Pop maker in nursery rhyme / MON 4-12-10 / Vampire's undoing / Large gully / So-called universal donor blood
Monday, April 12, 2010
Constructor: Ian Livengood
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: PASTIMES (48A: Diversions ... as hinted at by the ends of 17-, 34- and 52-Across) — theme answers end with SORRY, CLUE, and RISK, respectively
Word of the Day: Zora NEALE Hurston (26D: Author Zora ___ Hurston) —
Zora Neale Hurston (January 7, 1891 – January 28, 1960) was an American folklorist and author during the time of the Harlem Renaissance. Of Hurston's four novels and more than 50 published short stories, plays, and essays, she is best known for her 1937 novel Their Eyes Were Watching God. [...] John McWhorter has called Hurston "America's favorite black conservative." She was a Republican who was generally sympathetic to the Old Right and a fan of Booker T. Washington's self-help politics. She disagreed with the philosophies (including Communism and the New Deal) supported by many of her colleagues in the Harlem Renaissance, such as Langston Hughes, who was in the 1930s a supporter of the Soviet Union and praised it in several of his poems. Despite much common ground with the Old Right in domestic and foreign policy, Hurston was not a social conservative. Her writings show skepticism toward traditional religion and affinity for feminist individualism. In this respect, her views were similar to two libertarian novelists who were her contemporaries, Rose Wilder Lane and Isabel Paterson. (wikipedia)
On the plus side, at a mere 74 words, this grid is (for a Monday) wide open, and jam-packed with solid and often sassy fill. Even some of the short fill, like JIVE (23A: Deceptive talk, in slang) and WART (11D: Witch's blemish), has personality. Throw in WEASEL (42A: Pop maker in a nursery rhyme) and (my favorite) NAME DROP (35D: Try to impress in a conversation, say), and you've got a pretty spicy concoction, especially for a Monday. On the down side, PASTIMES?? I think you mean BOARD GAMES. Yes, BOARD GAMES are a subset of the much larger category of PASTIMES, but come on, if I had a puzzle where the theme answers ended with BEAGLE, BOXER, and GREYHOUND, and then tied them all together with MAMMALS, you'd rightly wonder "what the hell?" The once-removey nature of the theme-revealer is distracting and awkward. Also, having GAMES in the grid (at TIE GAMES —> 20A: They go into overtime), and symmetrical with PASTIMES, but not theme-related, felt distracting and awkward. To the theme's credit, all the theme answers are in the form of spoken statements, so it's got a consistency even beyond the board game ... I mean PASTIME endings. THUS (which was my initial answer for 1A: As a result -> ERGO), despite clunkiness of PASTIMES, I come down solidly on the pro-puzzle side of things. A sweet Monday lark.
- 17A: "My deepest apologies" ("I'M TERRIBLY SORRY")
- 34A: "No idea" ("I HAVEN'T GOT A CLUE")
- 52A: "Let's take that gamble" ("IT'S WORTH THE RISK")
- 4D: So-called universal donor blood (O NEGATIVE) — I love the "so-called" part of this clue ... like the blood is going around putting on airs, calling itself "universal," and all the other bloods are like, "Who does he think he is?"
- 9D: Vampire's undoing (DAYLIGHT) — Slow on this one, even with the DA- in place. Only answers that were coming to mind were DAGGER and GARLIC.
- 18D: Large gully (RAVINE) — kept reading this as [Large gull] ...
- 27D: Car with a big carrying capacity, informally (WAGON) — I was looking for something a little bigger.
- 51D: 32-card game (SKAT) — Also a PASTIME, I'd imagine.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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