Bronze statue on top U.S. Capitol / THU 5-13-10 / London borough containing wembley stadium / Camera innovator George / Bartolommeo Angelico
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Constructor: Patrick Merrell
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
THEME: Double puns — familiar phrases that feature repeated words have those words punned in two different directions, creating Wacky answers, which are clued "?"-style
Word of the Day: FRA Bartolommeo (19A: Bartolommeo and Angelico => FRAS) —
Fra Bartolomeo or Fra Bartolommeo (di Pagholo) (March 28, 1472 – October 6, 1517), also known as Baccio della Porta, was an Italian Renaissance painter of religious subjects. (wikipedia)
The first pun was so painful that I had trouble finding the will to go on — WEE WHEE is supposed to be an "instruction?" "W" and "WH" are pronounced the same? — though thankfully, the remaining answers weren't as awful. I don't understand why the central theme answer is inconsistent in form — I mean, it still has the double-pun, but the puns aren't adjacent, as in the others. I guess the fact that it sits in the center gives it some leeway. I'll buy that. What I won't buy is the "OOXTEPLERNON'S dinner" of short bad fill (OOXTEPLERNON is the god of short bad fill who first manifested himself in this puzzle from last October; see my comment at 10:18am). Again, a small handful of the following would be just fine; but I count 19 on the following list, and I gave a bunch of borderline crosswordese (ELI, OISE, AERIE) a pass:
GIA, ENS, RES, EES, SSTS, EPS, OTTS and AMELIAS and AHEMS and FRAS (how many "things that aren't naturally pluralized" are you gonna shove in here?), ENV, ENO, ETTA, AHS, SSW, OH I, HTS, IZE, ALERTo the puzzle's credit, there is virtually no obscurity, and there is some sassy stuff like FOUL-UPS (12D: Bobbles) and REVVING (37D: Gunning) that I enjoyed. But mainly this is just a groaning pun puzzle, propped up by scads of shortish dreck.
- 17A: Instruction to an overexcited Frenchman? (WEE WHEE MONSIEUR)
- 23A: Really wet grass expected tomorrow morning? (DEEP DEW DUE) — the best, by a mile
- 34A: What quilting farmers do? (SEW AND SOW)
- 45A: Whitecaps next to an underpriced beachfront property? (WAVES BY BUY) — almost as painful as the first one
- 53A: Simplify things at a ricotta factory? (WEIGH WHEY EASIER) — is this even grammatical? There may be gray area here, but "EASIER" is a comparative adjective. I think "more easily" is the phrase you'd want if you were actually saying this (absurd) phrase.
I'm not really sure how difficult the puzzle was, as I did it on paper, untimed. I got 1A: Archaeologists usually find things in this (SITU) right off the bat, though I don't think of SITU as a "this." The WEE WHEE part of that answer took a good while to make out, and certainly didn't come into view until I had the MONSIEUR part, starting with HTS (9D: Dearborn ___, MI) and moving across the NE. I know a Dearborn, MI. Had no idea there was a "HTS," involved, but then again, I must have heard of it somewhere, some time, because it was the only answers I considered. Also had no idea that the 11D: Bronze statue on top of the U.S. Capitol was called "FREEDOM." Also didn't know BRENT, though the clue feels like something I've seen in the past month or so (48D: London borough containing Wembley Stadium). Other than that, all recognizable words and phrases.
Found the NW rather depressing, and not just because of the WEE WHEE pun and the iffy cluing on SITU. There's UNWARY (4D: Heedless), an odd word I kind of like, but one that feels like its barely a word, struggling for survival, wobbly and vulnerable, like a newborn calf. Come on, UNWARY, you can do it! Stand! Also, the clue on ICE FLOE!? (2D: Seal's resting place, perhaps). It's like some horrible commercial about the effects of global warming. The phrase "resting place" makes the FLOE sound like the place where the seal is doomed to die. As for the "THE" in "THE REDS" (3D: Great American ballpark team) — let's just say I look forward to seeing THEEXPOS, THEDIAMONDBACKS, and THENATS any day now. I wonder if there are rules governing the "gratuitous THE" (an actual phenomenon in crosswords, though I don't think it has an official name).
- 5A: Cutlass part (HILT) — First answer I wanted: DOOR.
- 9A: 1992 Jack Nicholson title role (HOFFA) — Jack's back! (see yesterday's puzzle)
- 14A: Asta in the book "The Thin Man," e.g. (SCHNAUZER) — bouncy word. I get mail every time ASTA is clued as a SCHNAUZER, with dog people / movie people indignantly telling me that the dog was a wire-haired terrier. These are people who forget the "The Thin Man" was a book, so I thank Will/Patrick for making the book part clear today.
- 38A: Auvers-sur-___, last home of Vincent van Gogh (OISE) — ??? I know OISE as a river, so this was kind of a lucky guess. OISE is near the top of that "Four-letter EuroRivers every crossworder should know" (see also LENA, EBRO, ELBE, ORNE, etc.)
- 42A: Commodity for John Jacob Astor (PELT) — Everything I know about this guy I learned from crosswords and ensuing discussions on this blog. Two years ago, I wouldn't have known this. Today, gimme.
- 43A: Camera innovator George (EASTMAN) — another gimme; maybe this puzzle was easier than I thought...
- 59A: Old Dodge hatchbacks (OMNIS) — OMNI is also a hotel, a bygone Atlanta arena, a book of Mormon, a bygone science magazine ...
- 23D: Tournament starting points (DRAW) — a really interesting clue. Technically accurate, yet gets you a singular answer from a plural clue. (Pa)Tricky.
- 35D: Object of a French prayer (DIEU) — God. Gimme. Not thrilled with Fr crossing Fr (DIEU/OISE), but the "I" should be inferrable ... right?
- 36D: Beach locale of song (IPANEMA) — another longish gimme. I think I first learned this song from an advertisement for some kind of beauty product, though I could be confusing it with "Bain de Soleil for the ST. TROPEZ tan!"
- 47D: Unsophisticated boob (YAHOO) — Crossworld has a nice "unsophisticated boob" vocabulary. See also YOKEL.
- 55D: Only 20th-century prez without a coll. degree (HST) — had a lively back-and-forth with a WaPo columnist (no name-dropper, I) last week about the (in-)validity of the clue [Shift blame to another] for PASS THE BUCK. He was against — seeing "BUCK" as responsibility, not blame — and marshaled, as part of his argument, the famous sign that sat atop the desk of HST: "The Buck Stops Here." In support of the clue, I threw all kinds of dictionaries at him, but this didn't faze him one bit. This is why I like him. Passion for words and their meanings, even quixotic passion, is OK by me.
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P.S. I'm pretty sure today is my grandma's *actual* birthday, so happy birthday, grandma! I'll see you tomorrow.
P.P.S. Still accepting recipes for the yet-to-be-created mixed drink, the SONATINI (see yesterday's blog). Have received a handful so far. Would love more. Be creative. Send to rexparker at mac dot com.