be, I think you keep AD out of other answers, i.e. lose ADD A (3D: Recipe direction starter) — a bad answer anyway — and lose FADS (35A: They come and go). Some of the clues are cool, and some of the theme answers are cute (I esp. like BEST IN SHADOW), but overall, pretty bland fare.
- 16A: Like a poison pen letter? ("ADdressed to Kill")
- 21A: "Fly Me to the Moon" and others? ("Space BallADs")
- 31A: Ham operator's "Hurrah!"? ("RADio Bravo")
- 43A: Yes-man's biography? ("ToADy Story")
- 49A: Like a superlatively sneaky sleuth? ("Best in ShADow")
Puzzle looks easy in retrospect, but my time was actually slightly slower than normal for a Thursday. Not sure why. I know I got quite hung up in the NW — had to leave the "A" in REAM blank until the very, very end, as I couldn't imagine how RE-M could fit the clue (18A: "The Office" unit) — I had ROOM. I also couldn't figure out what followed ADD in the [Recipe direction] — I thought there might be a rebus ... and the "ADD" crossing "ADD" phenomenon up there made me even more suspicious that ADD- might be some kind of weird theme answer. In the end, it was just another entry. Had TOIL for PEON (22D: Drudge). I think that's about it, as far as resistance go. And yet the clues were phrased trickily enough that I didn't exactly fly through the grid. Which is just fine for a Thursday.
- 40A: Writer Chinua Achebe, by birth (Ibo) — Nigerian, I knew. Didn't fit. Then crosswordese training came to the rescue ...
- 68A: "___ Hope," long-running ABC soap ("Ryan's") — this reminds me of my mom and the early '70s. I'm pretty sure this is what she watched when we'd take our naps / have our quiet time when we lived in Orange, CA that one year (me, age 4-5).
- 1D: Ukase issuer (tsar) — more crosswordese to the rescue. UKASE absolutely krushed me (as fill) a couple years back, and I've never forgotten it.
- 9D: He played Lord Jim in "Lord Jim" (O'Toole) — never saw it. After a few crosses, it became clear. I last saw him in "Venus" (2006), which I really enjoyed.
- 28D: Kelly Clarkson, once (Idol) — and Always. Best Idol Ever. The new season just started yesterday, and a new episode aired again tonight, which means that I can't get this "song" out of my head:
- 34D: Ingredient in a salty dog (vodka) — goes well with UKASE.
- 36D: Volume 1 of a two-volume encyclopedia? (A to M) — o come on. This is boring old ATOM. I admire the ambition here, but :/
- 38D: Hit 1970s-'90s band with a mythological name (Styx) — "Paradise Theater" = crucial LP of my youth; one of the first albums I bought with my own money (see also AC/DC's "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap").
- 41D: "Happy Motoring" sloganeer (Esso) — new ESSO clue (to me).
- 50D: American university where Desmond Tutu taught theology (Emory) — always have to think about the spelling, as I get it confused with "EMERY board."
- 54D: Little Orphan Annie and others (wards) — true enough, but I needed Every cross here.
- 62D: Jamaican fellow (mon) — I like it ... but is it really spelled differently? I see it in this glossary, but the glossary claims that the word can apply to anyone, not just a "fellow."
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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