El Al hub city / WED 2-13-13 / Pittsburgh radio station since 1920 said to be world's first / Zimbabwean strongman Robert / CNN's Barnett / Broadway title character who sings tea for two / Leftorium owner on Simpsons / Lineage-based women's org
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Constructor: Richard and Judith Martin
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: G.E.D. (44D: Many a H.S. dropout's goal ... and what's added to 17-, 25-, 36-, 51- and 60-Across)— "GED" is added to ordinary phrases, creating wacky phrases, clued "?"-style
Word of the Day: RACE WAR (20A: "The Turner Diaries" conflict) —
The Turner Diaries is a novel written in 1978 by William Luther Pierce (former leader of the white nationalist organization National Alliance) under thepseudonym "Andrew Macdonald". The Turner Diaries depicts a violent revolution in the United States which leads to the overthrow of the United States federal government, nuclear war, and, ultimately, to a race war leading to the extermination of all "impure" groups such as Jews, gay people, and non-whites.The book was called "explicitly racist and anti-Semitic" by The New York Times and has been labeled a "bible of the racist right" by the Southern Poverty Law Center.The novel has been associated with a number of real-life violent crimes committed by white separatists and other radicals. Two pages of the book containing a scene depicting preparation for the bombing of the J. Edgar Hoover Building, the FBI national headquarters, were found in the getaway car of Timothy McVeigh, the perpetrator of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. (wikipedia)
• • •
So, if you're playing along at home, the rules are: HITLER, no; RACE WAR, yes.
I briefly tried to get someone else to do the write-up tonight, as this puzzle (and the subsequent firestorm of social media bewilderment it inspired) really took it out of me. I don't have the energy to go into all the problems, nor the desire to be the Bad Guy / Bearer of Bad News / etc. But neither do I have any desire to lie about this puzzle, which is, in my very most generous assessment, grossly subpar. Every constructor / serious solver I've talked to tonight, *to a (wo)man*, has been baffled by this puzzle's deficiencies and stunned that it got published. Theme concept, theme execution, fill (dear lord), all are mystifyingly off target. To be as brief as possible—let's start with the revealer. Why is it ... there? Why is there absolutely nothing in the clue to give it any pop or life ... any justification for being. I mean, you could've at least tried to relate the clue phrase to what the base answers are literally doing, i.e. "getting" "earning" etc. a degree. Instead, it's just, "here's a random letter string, off to the east side of the grid for some reason ... tada?" Further, the altered +GED words are gruesome perversions of words in at least two cases, i.e. BADGED (!?) and VISAGED (!!??). There are so so so many words you can +GED, there's just Gotta be better, more natural-sounding words. I mean, MORTAL SINGED is better than some of these, and I just made that up. There's no consistency, no playfulness, no ear for the language at all in these morphed words. The bar was apparently set at "defensible" and no higher. Just ... ouch.
How about: [George Clooney, on "E.R."?] => RUGGED DOCTOR. Or [Got laid?] => BAGGED LADY. Before you say "that's offensive," let me remind you: RACE WAR.
Add in the deeply unpleasant RACE WAR and its clue, the highly and unnecessarily morbid clue on LET DIE (49D: Allow to expire) (geez, why not [Pull the plug on, as grandma]?), and the raft of terrible short fill (ITE IAM DAR BAHT ETE REW ATA ETA SRO LAH EMAJ DENEB ERROLS (!?) ADRAG etc.) Then add in the LOL/nutso crossing of LOD (41A: El Al hub city) and KDKA (38D: Pittsburgh radio station since 1920, said to be the world's first) (which I *guarantee* you is going to cause scores of spin-outs today). OMG I just saw the word SCARER, which I had forgotten about / blocked out of my memory in order to preserve my sanity (4D: Fun house worker, maybe). This is what happens when you a. don't use construction software and b. don't have much experience making puzzles. Given those circumstances, it's not a bad first effort. It's not an NYT-quality first effort, though, which is the problem. Please understand—I would not be this emphatic with you about the deficiencies of this puzzle if literally everyone I know in puzzledom weren't saying much the same thing (and worse, and more forcefully). This puzzle simply wasn't ready for prime time. Holding the line on puzzle quality is important.
OK, I'm done.
- 17A: Senior softballers, e.g.? (THE AGED TEAM)
- 25A: K-9 Corps member? (BADGED DOG)
- 36A: Former first lady sporting a different outfit? (JACKIE CHANGED) (so ... there's an implied comma in this answer??)
- 51A: Small-screen performance of "Hamlet," e.g.? (TV TRAGEDY) ("Which of these five is Not like the others? Which of these five just doesn't belong ...?")
- 60A: King, queen or jack? (VISAGED CARD)
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld