Astronaut in 1973 David Bowie hit / TUE 1-11-11 / Blue blood informally / Cab Calloway's signature line / Little girl in 1935's Our Little Girl
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
- RUSTY NAIL (17A: Something found in an old board, maybe)
- SCREWDRIVER (24A: Tool belt tool)
- SHIRLEY TEMPLE (34A: Little girl in 1935's "Our Little Girl")
- GRASSHOPPER (51A: Term of endearment for the Karate Kid) [Note: this appears to be an error—"GRASSHOPPER" is a term of endearment in the '70s TV show Kung Fu]
Word of the Day: Michael ENDE (66A: "The Neverending Story" author Michael) —
Michael Andreas Helmuth Ende (12 November 1929 – 28 August 1995) was a German author of fantasy and children's literature. He is best known for his epic fantasy work The Neverending Story; other famous works include Momo and Jim Button and Luke the Engine Driver. His works have been translated into more than 40 languages and sold more than 20 million copies, and have been adapted into motion pictures, stage plays, operas and audio books. (wikipedia)
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The grid had such a strange shape, I felt for sure that there was going to be yet another early-week gimmick on display (see yesterday's surprise BOUNCING BALL). But this one turned out not only not to have a gimmick, but to be about as straightforward and, frankly, dull a theme as I've seen in a Times puzzle in a long time. Those theme answers sure are drinks. Yes they are. I guess the hook is supposed to be that they are clued in non-drink ways. But so what? They're just drink names. There's nothing playful or clever here. No ambition. Just ... drinks. Normally, I'd love to see any one of these theme answers in a grid. They're all pretty lively. But this theme concept is something I'd expect to see in a much, much lower-rent puzzle. Do the black squares make some kind of cocktail shape? Anything? Something? I don't know.
Best answer in the whole grid is MAJOR TOM, which I will play for you now ("Space Oddity"):
Other than that, the grid is mixed. Strange, cool big corners (this puzzle has just 74 words) and some sassy gems like HIDEHO (55A: Cab Calloway's signature line) and RAP SHEET (35D: Record of arrests). But on the other side of the ledger, way more ugly crosswordy gunk than I normally like to see. ENDE is at the top of the gunk list (you know it's a Hail Mary because you rarely see it despite its letters being soooooo common). Can't even look at IRANI any more after hearing it derided by an accomplished constructor as a largely out-of-language poor substitute for IRANIAN (10D: Farsi speaker). CAS speaks for itself. There's a host of ERS, ERST, AAR, ESSO-type answers in there. ARISTO is less than great (never seen it anywhere but crosswords) (44D: Blue blood, informally). Wonky all over, leaving me both AREEL and AGHAST. Actually, neither. I just wanted to use those two in a sentence together.
- 19A: ___ Fogle, spokesman for Subway (JARED) — never understood the enduring appeal of this guy.
- 57A: Kind of party for Glenn Beck? (TEA) — Not sure how I feel about this clue. Seems somewhat oblique. I know he's generally supportive of their ideals, but he's not their leader or anything... I guess being a cheerleader is enough for the clue to work. I had GOP at first, and then knew that had to be wrong (if only because the "P" in GOP stands for "party")
- 50A: "Batman" sound effect (BAM) — as anyone who ever read a "Batman" comic or watched the old TV show knows, this clue could go several ways ... or at least two (POW!). I guessed wildly and got it right on the first try.
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