Coors alcopop brand / WED 8-8-12 / 1970s-80s Pakistani leader / Mayor of Simpleton band 1989 / Element in cleanser 20 Mule Team / Baylor basketball uniform color
Wednesday, August 8, 2012
Constructor: Peter A. Collins
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: AARON to BONDS word ladder — puzzle note: "When this puzzle is done, the answers to the six starred clues will form a word ladder, starting with 4-Across, whose record of 33-/42-Across was broken by 68-Across."
- AARON (4A: *Brother of Moses)
- BARON (9A: *Von Richtofen, e.g.)
- BORON (25A: *Element in the cleanser 20 Mule Team)
- BOROS (52A: *Bklyn., Queens and others)
- BONOS (67A: *Sonny and Chaz)
- BONDS (68A: *Adheres)
See also these relevant theme answers:
- HOME / RUNS (33A: Place for many an office / 42A: Areas in dog pounds)
- ASTERISK (4D: Star)
- STEROIDS (40D: Athletes' no-nos)
Word of the Day: AMUR (28D: Russia/China border river) —
The Amur or Heilong Jiang [...] is the world's tenth longest river, forming the border between the Russian Far East (Outer Manchuria) and Northeastern China (Inner Manchuria). (wikipedia)
• • •OVERSIZED (34D: Too large). And I'm sure many of my family had various COLA drinks over the past week. Heavily liquor-laced COLA drinks. COLA makes the bourbon go down EASY (58D: "Don't get so excited!").
OK, back from pizza & beer night, and sweaty from some epic air hockey against kids roughly 30 years younger than me. Challenged my daughter to a triple-or-nothing gumball bet (win, get 3 gumballs, lose, get none), and she accepted. I was going to let her win, then she got all mouthy (wonder where she gets that from...), then I thought she might win legitimately, but then I decided to bury her, and did. Next up was my nephew, a seasoned air hockey veteran. I was resigned to losing, but at some point I realized he played kinetically but sloppily, and so I systematically beat him into submission, talking smack all the while. The best was the plexiglass divider in the middle of the rink (the puck slid under it)—it was nice to be able to slam my hand into it repeatedly when the puck was mid-ice. I played forward a lot and it paid off. Won 7-3. Now he's in the garage practicing for his revenge on the house air hockey game. Too bad for him we're leaving in the early morning and I will thus be reigning champion for a year, or until whenever the next family mega-vacation is.
BOROS and (worse) BONOS is pretty ugly. Despite some grunty short fill, I generally liked the look of this grid. Nice dig at BONDS with the STEROIDS running through his name. Seems like mean-spirited editorializing, but from a pure construction perspective, it's not bad. Ooh. also ASTERISK. Again, editorializing. And there is not, in fact, an ASTERISK in the record books, as far as I know. Is there? It's just what BONDS haters want. It's the stupid signs they used to hold up in the stands. It's easy to hate BONDS, but I always find it creepy and at least vaguely racist. No one's ever gotten that mad at a white athlete, except maybe John Rocker, who... I mean, really, is anyone going to remember him in ten years? Does anyone outside New York remember him now? BONDS was a great, great hitter in ways that cannot be simply explained away with STEROIDS. STEROIDS don't give you that kind of plate discipline, hand-eye coordination, etc. I just can't work up any antipathy toward the guy, esp. given that sooooo many other guys were juicing. Why couldn't they hit a home run every seven *swings of the bat* or whatever it was? You may as well ASTERISK *everything* that happened in the Steroid Era—no fair going after just one guy because he now owns baseball's marquee record. From a strict construction perspective, the problem with the STEROIDS clue is that every other clue is nicely outside the realm of sports. This one's an outlier.
I look forward to the Michael Vick and Allen Iverson and other "black athletes people like to hate" puzzles. However you feel about BONDS, I don't think this level of editorializing is appropriate for the NYT. Unless you want to really open it up to any public target, no holds barred. But making one exception just to jump on a guy who has already been disgraced (many years ago) ... seems weird.
GAUNTER didn't come quickly (26A: More haggard). No idea who the ELI Young Band are. Are they anything like Haggard? 'Cause I like Haggard. I finished with an uncaught error because I spelled ZAMBEZI with an "I" where the "E" should be (20A: Victoria Falls river), and didn't check (or didn't notice) the misspelling in the ASTERISK cross. AMUR / MUONS crossing was a doozy for me, though I remembered that MUONS (31A: Subatomic particles) were a thing from previous crosswords, so I went with it, successfully. Listened to a *lot* of XTC in college, so 55A: "The Mayor of Simpleton" band, 1989 was a flat-out gimme. Seen ZIA before, but couldn't retrieve it (1970s-'80s Pakistani leader). Seen ZIMA before (57D: Coors alcopop brand), but never drank it. Never met anyone who did. Maybe that's why it's now entered the hallowed realm of "Bygone." Got fried by AME in the past (10D: ___ Zion Church), so no trouble today (largely because crosses took care of things). Thought "bred" was some German word, so never got BORN until all crosses were in place. I wouldn't call Baylor's green a NEON GREEN (8D: Baylor basketball uniform color), but clearly someone must call it that, so fine.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld