Nuevo Laredo store / SUN 7-18-10 / Explorer who claimed Louisiana for France / Novy Russian literary magazine / Sharpie alternatives
Sunday, July 18, 2010
Constructor: Robert W. Harris
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: "CRITICAL PERIODS" — common two-word phrases are clued as if the first two letters of the second word were initials
Word of the Day: TIENDA (100A: Nuevo Laredo store) —
n. 1. In Cuba, Mexico, etc., a booth, stall, or shop where merchandise is sold. (freedictionary.com)
Here's something to mull over—the good taste (or "JEWFRO") question arises again today (see this puzzle for the recent occurrence of JEWFRO in the NYT puzzle). I bring this up not to claim offendedness, or to stir up controversy, but to ask a sincere question about when and how to refer to (allegedly or manifestly) bad things in a puzzle. Sometimes people (including myself) talk as if the line between good and bad taste were crystal clear, yet the more I think about it, the fuzzier it gets. I mean, JEWFRO simply isn't pejorative, but it's obvious how someone who had never heard it before would assume it was. Honestly, it *sounds* pejorative. Naming a physical trait after an ethnicity—dicey. Since "JEW" has certainly been used as a pejorative epithet, it's an understandably loaded word. Now, in today's puzzle, much less opportunity for being put off, but I was curious about the clues on both DER (13D: ___ Fuehrer's Face" (1942 Disney short)) and TREATABLE (80D: Like diabetes). Apparently, Hitler and diabetes *can* be in the puzzle *if* they are being made fun of or their potency is being undermined. You may be interested to know that neither HITLER (or FUEHRER) nor DIABETES has ever (in database memory) appeared in an NYT grid. [correction: two FUHRERs (without first "E"), from 2001 and 1997]. In fact, the words aren't in cruciverb.com's database either (and it covers a lot more regularly published puzzles than just the NYT). So we live in this odd situation where we are happy (apparently) to be reminded of the existence of murderous tyrants and widespread, increasing, potentially lethal diseases ... just don't put them in the grid, please. That would be ... what? Too much? But ... they're in the clues. So they're there. Right in front of us. If the point is not to disturb the fragile populace with unpleasantness, then I have to ask what "Hitler" and "diabetes" are doing in the clues. "It's OK, they splat Hitler's face with a tomato! It's OK, it's TREATABLE! Yay." There's something schizophrenic / childish about this attitude. And yet ... tone does matter, and the puzzle is a diversion / entertainment, so why not keep things light? I think I'm just struck by the double standard. In the clues, OK, but in the grid, no. If you're making fun / being hopeful, OK, but if you're serious (or, in the case of diabetes, somewhat more realistic about its impact on public health and the costs thereof), no no no. Discuss. Or don't.
I remember the first time I heard the word "KITING" (113A: Using fraudulently altered checks). I thought it was an ethnic slur ("Jewish people write bad checks?!?!?!"). Then I realized that the ethnic slur has two "K"s, not one. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, "KITING," "meaning 'write a fictitious check' (1839, Amer.Eng.) is from 1805 phrase fly a kite "raise money by issuing commercial paper on nonexistent funds."
- 23A: 234, as of July 4, 2010? (ACCEPTED U.S. AGE)
- 32A: Workers in a global peace organization? (THE U.N. EMPLOYED)
- 47A: What gumshoes charge in the City of Bridges? (PITTSBURGH P.I. RATE)
- 62A: Symmetrical power conductor for appliances? (BILATERAL A.C. CORD)
- 83A: Too much guitar work by a professor's helper? (EXCESSIVE T.A. RIFFS)
- 94A: "Pay in cash and your second surgery is half-price"? (STRANGE O.R. DEAL)
- 108A: Typical termite in a California city? (COMMON L.A. BORER)
- 1A: Ready for publication (EDITED) — This NW area was the only part of the puzzle that gave me any trouble. This word ... I just couldn't read "Ready" as anything but a verb, so even when I had EDIT-, I couldn't see how EDITED could be right. Then I unpacked my adjectives.
- 26A: 1950 noir film ("D.O.A.") — noir film in three letters pretty much Has to be this.
- 41A: Remove from a talent show, maybe (GONG) — THE talent show ... of my youth.
- 42A: Come under criticism (TAKE FLAK) — wonderful, colorful phrase; perhaps my favorite non-theme answer of the day.
- 59A: Drinker's problem (DTs) — Everything I know about SOTS I learned from crosswords, including the DTs.
- 60A: Word that comes from the Greek for "indivisible" (ATOM) — I did not know that.
- 77A: Any singer of "Hotel California" (EAGLE) — I was thinking DRUNK. Have I ever told you how mysteriously popular this song was on jukeboxes in Edinburgh circa 1989?
- 114A: Sharpie alternatives (FLAIRS) — Does FLAIR make the fat permanent markers too. I thought they just made smaller pens. Anyway, I got this almost instantly, so the clue worked.
- 15D: Explorer who claimed Louisiana for France (LASALLE) — I know him only as the eponym of a university. At least I assume that's whom the university's named after.
- 24D: General dir. of Sal Paradise's return trip on "On the Road" (ENE) — possibly the most elaborate dir. clue ever. If you've gotta have SSE or NNW, or the like, why not liven it up?
- 73D: 1967 Dionne Warwick hit ("ALFIE") — What's it all about ...? Dionne singing Burt is something close to pop perfection.
- 94A: Steps that a farmer might take (STILE) — another word I'm pretty sure I learned from crosswords. Rural life was far from my childhood experience. Or vice versa.
- 109D: Novy ___, Russian literary magazine (MIR) — this clue suggests an awareness that the puzzle was too easy and needed toughening up. Strangely, I saw right through this one. There's no way they're gonna expect me to know a Russian literary magazine (!?), so it must be a familiar Russian word ... in three letters ... MIR (like the space station). Bingo.
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]