Khrushchev's impromptu gavel / WED 6-16-10 / Send tickler / Margaret Mead interviewee / Bovine in ads / Word on biblical wall
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Constructor: Joe Krozel
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
THEME: Letter+Word Letter+Word phrases:
- 20A: Sporty, powerful auto (V-EIGHT T-BIRD)
- 26A: Racy, low-budget film (R-RATED B-MOVIE)
- 47A: Undergarments that show a little chest (V-NECK T-SHIRTS)
- 58A: Messages on an Apple device (iPHONE E-MAIL)
Word of the Day: NOUSE (24A: "It's ___!" ("I give up!")) —
Nouse is a student newspaper and website at the University of York. It is a registered society of, and funded by the University of York Students' Union. Founded in 1964 by student Nigel Fountain, some twenty years before its rival York Vision. Nouse is printed three times a term and has an estimated readership of 10,000 with frequent website updates in between print runs.
• • •Theme=approved, but ... I'm wondering how much of the lame (if not LAMEBRAIN—33D: Knucklehead) fill could have been avoided if this puzzle had been 76 instead of 74 words.* This would have made the grid much easier to fill cleanly and interestingly. Are (wrong verb tense) DID NO HARM (17A: Followed the Hippocratic oath, in a way) and EXIT POLLS (63A: Some Election Day surveys) really worth it? The latter answer is just fine, but what's not just fine is ... where to begin? Let's take *only* the NW corner, which had me not liking this puzzle from the jump. Random Roman Numerals (or RRNs) are weak but acceptable at 3, grating at 4, and virtually unbearable at 5+ letters. That MCDVI is your 1-Down (Early 15th-century year)!? The first thing (or nearly so) that I encounter? Ugh. At the same time, I'm asked to recall a one-hit wonder who hasn't been heard from (on a major scale) since he won the cursed Best New Artist Grammy (MARC Cohn, 1991 Grammy winner for Best New Artist), and then (much worse), asked to accept that REDIG is, in fact, a word (3D: Make even deeper). If I make it "even deeper," I just *continue* digging. I don't fill the hole back in and then REDIG! Lordy. Then I hit the (again, wrong verb tense) DID NO HARM and thought "so it's like that, is it?" And it was. To be fair, the rest of the puzzle isn't nearly as bad as that patch of land, but I'm not sure that's a bar you want to measure anything by.
Theme is cute, though. Pretty solid. I mean, all the answers feel forced except V-NECK T-SHIRTS, but maybe that's part of the theme's charm — you wouldn't say these phrases, but they describe real things, and they're playful-sounding. Some of the cluing was cool, e.g. 15A: Khrushchev's impromptu gavel (SHOE); 5D: Common car door fixtures, once (ASHTRAYS); 32D: Scissors, for "cut," on a PC (ICON). But what the hell is up with 8D: Send a tickler (REMIND). Well, it seems that it's simply my ignorance about what the hell "tickler" means. I inferred that it had something to do with "tickling" one's memory, but before that assumed a "tickler" must be a joke, and that the clue had something to do with forwarded emails that are supposed to be funny (but almost always aren't). "Tickler." Even after looking it up: "a file of memoranda or notices that remind of things to be done" I'm having trouble picturing it as an object in physical space (or even virtual space). How is it different from a simple to-do list or, I don't know, appointment book? The clue is using "tickler" in the sense of ANY aid to memory, it seems. The very word "tickler" feels quaint and cloying. I realize that this is a highly personal and idiosyncratic response and one I might not be having (as strongly) were the rest of the puzzle up to SNIFF (38A: Check for freshness, in a way).
ANOD, ACAR, ACAD, AORB
DID NO HARM, OH NO, NO USE
- 19A: Either of two peaks in Greek myth (MT. IDA) — IDA is important crosswordese, even in with the MT affixed to the beginning. Other important Greek peak = OSSA (or MTOSSA), the namesake of which can be found on Tasman as well.
- 61A: Youngest-ever French Open winner Michael ___ (CHANG) — a very memorable tournament run in 1989, during which he beat Ivan Lendl in an epic 5-setter (he came back from two sets down). Was this the match where he was cramping up and actually (sneak-) served underhand one time? Yes, it was.
- 65A: Word on a biblical wall (MENE) — Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin —the mysterious riddle written by a hand on the wall at Belshazzar's feast. (answers.com)
- 50D: Margaret Mead interviewee (SAMOAN) — she wrote "Coming of Age in SAMOA" (1928). Apparently, 50+ years later, there were some questions raised about the validity / credibility of her findings. You can read about the controversy here.
- 55D: Bovine in ads (ELSIE) — it's always ELSIE. Unless it's ELMER.
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*by which I mean 1. turn the "O" in DID NO HARM into a black square, 2. turn the "P" in EXIT POLLS into a black square, and 3. take *everything* but the theme answers out and rebuild. Actually, your E/NE and W/SW could remain largely unchanged, as the seriously sub-optimal parts of this puzzle are only in the vicinity of the squares in question.