Fans sporting footwear logo / FRI 3-12-10 / Heroine of Exmoor / Verenigde America in Amsterdam / Country singer Akins / Fighter in old strips
Friday, March 12, 2010
Joe Palooka was an American comic strip about a heavyweight boxing champion, created by cartoonist Ham Fisher. With various assistants and successors, the strip lasted for over half a century with spin-offs to radio, movies, television and merchandising. // Found in print as early as 1923, the word "palooka" was widely used to mean a lout or an inept fighter. The word is heard in early Popeye cartoons, and in the film Pulp Fiction, Vincent Vega sarcastically refers to Butch the boxer as "Palooka". Of uncertain origins, the word may originally have derived from the expletive "Polack". Fisher's use of "Palooka" for his gentle hero lifted the word from the muck, while accentuating its boxing connection. In the 1954 film classic On the Waterfront, during the famous taxicab scene, Terry Malloy, the boxer played by Marlon Brando, tells his brother Charlie (Rod Steiger) accusingly that because Steiger arranged for Brando to "take a dive" and lose the fight on purpose, the other boxer became a heavyweight champion, and Brando received " a one-way ticket to Palookaville" (i.e., ended up a failure). (wikipedia)
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More Easy than Medium, with almost no arcane, strange, or otherwise weird words. I'm not sure I HAD A BLAST (6A: Partied hearty), but I did find much of the puzzle ENJOYable (1A: Eat up). 72 words today, which is the maximum for a themeless, and which explains why the grid has almost no forced fill. Stacked 9s are the flashiest thing about the grid, and they don't constrain the crosses or surrounding fill much at all. If anything, the fill was almost *too* smooth today, in the sense that it was overfamiliar. EPEES and DOONE and ALDER and PESO and TSAR ... a lot of commonly seen stuff. But the long stuff was mostly good. Really liked JOE PALOOKA and SCAREDYCAT (37A: One starting easily?) and ICESCRAPER (32D: Tool often used while wearing gloves), and, unsurprisingly, REDSOXNATION (20D: Fans sporting a footwear logo). ALPHABETSOUP isn't that interesting to me as fill, but man, that clue is good: [9D: Its letters may be bolted down]. Did not like TAKESXRAYS (42A: Gets under someone's skin?), mainly because of the verb "TAKES." I can't explain my distaste very well — it's a perfectly good phrase; it's just that the verb makes me conscious of the other forms it might have taken in a different context, i.e. TOOK X-RAYS, TAKE X-RAYS. And, in general, it doesn't snap, crackle or pop as a phrase. It's like seeing DRIVES A CAR in the grid. Yes, it's a phrase, but ...
NW and W were the toughest spots for me, and the last to go down, but only because I wrote in LORNA instead of DOONE (15A: Heroine of Exmoor) — stupid mistake. I blame O'NEAL (4D: Magic center, once) for giving me the "N" and the other crosses for giving me Nothing. Then I blame myself for stupidly thinking the answer could be a first name. Anyway, that mistake alone gummed things up, and I had to move over to the NE, where HUH? (6D: Word from one who isn't following) led immediately to URALRIVER (16A: Course in Russian geography?), and I was off and running. Don't like URALRIVER as an answer, but I do like the clue, and the cluing was by far the strongest part of the puzzle today. In addition to the aforementioned clues on ALPHABETSOUP and URALRIVER, there were 58A: One suspended for a game (PIÑATA!) and 46A: Metropolitan hangover? (SMOG).
Being a constant solver helped a lot today, because some old stand-bys went straight into the grid and really helped me get traction. Always feels a bit ... cheap when I get total gimmes on a Friday, especially when they are just namesIhappentoknow'causeIdoxwords, such as:
- EULER — 51A: He introduced the symbol "e" for natural logs
- ARON — 7D: "East of Eden" son
- DR. T — 63D: 2000 Richard Gere title role
- DOONE — 15A: Heroine of Exmoor ... yeah, I know I botched it, but I botched it because I knew the answer too well and just picked the wrong name part.
Names that failed me were AVAS (12D: Roles on "Evening Shade" and "Nip/Tuck" — I've watched maybe one episode of the former and none of the latter); and RHETT (36D: Country singer Akins — wanted only CHET, but that's "Atkins"; there's also a Trace Adkins and a Claude Akins, though only one of those is a country singer — the other was Sheriff Elroy P. Lobo).
- 18A: Something passed without hesitation (HOT POTATO) — Good clue. I was thinking it had something to do with legislation.
- 23A: Material for many electric guitar bodies (ALDER) — up there with BALSA and TEAK for crossword puzzle's Wood of Choice. Still took me a while to get it.
- 25A: Peak's counterpart (DALE) — wanted some kind of familiar phrase, like "Peak and ... something." But no; the words are just opposites. [Hill's opposite] might have made more sense.
- 40A: Moral obligation (OUGHT) — a noun? Really? Why would you make a perfectly good verb into something icky and untoward?
- 44A: Old imperator (TSAR) — "Imperator" means "absolute ruler." It's a former Roman title.
- 45A: Verenigde ___ (America, in Amsterdam) (STATEN) — Screw you, STATEN Island. Even the New York Times refuses to acknowledge you.
- 64A: First name in rap (TUPAC) — a revered figure in rap, even, what is it, 15 years after his shooting death? (closer to 14, actually)
- 1D: Schwalm-___ (German district) (EDER) — noooo idea. I recognize EDER, but I think it's someone's name. A singer? Actress? Is Linda EDER someone? Yes she is.
- 14D: Its ruins are a Unesco World Heritage Site (TROY) — hmmm. I don't think there are "ruins" in the sense of "visible buildings, statuary, etc." TROY today is an archaeological site.
- 50D: Do intaglio, e.g. (CARVE) — The closest word to "intaglio" that I know is "imbroglio," so this answer came mostly from crosses.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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