Egypt's third-largest city / WED 4-7-10 / Destination for ferry from Livorno / Follower who does dirty work / In arms of Morpheus
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Constructor: Richard Silvestri
Relative difficulty: Challenging
THEME: RAT (58D: Chinese calendar animal ... or the key to this puzzle's theme) — "RAT" is added familiar phrases to get wacky phrases, clued wackily ("?"-style)
Word of the Day: JACKAL (5D: Follower who does the dirty work) —
2 a : a person who tends to the routine needs of or performs menial tasks for another: DRUDGE b: an individual who for mercenary or self-seeking ends serves or collaborates with another esp. in the commission of base or sordid acts (Webster's 3rd Int'l Dictionary)
Toughest Wednesday of the year for me (high 6's). Never ever could get a real rhythm going, and most all of the cluing had this weird, ickily off feeling to it. Like ... just past its sell-by date. Probably edible, but not appetizing. MEANT clued as [Had in view]? In America, we'd say [Had in mind], "view" being used here solely to try to trip you. That intentional trip-you vibe ran through a lot of clues. I don't mind trippiness if it's clever, but today it felt forced. If it's got nothing to modify, LOCAL (to me) is a train, not a bar (10D: Neighborhood pub). I would call a LOCAL pub a "LOCAL pub." Need the "pub." Maybe this stand-alone usage of LOCAL is British. EDIT gives you the old "verb for adjective" switcheroo with 11D: Ready for release. EMIT gets you in mind of guns with 53D: Shoot out. Was all this forced cleverness an attempt to distract from the really awkward theme? Add-a-"RAT?" Adding-a-whatever is fine when the phrases work, and two are OK, but ERRATIC THE RED makes no sense on any level. The "nickname" part of ERIC THE RED is "THE RED" .... so ... if you call this hypothetical person ERRATIC THE RED, is his "real" name ERRATIC ... and then THE RED is the part signifying his Communism? So he's sort of *all* nickname? THE ERRATIC RED might be someone's nickname. But ERRATIC THE RED is just glop. At 78 words and (thus) with no non-theme answers longer than 6 letters (!?!), the grid doesn't hold much interest. My favorite part was probably the clue on TANKER (45A: Ship of fuels). That's a joke that comes off. The rest of this, fill-wise, feels just ordinary, and the cluing feels like its trying too hard to compensate for that ordinariness.
- 20A: One who plunders boatloads of jack-o'-lanterns (PUMPKIN PIRATE)
- 37A: First-rate chastisement? (SUPREME BERATING)
- 48A: Nickname of an unpredictable Communist? (ERRATIC THE RED)
- 5D: Follower who does the dirty work (JACKAL) — this killed me. First, I had no idea this was a meaning of JACKAL. Second, I had -ACK- and wrote in LACKEY, without blinking. I feel this had to be intentional (cluing that suggests LACKEY and, apparently, JACKAL). Again, didn't feel clever. Just annoying.
- 14A: Ward who played Robin (BURT) — First, instinctively wrote in SELA. Second, changed SELA to BERT.
- 41A: Destination for a ferry from Livorno (ELBA) — ELBA and ELBE (48D: Hamburg's river) in the same gird. I'd have tried like hell to keep that kind of near-twin crosswordese nightmare from happening.
- 46A: "The tongue of the mind": Cervantes (PEN) — even with the "N" this didn't come easily. Whole SW was a disaster until I stopped reading the end of 48A as -TCHERED, changed AS TO to IS TO (50D: Part of an analogy), and finally figured out the ghastly ERRATIC THE RED.
- 61A: Egypt's third-largest city (GIZA) — a city that I always want to call either GAZA or AGRA.
- 45D: Home of the Azadi Tower (TEHRAN) — interesting, and new to me. Is this a building I should know for some reason? Ooh, yeah, it's super-cool looking. Like a giant alien craft. According to wikipedia, it's the symbol of TEHRAN, and marks the entrance to TEHRAN.
- 9A: Was in the arms of Morpheus (SLEPT) — nicely complemented by WOKE (35A: Shook out of dreamland)
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