Capital of former Belgian Congo / WED 8-25-10 / Locale of Britain's first Christian martyr / * City Tampa neighborhood / Rowdies in British slang
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Constructor: Clive Probert
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
THEME: Bs — Note on the puzzle reads: "In this crossword, every answer and every clue contains at least one letter B."
Word of the Day: BOMA (3D: Capital of the former Belgian Congo) —
The port town of Boma in Kongo Central Province was the capital city of the Belgian Congo (the modern Democratic Republic of the Congo) from 1 May 1886 to 1926, when it was moved to Léopoldville (since renamed Kinshasa). It exports tropical timber, bananas, cacao, and palm products. As of 2009 it had an estimated population of 527,725. (wikipedia)
Not being up on my turn-of-the-last-century African capitals, I found that this one hurt a little. By which I mean, a lot. I knew that the trick had something to do with the fill in general, not any set of "theme" answers, but I kept thinking, as I filled in creaker after clunker, "this better be good." Then the punchline was: Bs. That is not a very good punchline. Seriously, if you're throwing BOMA (!) and YBOR (!?!) (23D: ___ City (Tampa neighborhood)) at me, there better be some sweet sweet payoff, somewhere. Everything I dislike about stunt puzzles is on display here—we can, if we choose, marvel at the constructor's ingenuity and prowess, When We're Done, but getting from A to B is a slog. Not that there was a complete absence of pleasure—I oddly liked BELLLABS, for instance (triple-L!) (56A: Research group associated with many Nobel Prizes in Physics). But with only two 8s and two 7s and the rest 6 or shorter, there is almost nothing that is genuinely interesting. Overly common fill, interrupted every once in a while by a genuine WTF!? Repeated letter strings all Over the place (ALBA, BELL, ABBA, REBE). Aside from the ragtag ye olde concert going on in the middle of the grid (the long-awaited reunion of TABOR & REBEC!) (40A: Its beat may accompany a fife & 45A: Old stringed instrument with a narrow body), there's not much joy in solveville today.
- 20A: Locale of Britain's first Christian martyr (ST. ALBANS) — when I saw this (which I'd somehow heard of) crossing BOMA (not so lucky), I knew something was deeply wrong. Not surprisingly, ST. ALBANS has an ABBEY (29D: Setting for Umberto Eco's "The Name of the Rose"). Appears to have no relationship (besides sharing four consecutive letters) to ALBA Longa (64A: ___ Longa, where Romulus and Remus were born).
- 8D: Citadel, in Arabic (CASBAH) — Interesting. I honestly considered writing in CASTLE here. Didn't quite seem "Arabic" enough.
- 11D: P.L.O. bigwig Mahmoud (ABBAS) — "Bigwig" being a concession to the theme.
- 28D: Sitcom with the character B.J. ("REBA") — really wanted this to have something to do with "B.J. and the Bear" (the romantic story of a man and his ... chimp?)
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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