Releaser of 1921 in 1969 / FRI 2-26-10 / Tony's consigliere on Sopranos / Sci-fi smuggler / Target of Durocher's nice guys finish last sentiment
Friday, February 26, 2010
Elke Clijsters (born January 18, 1985) is a former professional female tennis player from Belgium. Born in Bilzen, Bree, the daughter of Belgian football player Leo Clijsters (1956-2009) and sister of former World No. 1 Kim Clijsters (born 1983), she retired in 2004 because of health problems. She won the girls' U.S. Open doubles title in 2002 and reached a highest ranking of 389 on 15 September 2003. She played in the Belgium Fed Cup team in 2002, 2003 and 2004, losing all four matches, of which one was a singles match. [my emph.] In 2004, she reached the finals of two ITF singles tournaments, winning the one in Bournemouth. In the same year, she also reached the finals of two ITF doubles tournaments, of which she won one.
I have a feeling there's going to be a lot of love for this one from people who were excited to finish a Friday so quickly. This was my wife's fastest Friday ever, so I anticipate a certain amount of elation from people who normally struggle with Fridays. But I really, really didn't like this puzzle. I have hesitated using the word "hate" in recent years because it seems far too strong, but I can tell you that I *hated* ELKES so much that the puzzle was completely shot for me from there on out. How many ways did I hate it? Let me count. First, there is one ELKE. Her last name is SOMMER and she is legendary as both a sexy '60s actress and unsexy crosswordese. Nobody wants to see ELKE in a puzzle, but she's tolerable ... in the singular. In the plural? No. Why because (second ...) there aren't two crossworthy ELKES in the world. I invite you to (re-)read the wikipedia bio of ELKE Clijsters, above. Go ahead, I'll wait. . . . I thought that Craig HANSEN guy (relief pitcher from a few weeks back) was the biggest marginal nobody I'd ever seen in a puzzle. "And then along came ELKEEEEEEE!" Which brings me to point the third: You know how I said there's only one ELKE and her last name's SOMMER? Well, there's only one [Clijsters of tennis] and her name is KIM. This clue is ugly crosswordese, it puts someone with zero fame in the grid, *and* (most insulting), it tries to get cute by "tricking" us into thinking it's the (real) Clijsters of tennis fame. That's a big ball of stuff to hate right there.
Further, STANDOFF and [Stalemate] are synonymous. How in the world do you get to MEXICAN from the clue? As my wife asked last night, "What makes a STANDOFF 'MEXICAN?'" I think it involves guns and sombreros and a B-movie. Not sure. But I do know that whatever it is is not in the clue. Add in the absurd names of LAU (uncommon crosswordese) (40A: "The Art of Hitting .300" writer Charley) and SIL (WTF!?!?!) (47A: Tony's consigliere on "The Sopranos"), and you get a lot not to love. I can only guess that the puzzle came back from the test-solvers with Wednesday-type times and so ELKES and SIL and possibly a handful of other answers got the (absurd) clues they got to try to toughen things up, and maybe that gambit succeeded. But the puzzle became ultra-annoying in the process. Nothing about the fill felt fresh or original except MEXICANSTANDOFF, and the impact of that was blunted by a terrible, bland, vague clue. I see from the database that STAGEMANAGER (26A: One concerned with entrances and exits) and BOYMEETSGIRL (35A: Start of a traditional love story) are new too. First one is a bit blah. BOYMEETSGIRL is fantastic, but it's a lone bright spot today.
As for my solving experience — well my time wasn't nearly as fast as it ought to have been because of my MEXICANSTANDOFF with ELKES. Failed to do much in the NW and so went to where my eye seems to go naturally: pop culture, specifically the rather obvious clue for HAN SOLO (53A: Sci-fi smuggler). From there I went up and got BOYMEETSGIRL from the back end. Rode that over to the SW, where HISSYFIT (41A: A diva may throw one) (also original) and FIERY (42D: Very hot) opened things up pretty quickly. Then jumped over to the NE — where I took the (oddly obvious) HARD G (22D: What Greece has that Germany doesn't) up to TANTE (25A: Soeur de la mère) and worked my way in from there. Finished in the NW, which would have been a lovely enough section if ELKES weren't smeared all over it.
- 1A: Releaser of "1921" in 1969 (The Who) — embarrassingly, I had No idea this was an song title of theirs.
- 14A: Thing turned while speaking (PHRASE) — sometimes, I guess. A bit too cute.
- 20A: Diet of Worms concern (HERESY) — "Diet of Worms" = always good for a laugh.
- 23A: "___ Growing" (Temptations hit) ("IT'S") — Define "hit." Here, I'll give you examples of "hits": "My Girl," "Just My Imagination," "Papa Was a Rolling Stone," "Get Ready," "Ain't Too Proud to Beg," "Beauty is Only Skin Deep," "I Can't Get Next to You," "Cloud Nine," "I Wish It Would Rain" ... I'm getting tired, so I'll stop. Those are all "hits." But "It's Growing"!? Maybe this is ELKE Clijsters favorite Temptations song (though, to be fair to "IT'S Growing," IT'S a lot more legitimate as an answer than ELKES could ever hope to be).
- 52A: Cell assignment (NUMBER) — I thought "cell" referred to prison. Wife thought it referred to a spreadsheet. Then I realized it's probably a phone. A cell phone.
- 1D: Band member with a bent neck (TENOR SAX) — Wanted VIOLINIST. Don't like the instrument-as-member. The Saxophonist is the "member" of the band.
- 4D: Cause of fitful sleep (WORRY) — wanted APNEA.
- 6D: Target of Durocher's "Nice guys finish last" sentiment (OTT) — Durocher was the FIERY manager of (most notably) the Dodgers and Giants of the '40s and '50s. Mel OTT was the guy God invented to go in every other crossword ever made.
- 9D: It ended in 1806: Abbr. (HRE) — Holy Roman Empire. Wife (historian) was proud to have gotten this off just the "E." I did the same, though only through some kind of crossword reflex and not because I know much about history.
- 50D: Utah Stars' org. (ABA) — Utah Stars are memorable only (as far as I can tell) for signing Moses Malone as a high school student. They won the ABA title in 1971 under the leadership of the awesomely named Zelmo Beaty (there are no typos in that name, despite appearances).
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