Knucklehead * Paul Winchell dummy old TV / TUE 3-9-10 / Blue-skinned deity / Classic tale dactylic hexameter / Cinematic scene changer
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Constructor: Jeffrey Wechsler
Relative difficulty: Challenging
THEME: THE GATES OF HELL (40A: 15-/23-Across location) — ABANDON ALL HOPE / YE WHO ENTER HERE (15A: With 23-Across, famous "opening" line) = Inscription on THE GATES OF HELL in "Inferno," the first part of the DIVINE COMEDY by DANTE ALIGHIERI
Word of the Day: OBOL (36D: Silver coin of ancient Greece) —
The obolus (ancient Greek: ὀβολός "obolós", plural: ὀβολοί "oboloí") is a Greek silver coin worth a sixth of a drachma. In Classical Athens it was subdivided into eight chalkoi (χαλκοί "copper pieces"). Two obols made a diobol. Triobols were also in use. // The deceased were buried with an obolus, placed in the mouth of the corpse, in order that, once a dead person's shade reached the underworld of Hades, it would be able to pay Charon for passage across the river Acheron. Those without enough wealth, or whose friends refused to follow proper burial rites, were forced to wander the banks of the Acheron for one hundred years.
Really didn't like this puzzle. I just don't get the point. I thought maybe the grid was supposed to be the shape of hell — I went looking for nine rings, or ... anything. But no. Maybe I'm supposed to admire the bonus answers like (apparently) OBOL (see reference to Charon, Hell's ferryman, in the Word of the Day description, above) and AENEID (an important source for Dante, its author being Dante's guide in "Inferno" and part of "Purgatorio") (42D: Classic tale in dactylic hexameter). Mainly I kept waiting for the payoff that never came. You make the grid a ridiculous shape (14x16), give me strange cluing that's at least Wednesday hard (my time was more in my normal Thursday range), shove the unholy pair of OBOL / SMIFF (32D: Knucklehead ___, Paul Winchell dummy of old TV) down my throat, and for what? "Look, these answers are all symmetrical." Not enough. By the way, "OBOL-SMIFF" is the new word for "Adjacent horrible fill." Dear lord, who the hell is Paul Winchell anyway? Is he friends with EVE ARDEN (57A: "Our Miss Brooks" star of 1950s TV)? At least I've (vaguely) heard of her. What year is it? I'd say 1955, but (non-Tuesday!) FLO Rida says otherwise (19A: Rapper ___ Rida). Oh, and crossing ARSENIO (48A: Hall providing entertainment) with GHETTO (41D: ___ blaster)? Real nice. Subtle.
Could not get started up top to save my life. After first pass at NW, I had ... ODD (4D: Weird). That is all. What the $#%^ is a FOO Dog (5D: ___ dog (Chinese breed)). FOO Fighters is an actual, famous band, just waiting for you to use it as a clue. Egg FOO Young is available as well. I have watched dog shows — never seen a so-called FOO dog. Never seen a TUBULE either (1D: Tiny biological channel, as in the kidney). "As in the kidney?" "Oh, *kidney*! You must mean TUBULE!" How does "kidney" help get me to TUBULE? Anyway, long story short, had HASH for DASH (30D: --) — which, by the way, looks like TWO dashes in my version — which kept me from seeing DIVINE which kept me from seeing what I was dealing with. I teach Dante's "Inferno" every year. No help in picking up the theme. Once I picked it up, of course, I filled in all theme answers immediately, but still had to deal with OBOL-SMIFF and RAMA (49D: Blue-skinned deity) and other ughy stuff, so ... yeah, can't wait for tomorrow.
- 46A: "England hath long been mad, and scarr'd ___" (HERSELF) — first, an absurd and self-consciously literary clue. Second, my Black Ink software Failed again, as the clue was too long to be seen and "hovering" the cursor over the clue did squat (it's supposed to make the whole clue appear in a pop-up box). So I had HERSE-- without knowing the context — the "L" and "F" being the ends of (you guessed it) OBOL-SMIFF!
- 10D: Cinematic scene changer (WIPE) — Ugh. True enough, but not a Tuesday clue. I had WI-E and couldn't get it.
- 12D: Captain Cook landfall of April 1769 (TAHITI) — Yay. This I got easily. Pulled me out of freefall.
- 22A: Amount of money that can be raised? (ANTE) — I don't play poker, but this feels wrong to me. Everyone ANTEs, right? And then someone bets ... and *then* someone raises ... right? How can you "raise" an ANTE?
- 34D: Alex Doonesbury's school, for short (M.I.T.) — figured it out easily enough, but again, I ask, what year is it? And what day of the week?
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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