Local staffer for Al Jazeera / TUE 6-7-11 / Acela operator / Former drink marketed zomething different / When doubled band with 1984 #1 hit Reflex
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Constructor: David Liben-Nowell
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
THEME: Going against type — all theme answers follow [adjective]-IS-[opposite of adjective] patterns, where [adjective] is actually not an adjective at all, but some famous person's last name.
Word of the Day: James BLUNT (43A: Comment about well-dressed pop singer James?) —
James Hillier Blount (born 22 February 1974), better known by his stage name James Blunt, is an English singer-songwriter and musician, and former army officer, whose debut album, Back to Bedlam and single releases, including "You're Beautiful" and "Goodbye My Lover", brought him to fame in 2005. His repertoire can be best described as a mix of acoustic-tinged pop, rock and folk. After recording on the independent American label Custard Records, Blunt won two BRIT Awards, two Ivor Novello Awards, and by 2006 was nominated for five Grammy Awards. The following year, he released his second album All the Lost Souls (2007). Blunt's third studio album, Some Kind of Trouble, was released in November 2010. Worldwide, Blunt has sold over 15 million albums. (wikipedia)
Another puzzle with a lackluster theme but nice fill. This theme has so many possibilities that it hardly seems like a challenge to come up with answers. Vince or Brigham YOUNG IS OLD. Reggie WHITE IS BLACK. Shelley LONG IS SHORT. Grace SLICK IS ARTLESS. Jean SMART IS STUPID. And (probably) on and on. The choices that are actually in the puzzle are particularly unimaginative, with the exception of BLUNT IS SHARP, which was its own kind of hell — I'm, let's say, not terribly fond of his music, so much so that I completely forgot he existed and had to uncover him from crosses (what do you call a really negative "AHA moment"?). By contrast, the fill was nice all around, except TWINER, which has that forced -ER factor (i.e. no one who made a braid was ever called a TWINER) (25D: Hair braider, e.g.). I don't really understand the clue on QATARI (24D: Local staffer for Al Jazeera, e.g.). Is Al Jazeera *based* in Qatar, and that's why the staffer is "local?" I got it off the "Q," but the clue felt forced, or at least much more difficult than I expect a Tuesday clue to be. I liked OIL CRISIS (11D: Emergency of 1973 or 1979) and CLAM DIP (8D: Seafood-based party food). Did not like LOG as clued (19A: Fireplace wood), esp. sitting as it does two clues down from a clue where "wood" is used differently (properly) (11A: Wood used for wine barrels=>OAK). [Fireplace wood] is not LOG any more than [Hamburger meat] is PATTY, i.e. you're talking about form/shape. Clue is defensible, but weak. Also, why are you not writing home (specifically) about a SECRET? What if you and your mom share the secret? I get that you are playing on a phrase here, but the clue just doesn't point to SECRET very clearly or directly. So I'm no fan of the cluing, but the words themselves are solid and interesting, for the most part.
- 17A: Comment about comic actor Martin when standing next to a peewee? (SHORT IS TALL) — what is a "peewee?" So weird. Do you mean "child?" I know "peewee" as an adjective, and as a comic performer, not so much as a simple noun.
- 26A: Comment about actor Jack, racially speaking? (BLACK IS WHITE) — the phrase "racially speaking" is mildly icky.
- 43A: Comment about well-dressed pop singer James? (BLUNT IS SHARP) — I'll make the SHARP IS BLUNT joke here so you don't have to.
- 57A: Comment about impressionist Rich when playing a packed house? (LITTLE IS BIG) — this could've gone in ... bluer directions.
- 52A: Former drink marketed as "zomething different" (ZIMA) — "Former drink" made me laugh. Finally, I know who's actually drinking ZIMA: no one.
- 55A: When doubled, band with the 1984 #1 hit "The Reflex" (DURAN DURAN) — if you weren't a youngish teenager in 1984, then you probably don't remember that for a brief, weird time, DURAN DURAN were not only huge, but hugely popular with girls. The band featured several certifiable teen heartthrobs, three of whom had the last name of TAYLOR, *none of whom were related* ... 9th grade was weird. Here are two songs that remind me of that year (the only one in my life where I took the bus to school. Pointless trivia!):
OK, three songs:
- 4D: The record score in this game is 1,049 points (SCRABBLE) — I never play, but this was still easy to get.
- 7D: Acela operator (AMTRAK) — I learned what "Acela" is from crosswords.
- 33D: "Wrapping up ..." (IN SUMMARY) — why do I feel like "IN SUMMATION" is a more common/apt phrase? "IN SUMMARY" just feels slightly off. But I would never use any of these phrases, so what do I know?
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