Seinfeld holiday that begins with airing of grievances / SAT 9-22-12 / Short-billed marsh bird / One caught on grainy film / Show set in outer-outer borough of New York / Dodgers manager before Mattingly / Defendant in much-publicized 1920s trial
Saturday, September 22, 2012
Constructor: Kristian House
Relative difficulty: Medium
Word of the Day: NGO Dinh Diem (48A: Vietnam's ___ Dinh Diem) —
Ngô Đình Diệm (January 1901 – 2 November 1963) was the first president of South Vietnam (1955–1963). In the wake of the French withdrawal from Indochina as a result of the1954 Geneva Accords, Diệm led the effort to create the Republic of Vietnam. Accruing considerable U.S. support due to his staunch anti-Communism, he achieved victory in a 1955 plebiscite, which was fraudulent.A Roman Catholic, Diệm pursued biased and religiously oppressive policies against the Republic's Montagnard natives and its Buddhist majority that were met with protests, epitomized in Malcolm Browne's Pulitzer Prize winning photograph of the self-immolation of Buddhist monkThích Quảng Đức in 1963. Amid religious protests that garnered worldwide attention, Diệm lost the backing of his U.S. patrons and was assassinated, along with his brother, Ngô Đình Nhu byNguyễn Văn Nhung, the aide of ARVN General Dương Văn Minh on 2 November 1963, during acoup d'état that deposed his government. (wikipedia)
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SEMI to INNER to NOT SO HOT to TWIT to TORRE (51D: Dodgers manager before Mattingly). That's a long unbroken string, for a Saturday. So it was easy from NW to SE, but the chunks on the sides were harder, and then the stupid little throwaway sections in the NE and SW ended up being the hardest. Not painfully hard, just hardish. Or maybe they just felt that way because my expectation was that they'd just fall and they didn't Maybe those central chunks were actually more time-consuming. They are bigger, after all. Whatever. The difficulty level was highly uneven, and the pattern of that unevenness was curious to me.
FESTIVUS was a massive gimme, not least because it was in the puzzle some time in the past month (1A: "Seinfeld" holiday that begins with the Airing of Grievances). Having a nice long gimme at 1A gave me a nice push start into the grid. But I had trouble when it came to getting the two long Downs that connect middle to top in the NE and middle to bottom in the SW. SISTER- came easily enough, and I eventually worked out HOOD (after I worked my way around the CRANE-for-CRAKE fiasco) (40A: Short-billed marsh bird), but SASQUATCH took a bit longer (37A: One "caught" on grainy film), and it was only with that "Q" that I was able to move up into the NE via "AVENUE Q" (9D: Show set in an "outer-outer borough" of New York). The FIRE part of FIRE TRUCK took some work to bring into view (10D: What comes out when things go up?). The west part of the grid featured several missteps, including the giant misstep, PARK BENCH. Seemed a reasonable, if slightly strange, answer for 41A: What a construction worker may bolt down (SACK LUNCH). I also had NCO instead of YEO, which is odd, because what I *meant* to write in was CPO (still wrong, but more understandable, I think) (47A: Naval petty officer, briefly). In the SW, I had FATTED for 58A: Like some turkeys and geese, to cooks (BASTED), which made me doubt IT GIRL, even though that's what I wanted from the start (63A: Young celebrity socialite). Thought briefly that ---RAY might be BLU-RAY, but couldn't make the clue fit no matter how hard I tried (65A: Holder in front of a tube => TV TRAY).
- 17A: 25-Across-interrupting cry ("GET A ROOM!") — best answer in the grid, and I knew even before I looked at the clue or how many letters were involved that PDA would be the answer at 25-Across.
- 44A: Summer threshold? (SCREEN DOOR) — great clue. Confused me badly. I had the DOOR part and all I could think of was "Autumn's ... door?"
- 61A: Genre for Iggy Pop (PUNK ROCK) — great fill. Easy clue.
- 7D: Japanese vegetable (UDO) — not a crossword staple, but definitely on the crossword menu from time to time. A delicacy. Except delicacies are supposed to be good, and this is merely tolerable.
- 23D: Pull funding from (DISENDOW) — had the DI- and really wanted some form of DIVEST. Slowness ensued.
- 32D: Defendant in a much-publicized 1920s trial (SACCO) — another gimme. I'm teaching Crime Fiction, and we start in the '20s, and even though the SACCO and Vanzetti trial was not fiction, I am well aware of it. Italian anarchists, convicted of murder and eventually executed. There's still substantial controversy about the fairness of the trial and accuracy of the verdict.