Climbing legume / TUE 7-13-10 / Title girl in 1922 hit / Levy on booze cigarettes / Priestly attire / Bygone communication
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Constructor: Peter A. Collins
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
THEME: ... or not — theme answers are phrases that contain (circled) letters that spell out an opposing sentiment, e.g. EVERY BIT AN ANGEL features the circled letters "E,V,I,L"; every theme clue is followed by "... or not" as a way of cluing this embedded reversal
Word of the Day: NOLA (71A: Title girl in a 1922 hit) —
Vincent Lopez was born of Portuguese immigrant parents in Brooklyn, New York and was leading his own dance band in New York City by 1917. On November 27, 1921 his band began broadcasting on the new medium of entertainment radio; the band's weekly 90-minute show on Newark, NJ station WJZ boosted the popularity of both himself and of radio. He became one of America's most popular bandleaders, and would retain that status through the 1940s. // He began his radio programs by announcing "Lopez speaking!".His theme song was "Nola," Felix Arndt's novelty ragtime piece of 1915, and Lopez became so identified with it that he occasionally satirized it. (His 1939 movie short for Vitaphone, Vincent Lopez and his Orchestra, features the entire band singing "Down with Nola.") Lopez worked occasionally in feature films, notably The Big Broadcast (1932). He was also one of the very first bandleaders to work in Soundies movie musicals, in 1940. He made additional Soundies in 1944. (wikipedia)
Strange puzzle to solve. Felt extremely easy *except* for the theme answers, which I couldn't see at all — I just solved most of the crosses and waited for something recognizable to appear. Knowing odd crosswordese really helped me tear the puzzle up in parts — OTARU, for instance, was a godsend in that ugly center, where the preposterous TWO TO (34A: 58 minutes past the hour) stabs OTARU (31D: Japanese seaport) and (ugh) TOBIT (32D: Book of the Apocrypha) in the throat. Knowledge of crosswordese came in handy again in the SW: VETCH (51D: Climbing legume) has been a Word Of The Day before, and ELY Culbertson (54A: Bridge expert Culbertson) is crosswordese royalty—not being a constant solver would have made that corner quite tough (in addition to being quite unpretty). Apparently today we are pretending that ELY and ELI (47A: 2008 Super Bowl M.V.P. Manning) are completely different names. Not even an attempt to come at ELY as a *last* name, which would have at least made the ELI/ELY thing defensible on some level. Nope. Just two first names, pronounced (I think) identically, derived (I think) from the same Hebrew/biblical source [I'm being told ELY is pronounced "EELY" ... changes my opinion of its appearance here only a little]. Just ... one has an "I," the other a "Y." Frankly, even if Culbertson's ELY is derived from, let's say, Xhosa, and not Hebrew, I still call foul. Also, what is up with the cram-as-much-crosswordese-into-a-phonebooth stunt going on in the north. RAIL and LAPEL are the only things up there that aren't supremely tired. Always disappointing when short(er) fill is treated with such cynicism (i.e. "it fits, good enough").
But back to the theme—as circle puzzles go, this one wasn't so bad. Circles are inherently relevant to the theme, and are not completely arbitrary; only partially so, e.g. you could have circled one of three different Ls, and one of two different Is, in TELLS IT LIKE IT IS. Consistency is slightly off, in that circled words are three times bad, one time good; also two times verb, two times adjective. But the idea is a fine and solid one, overall. Decent theme, somewhat ugly fill. That is the story of this one.
- 17A: Nice through and through ... or not (EVERY BIT AN ANGEL / EVIL)
- 27A: Really digs ... or not (HAS THE HOTS FOR / HATES)
- 48A: Most wretched ... or not (ABSOLUTE WORST / BEST) — addition of the qualifier "ABSOLUTE" makes this one wonky; WORST is opp. of BEST all on its own
- 63A: Speaks with brutal honesty ... or not (TELLS IT LIKE IT IS / LIES)
Klan members adopted masks and robes that hid their identities and added to the drama of their night rides, their chosen time for attacks. Many of them operated in small towns and rural areas where people otherwise knew each other's faces, and sometimes still recognized the attackers. "The kind of thing that men are afraid or ashamed to do openly, and by day, they accomplish secretly, masked, and at night." With this method both the high and the low could be attacked. The Ku Klux Klan night riders "sometimes claimed to be ghosts of Confederate soldiers so, as they claimed, to frighten superstitious blacks. Few freedmen took such nonsense seriously." (wikipedia)The taste of this puzzle in my mouth just got a good deal more sour. [Masked asshole] might have made this more palatable ...
- 25A: Levy on cigarettes and booze (SIN TAX) — lovely phrase, but I'd like an "or" instead of an "and" in that clue.
- 38A: Portland, Ore., college from which Steve Jobs dropped out (REED) — in an alternate universe, I went here. In this universe, I chose Pomona instead.
- 69A: Terse order to a chauffeur (HOME) — "Terse" = unimaginably, comically, olde-tymishly dickish.
- 13D: Bygone communication (TELEX) — honestly, I'd never heard of this until seeing it in a crossword.
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