Third-place presidential candidate 1920 who ran his campaign from jail / THU 2-11-10 / Twists in trattoria / 1960s trip taker
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Constructor: Peter A. Collins
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: ABE (62D: Nickname of the man (born 2/12/1809) who gave the address at 18A [GETTYSBURG], issued the 28A/45A [EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION], was the first elected president of the 60A [REPUBLICAN] Party, and whose name can be found in this puzzle's main diagonal)
Word of the Day: Eugene V. DEBS (Third-place presidential candidate of 1920 who ran his campaign from jail) —
Eugene Victor Debs (November 5, 1855 – October 20, 1926) was an American union leader, one of the founding members of the International Labor Union and the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), as well as candidate for President of the United States as a member of the Social Democratic Party in 1900, and later as a member of the Socialist Party of America in 1904, 1908, 1912, and 1920. Through his presidential candidacies as well as his work with labor movements, Debs would eventually become one of the best-known socialists in the United States.
I didn't care for this much. Equal parts dull and annoying — as dry and straightforward a theme as I can ever remember seeing on a Thursday. The diagonal name thing deserves at least polite applause, and (I suppose) excuses some of the infelicities in the grid. But overall, not a satisfying experience for me. On the one hand, way way way too easy, theme-wise. I went straight to the 62D clue, knew it was ABE, and just filled in the theme answers (exc. one — see below) with almost zero thought. No crosses needed. On the other hand, perhaps to make up for the ease factor, the clues were rough all over, and included (esp. in the top half) a boatload of names, several (DERN — 17A: 2009 Golden Globe winner for "Recount"; NASH — 51A: Ambassador of old autodom) clued in unfamiliar or tough-to-suss-out ways. There was some entertainment value in wrestling with the amped-up cluing, but stuff like 24A: What unicorns live in (myth) felt forced. INAS (58D: Much precedent?) should be banned from crosswords forever. It Is Not A Word. Is it even a prefix? Ugh. Makes "IN ME" look like a gem (25D: "She Believes ___" (Kenny Rogers hit)).
Biggest trouble spots for me were in the SE — where the SHOGI (52D: Japanese chess) / SION (69A: Capital of Valais) crossing gave me a scare — and in the N and NE, but only because my software was acting buggy; in Black Ink (my version of AcrossLite) the ABE clue was faaaaaaar too long to be seen in the clue window. I'm supposed to be able to hover my cursor over the partially visible clue and have the whole thing appear in a pop-up window, but that feature is temperamental, and it wasn't working well today. Thus I had to do much of that top part without GETTYSBURG in place. Finally got enough crosses to guess that it must be GETTYSBURG (despite not being able to see the clue for context). Also thought "trattoria" signified "bakery" for some reason (!?), and thus didn't pick up the (easy) ROTINI (8D: Twists in a trattoria) even with the -INI in place. "But ... PANINI aren't twists!"
- 15A: Character in all six "Star Wars" films, informally (Artoo) — good example of familiar name that I couldn't see at all until I got several crosses. Maybe I don't think of him (it?) as a "character," thought he (it?) clearly is.
- 25D: ___ Hunter, leader of rock's Mott the Hoople (Ian) — I know this from ... from ... I think from Brendan Emmett Quigley's puzzles. Seems like a route he'd go down for IAN.
- 43A: Classic Mercedes roadsters (SLS) — more ugh. I see that it is on the ABRAHAM LINCOLN fault line, so I guess I can't complain much. C'est la guerre.
- 1D: "___ Live," 1992 multiplatinum album (AC/DC) — this clue is kind of cheap, in that virtually nothing in the clue tips you to the band name.
- 2D: Letter-shaped bridge support (T-beam) — not a big fan of your letter-shaped BEAMs and BARs, but I guess they're sometimes necessary.
- 3D: It's sometimes given to prisoners (mercy) — "shown." The word is "shown." Not "given."
- 5D: Problems in synchronization (lags) — no idea why, but this was a gimme, and one I really needed up there. Still thought 5A: 1960s trip taker (Leary) might be LAIKA, but she took her trip in the '50s.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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