Eponymous associate Stalin / THU 6-23-11 / Early French settler North America / City home to US Brig Niagara / Stone-cold truths / Seine feeder
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Constructor: Ian Livengood
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
THEME: CLEAN UP (70A: Response to 40-Across ... or what can be done to 12 answers in this puzzle without affecting their clues?) — an OIL rebus. When you CLEAN UP the OIL SPILLS (40A: Environmental woes)—i.e. remove the OIL from the answer—the clue still makes sense.
Word of the Day: Vyacheslav MOLOTOV (63A: Eponymous associate of Stalin) —
Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov (Russian: Вячесла́в Миха́йлович Мо́лотов; 9 March, [O.S. 25 February] 1890 – 8 November 1986) was a Soviet politician and diplomat, an Old Bolshevik and a leading figure in the Soviet government from the 1920s, when he rose to power as a protégé of Joseph Stalin, to 1957, when he was dismissed from the Presidium (Politburo) of the Central Committee by Nikita Khrushchev. He served as Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars from 1930 to 1941, and as Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 1939 to 1949 and from 1953 to 1957. Molotov served for several years as First Deputy Premier of Joseph Stalin's cabinet. He retired in 1961 after several years of obscurity. [...] On 30 November 1939, after a futile year-and-a-half campaign to persuade the Finnish government to cede territory to the Soviet Union and give up some sovereignty by conceding specific military and political favors, the Soviet Union launched an offensive against Finland, starting what came to be known as the Winter War. The Finnish Army faced large numbers of Red Army tanks. Being short on anti-tank guns, they borrowed the design of an improvised incendiary device used in the just-concluded Spanish Civil War. // During the Winter War, the Soviet air force made extensive use of incendiaries and cluster bombs against Finnish troops and fortifications. When Soviet People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs Vyacheslav Molotov claimed in radio broadcasts that they were not bombing, but rather delivering food to the starving Finns, the Finns started to call the air bombs Molotov bread baskets. Soon they responded by attacking advancing tanks with "Molotov cocktails" which were "a drink to go with the food". At first, the term was used to describe only the burning mixture itself, but in practical use the term was soon applied to the combination of both the bottle and its contents. This Finnish use of the hand- or sling-thrown explosive against Soviet tanks was repeated in the subsequent Continuation War between the two countries. (wikipedia)
There are some nice touches here that take this puzzle beyond your run-of-the-mill rebus: a central answer that is both a rebus-containing answer and a clue to the theme, plus a final, exclamation-point Across answer that adds an interesting now-you-see-it, now-you-don't dimension to the puzzle. That said, I don't think the puzzle works very well, mainly because the gimmick—that the theme clues work with or without OIL—is not very shocking. The OIL TANKER without the OIL is a TANKER, but what else is it carrying besides OIL? It's still an OIL TANKER. Same thing with FISH OIL. You can take the OIL out, but the part of the FISH that contains the "fatty acid" is nonetheless still the OIL. The OLIVE and SESAME crossing adds an interesting culinary dimension, and in those cases the disappearing OIL actually *does* make a difference, but overall, the disappearing act just didn't make much of an impact on me. Also, the fill is icky in a lot of places, most notably in the area of the last square I filled in: the "L" in LEK (42A: Albanian money) / SILAS (33D: Albino in "The Da Vinci Code"). Whoa. No, no, scratch that. The absolute worst area is the west. RESEE (28D: Take in again) next to UNHAT (29D: Take a 31-Down off, in a way) is up there with the ugliest juxtapositions in puzzle history, esp. considering they both run through USH (a much-hated abbrev.) (39A: Do some theater work, informally) and Briticized MEAGRE (43A: Scanty, in Salisbury). UGH indeed. Throw in (deep breath) NOT ON, ABAT, IS ONE, OONA, ESA, OISE, ULAN, plural OLES, and, well, yeah. I've seen prettier grids.
I think instead of saying UGH all the time, I going to switch to LEK. "LEK!" I think it works.
- OIL TANKER (1A: Persian gulf sight) / OIL CAN (1D: Garage container)
- OIL TYCOON / OIL PAINT (8D: Canvas coat) (best thing about this intersection is that Getty gave his name to a famous museum in L.A., which has more than its fair share of OIL PAINTings)
- OIL RUB (27A: Day spa offering) / OIL PUMP (27D: Crankcase part)
- FISH OIL (32A: Fatty acid source) / OIL SKIN (35D: Outer-layer protection)
- OIL SPILLS / OIL RIG (40D: Gulf of Mexico sight) — essentially same clue as 1-Across. :(
- SESAME OIL (69A: Asian cooking staple) / OLIVE OIL (48D: Greek salad ingredient)
- 17A: Early French settler in North America (ACADIAN) — Until this very second, I was reading the phrase as "North Africa"; the French had a more recent presence there, which is what I'm using as my excuse.
- 20A: City that's home to the U.S. Brig Niagara (ERIE) — Did anyone else try ENID (despite the fact that it's nowhere near a sizable body of water and nowhere near Niagara)?
- 46A: Country where Bambara is the main spoken language (MALI) — Cool trivia. I would've guessed FRENCH (see Bullet #1, above)
- 7D: ___ Furterer, line of French hair products (RENÉ) — Wow, really? I just went with "common French man's name" here and trusted it to be right.
- 5D: Leveling in a ring (KO'ING) — That's not a word, that's a sound effect (see also LEK).
- 11D: Add a bit of support during a conversation (CHIME IN) — really like this. Common colloquial phrase, but I don't recall seeing it much, if ever, in the grid.
- 21D: Stone-cold truths (REALITIES) — I'm not sure why they're "stone-cold," unless they belong to Steve Austin or ... Keith Stone (whose face is All Over billboards where I live—we thought he was a real person we just didn't know, maybe a country music star or something. Then we saw the TV ads).
- 26D: Astounding Stories subjects (UFOS) — an old scifi pulp magazine, which eventually morphed into Analog Science Fact & Fiction and then (1992) Analog Science Fiction and Fact (wikipedia).
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