Student of morality / SUN 4-29-12 / Gherman cosmonaut / Ancient Balkan region / 2009 Hilary Swank biopic / Child-care author LeShan / 1984 superpwower / Botanical beards /
Sunday, April 29, 2012
Constructor: Tracy Gray
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
THEME: "Infractions" — five theme answers with ordinal numbers and two theme answers with actual fractions in them have those numbers/fractions represented as fractions by having the numerator (which in very case is "ONE") take the place of the ordinal number in the answer, and then having the denominator be the answer directly below said numerator.
Word of the Day: Gherman TITOV (48D: Gherman ___, cosmonaut who was the second human to orbit the earth) —
Gherman Stepanovich Titov (Russian: Герман Степанович Титов) (September 11, 1935–September 20, 2000) was a Soviet cosmonaut who, on August 6, 1961, became the second human to orbit the Earth aboardVostok 2, preceded by Yuri Gagarin on Vostok 1. Titov was the fourth man in space after Gagarin and Americans Alan Shepard and Gus Grissom (the latter two made suborbital voyages). (wikipedia)
• • •
The theme simply doesn't work because of the HALF / QUARTER issue. With all the other answers, ordinal numbers are being represented as fractions, but with the HALF and QUARTER answers, fractions are being represented as fractions. Fifth in a sequence and one-fifth are totally different things. Half and 1/2 are not. That is a Major-League inconsistency.
- 23A: With 26-Across, like grandchildren ([Third] GENERATION)
- 33A: With 44-Across, execute, in a way (DRAW AND [Quarter])
- 45A: With 50-Across, euphoric ([Seventh] HEAVEN)
- 71A: With 77-Across, high-end retail chain (SAKS [Fifth] AVENUE)
- 94A: With 103-Across, 1999 Shyamalan thriller ("THE [Sixth] SENSE")
- 105A: With 112-Across, compromise (MEET [Half] WAY)
- 122A: With 127-Across, classical work that's the source of the European Union's anthem (BEETHOVEN'S [Ninth]) — without thinking, I put a FIVE under that ONE instead of the proper NINE. Minor stumbling ensued.
- ABSCESSES (2/3)
- ENLISTEES (8/9)
- STEELIEST (8/9)
- SOITSEEMS (2/3)
- ATTHESTART (7/10)
TESTER, all of it; SUNUNU, just half. The latter is indisputably better. Now, I DO TOO is just 1/6 RLSTNE, and it's not exactly amazing, so the presence of these letters is by No Means the only consideration when filling a grid. But they are good letters to keep your eye on. I always tell my students to "kill linking verbs" (incl. all forms of the verb "to be"). Now, I don't mean this. I just mean, hunt them. If you find that they need to live, let them live. But be aware of them, because if they proliferate and overrun your prose, you are in a heap of trouble.
Also, no one is going to win any friends with answer like OSTEOID (95D: Bonelike), ARISTAE (75A: Botanical beards), or SEPTAL. I'm currently having a love/hate relationship with CASUIST (13A: Student of morality). It's obscure (bad), but unusual and interesting, esp. in this grid (good!).
PIXY seems like a [Var.] (70D: Sprite). Never seen it, except in the candy name PIXY Stix (which I would very much accept as a clue). OCHRE should've had some kind of [British] marker (markre?) in the clue (109D: Cousin of rust). The SW seemed to me the toughest part of the grid by a good margin. Knew ISADORA (125A: Dancer Duncan) but not how to spell her—there are Lots of variants that ceom from that basic name template—ATLASES clue was Saturday-hard (128A: They have scales), no way I was guessing TINWARE was a "service" (though I see it now) (92D: Colonial service), AREOLAS was thornily under-clued (93D: Colored parts), never heard of "AMELIA" (98D: 2009 Hilary Swank biopic) and EXP. makes sense now (111A: Abbr. on many food labels), but I can't remember seeing it clued thus and had a hard time getting it even with the "X" in place. Oh, and I misremembered EDA as IDA (121D: Child-care author LeShan). I had some trouble in the PIXY / TWP (68A: County subdivision: Abbr.) / WRIT area too (which probably spilled into the SW). Otherwise, the rest of the grid seemed of avg. Sunday difficulty (unless you've never heard of GEORDI (11D: "Star Trek: T.N.G." role)—I guess that could've been rough).
- 53A: Faith that celebrates both Jesus and Muhammad (BAHAI) — really wanted ISLAM here.
- 113A: Ancient Balkan region (THRACE) — also Kara ___ (aka "Starbuck") of TV's "Battlestar Galactica"; here she is solving a puzzle (of sorts):
- 129A: Gave, as a hot potato (TOSSED TO) — Gave : Tossed :: Gave to : TOSSED TO. He gave John the potato : he tossed John the potato :: he gave the potato to John : he tossed the potato to John. Something's screwy here.
- 7D: "1984" superpower (EURASIA) — the great "1984" superpower conundrum for xword solvers: EURASIA or OCEANIA?
- 58D: R&B singer Hayes (ISAAC) — musical finale!
["You socked it to me, mama!"]