Pope Urban II's real name of Lagery / FRI 3-9-12 / Singer with 1994 #1 alternative rock hit God / Swearin to God singer 1975 / Three-toed wading birds / Dancer who was fan favorite / Tiny biter / 1966 AL Rookie of Year
Friday, March 9, 2012
Constructor: Tim Croce
Relative difficulty: Challenging
Word of the Day: DOPESTERs (29D: Ones giving winner forecasts) [is that supposed to be a pun on "winter forecasts?" Yeesh ...] —
One who analyzes and forecasts future events, as in sports or politics. (freedictionary.com)
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Lots to like here, but also a depressing amount not to like. Also, some painful cluing. Let's see ... this started out rather nicely, with a lively, doable NW corner. "THAT'S A NO-NO" isn't the most plausible phrase in the world, but it's got ... something, and everything else up there is solid, so, good. MEAT DIET is oddly clued (17A: A vegetarian isn't on it), in that it's not just vegetarians that aren't "on it." Omnivores aren't on it either. Large cats are on it. Wolves. But we get the idea. Thought the puzzle was going to be easy -to-average, until I rounded the corner into the open center and then just stopped. Had DENTAL CARE, but little else (33A: Brushing and such). Got ICED IN, then toyed with HIT and AGEE (41D: 1966 A.L. Rookie of the Year), but couldn't get crosses to work. Never heard of "belowdecks" with an "s" (34D: Not belowdecks), so I thought it was referring to a group of people, possibly the people in steerage, the lower classes, all those happy dancing people who died on the Titanic. Whatever. Anyway, the "s" threw me, or, rather, the lack of a corresponding terminal "s" in the answer threw me (see reverse problem at 4D: TV Land staple (SITCOMS)). Would've helped if I'd had the slightest idea who SALLY RAND was (28D: Dancer who was a fan favorite?). SALLY RIDE, I know. AYN RAND, yes. SALLY RAND sounds like a purveyor of cupcakes. Or financial advice.
Got started again in the NE with THEO (13D: Malcolm-Jamal's "Cosby Show" role) and S.O.S. but mistakenly put in EGRETS at 9A: Three-toed wading birds (STILTS) and stupidly couldn't put together HO HO HO at 16A: Present-day cry?, and so floundered up there a bit. RASAE (choke) did not lift my spirits (22A: Tabulae ___). Eventually I got the santa thing and then getting into the middle of the grid was easy. But the SW and *especially* the SE fought me to the bitter end. Really glad I knew AGEE, because HEGIRA (and thus RAND) could easily have stayed hidden from me without him (43A: Flight from danger). So far (3/4 of the grid), I'm mostly entertained, despite falling down a lot. But then the SE happened. This corner is a gigantic Fail for multiple reasons. First, and foremost, there's the utter unreality of 46A: "Not if my life depended on it!" ("I'LL NEVER!"). The phrase "I NEVER!" exists. The phrase "I'LL NEVER" exists only as a prelude to a verb or a phrase that stands lone because its speaker got choked off mid-sentence. Then, there's the mystifying clue for VALLI (39D: "Swearin' to God" singer, 1975), the difficulty of which is compounded by the highly ambiguous 39 square. VOILES? (39A: Curtain fabrics) I had TOILES. That's a thing, right? "Swearin' to God"—was that popular? Furthermore, there's the esoteric clue on the Kruddy fill ODO (32A: ___ of Lagery (Pope Urban II's real name)). Again, see my oft-repeated edict that you do not draw attention to your crap fill by giving it a gaudy, nutso clue (when perfectly pedestrian one exists). RIM out? Not LIP out? (44D: Not quite make the putt, with "out") Google "rim out." I dare you. I just did, which means I'm literally laughing as I type this. Finally, there's the word DOPESTERS. I wouldn't be mad at this answer if it weren't for *$&%ing ODO, but I couldn't make any sense out of D-P-STERS (I was still thinking that somehow THEME might be THEMA at that point) (37A: It's developed in a sonata). I finished and my software said "yay, you're done," and I was like "really? Do-Pesters? What the h- ... oh ... DOPE-sters ... that sounds like it could be a thing." Let's be clear, though—were it not for the ungodly "I'LL NEVER" (and, to a lesser extent, the world's most stupidly named pope), I wouldn't have been bugged by the roughness down here.
I nominate MAITREDS for World's Most Unnatural-Looking Plural (48A: Four-seaters, maybe?).
This is what happens when you try to take the word count down a *little* beyond your reach. Things start to break. Also, "S"s appear in nearly every bottom right corner (I count 8).