Iridescent green bird of tropical America / FRI 1-18-13 / Crop-killing caterpillars / Rock icon for whom Manhattan block is named / Jack of Green Berets 1968 / First European to cross Mississippi / Brasserie offering / Classic brand with bunny mascot
Friday, January 18, 2013
Constructor: Tim Croce
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
Word of the Day: JACAMAR (36D: Iridescent green bird of tropical America) —
The jacamars are a family, Galbulidae, of near passerine birds from tropical South and Central America, extending up to Mexico. The order contains fivegenera and 18 species. The family is closely related to the puffbirds, another Neotropical family, and the two families are often separated into their own order away from the Piciformes, instead being placed in the Galbuliformes. They are principally birds of low altitude woodlands and forests, and particularly of forest edge and canopy. (wikipedia)
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This one started out fine and just degenerated as I moved down the grid. This puzzle has one of those isolated centers, which usually do two things—increase the difficulty and degrade the fill quality. Long answers coming in from the sides are fine, but the middle is at best just OK. No idea what ARMY WORMS are (34A: Crop-killing caterpillars) (you might want to keep your obscure fauna to, say, one entry per puzzle—i.e. don't feed me ARMY WORMS and then follow it with a side of whatever the hell JACAMAR is). DEMIT is yuck. BIÈRE, blah. But honestly that wasn't such a terrible section. Just suffered by comparison with the more elegant upper section. The lower section, sadly, continues the puzzle's downward quality trajectory. First, it was Way harder than the top. Really hard to get traction anywhere; almost everything south of JOEY RAMONE in the W (36A: Rock icon for whom a Manhattan block is named) and GRADE A EGGS in the E was empty for a while. I had ANN, SANS, GTO, a tentative BALE, ETA and RIA. That's it. Couldn't bring any of the long Downs down. ESCAPES TO was impossible to see off just the ES- (33D: Reaches, as a vacation resort). Loved the clue on ENLISTS (38D: Eschews the draft?), but no hope off just the EN- (though the "draft" in question was beer). I don't mind difficulty, per se, but I do mind very uneven difficulty within a puzzle. I also mind having three crossreferenced answers in the same section of a grid. Nothing is being tested there—you're forced into a series of blind guesses. I went with GER (ding!), DER (gong!), and MARK (ugh). But my main complaint down here is MASSAGES ONE'S EGO (53A: Does some flattering). Who is ONE? *Some*one? ONE'S is virtually *always* "ONE'S (own)." See, for instance, oh, I don't know, The Other 15 That Has ONE In It, Which Is Only Two Answers Lower In The Grid: RESTS ON ONE'S OARS (61A: Relaxes). First, that is an old-timey expression no one says, so boo. But more importantly, it duplicates ONE'S (yuck), and shows how terrible and awkward the ONE'S in MASSAGES ONE'S EGO is. From the greatness of "WHAT DO YOU MEAN, 'WE'?" (1A: "Hold on, why am I being dragged into this?") we descend to this ONE'S madness. So the puzzle is 1/3 A, 1/3 C, and 1/3 F today.
- 27A: Bear in "The Jungle Book" (BALOO) — That story/movie has given crosswords a Lot of answers (AKELA, KAA, etc.). Can't remember ever having seen BALOO before, though.
- 5D: First European to cross the Mississippi (DESOTO) — So they honored him by ... naming a car after him?
- 22D: "The Soul of a Butterfly" autobiographer (ALI) — had a flicker of "how the hell should I know?" and then, of course, got it easily.
- 56D: Jack of "The Green Berets," 1968 (SOO) — is this the guy from "Barney Miller"? It is! Man, that clue is some obscure *&^! Yikes.
- 31A: Classic brand with a bunny mascot (QUIK) — ENERGIZER wouldn't fit. TRIX would, but it didn't occur to me. Thankfully.
Gotta run—film noir festival on TCM