Czech martyr Jan / SUN 12-26-10 / Old-time cartoonist Hoff / Inhabitant of Pribilof Islands / Pre-1868 Tokyo / W.W. II carrier Churchill sting twice
Sunday, December 26, 2010
Constructor: Darin McDaniel
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: "Hey, Mister!" — familiar phrases have "MAN" added to them, creating wacky phrases, which are clued "?"-style
Word of the Day: TEASELS (15D: Prickly plants) —
Dipsacus is a genus of flowering plant in the family Dipsacaceae. The members of this genus are known as teasel or teazel or teazle. The genus includes about 15 species of tall herbaceous biennial plants (rarely short-lived perennial plants) growing to 1-2.5 m tall, native to Europe, Asia and northern Africa. [...] // Teasels are easily identified with their prickly stem and leaves, and the inflorescence of purple, dark pink or lavender flowers that form a head on the end of the stem(s). The inflorescence is ovoid, 4-10 cm long and 3-5 cm broad, with a basal whorl of spiny bracts. The first flowers begin opening in a belt around the middle of the spherical or oval flowerhead, and then open sequentially toward the top and bottom, forming two narrow belts as the flowering progresses. The dried head persists afterwards, with the small (4-6 mm) seeds maturing in mid autumn. // The seeds are an important winter food resource for some birds, notably the European Goldfinch; teasels are often grown in gardens and encouraged on some nature reserves to attract them. // Teasel is also considered an invasive species in the United States. It is known to form a monoculture, capable of crowding out all native plant species, and therefore is discouraged and/or eliminated within restored open lands and other conservation areas. (wikipedia)
This puzzle was kind of interesting theme-wise, but by the end I was far too distracted by a good chunk of off-putting answers to have very positive feelings about it overall. Theme is just OK—some cute phrases, some forced phrases, and at least one that was both (CARTMAN BEFORE THE HORSE is great in that I love CARTMAN, but not so great in that CART BEFORE THE HORSE is not a phrase—PUT(TING) THE CART BEFORE THE HORSE is). The rest of the fill was all over the map—sometimes seemingly inventive (THE POKY? USS WASP!?) (60D: Stir + 73A: W.W. II carrier praised by Churchill for its ability to "sting twice"), and other times the opposite of that, i.e. too readily accepted from some horrible autofill monster. I may have seen TEASEL(S) once before in my life, but I really don't like it, esp. in the plural. EPACT was worse (56A: Difference in days between the lunar and solar year), and UKASE worser (102D: Decree) (though I understand that it's old skool crosswordese and so not Entirely from outer space for many solvers). I realize that someone whose own puzzle featured IAT has no business complaining about OFFAT, but since I was not responsible for IAT, I'm complaining anyway. Actually, I'd let that go if I didn't have to deal with the A family: AMUST, ACARE, and ANOTE. It's all ABIT much. Did I leave one out? Maybe, but I don't feel like hunting. HUS on first? Who knows? (84D: Czech martyr Jan) Your guess is as good as mine. All I know is I groaned more than I wowed. Not a terrible puzzle by any means, but not one I'll be fondly remembering either. I mean ... *two* particles?? (both of them the equivalent of constructor "Eject" buttons) (MESON and CATION) (65D: Quark/antiquark particle + 25D: Charged particle). No thanks.
- 23A: Loving comment from an astronaut's wife? ("I NEED MY SPACEMAN")
- 37A: The Dark Knight rooms with Quasimodo? (BATMAN'S IN THE BELFRY)
- 47A: Hotel's ask-your-greeter-anything approach? (OPEN DOORMAN POLICY)
- 66A: "South Park" character leading a walk around a paddock? (CARTMAN BEFORE THE HORSE)
- 80A: What Dustin Hoffman gets to do often, thanks to royalties? (TAKE A "RAIN MAN" CHECK)
- 92A: Actor Hugh involved in every swap shop deal? (JACKMAN OF ALL TRADES)
- 111A: Actor John playing Wayne Knight's role on "Seinfeld"? (GOODMAN AS NEWMAN)
- 44A: "He wore a diamond" in "Copacabana" (RICO) — how's this for a weird coincidence? I read the clue as "Casablanca," not "Copacabana," and so entered ... RICK.
- 98A: W.W. I hero played by Gary Cooper (SGT. YORK) — I think I saw at least part of the SGT. YORK movie once. Today, however, I saw "True Grit." Recommended. There's some severed fingers and point-blank face shooting and pony dying, but all in all a hell of a lot less gruesome than many other Coen Bros. movies I've seen. Acting all great, especially the young woman, man oh man. Where did she come from?
- 99A: Pre-1868 Tokyo (EDO) — feels like an eternity since I've seen this old xword standby.
- 114A: Inhabitant of the Pribilof Islands (ALEUT) — Somehow I doubt that's what the ALEUTs call them. . .
- 7D: ___ Eisley, "Star Wars" cantina town (MOS) — Here, and at FARR (69D: Actress Diane of "Numb3rs"), there is an admirable if slightly desperate stretching for new clues ...
- 36D: Old-time cartoonist Hoff (SYD) — we have at least one of his books lying around ("Sammy the Seal"). I saw some of his work at the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art in NYC last spring.
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