Russell Myers comic strip / TUE 2-5-13 / 1964 #1 Four Seasons hit / Former M&Ms color / White-whiskered sort / Tattooed lady old tune
Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Constructor: Robert A. Doll
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: LYIN'! — familiar phrases have -LY added to them, creating wacky phrases, clued "?"-style
Word of the Day: Hilaire BELLOC (49A: "Cautionary Tales for Children" writer) —
Joseph Hilaire Pierre René Belloc (/ /; French: [ilɛʁ bɛlɔk]; 27 July 1870 – 16 July 1953) was an Anglo-French writer and historian who became a naturalisedBritish subject in 1902. He was one of the most prolific writers in England during the early twentieth century. He was known as a writer, orator, poet, satirist, man of letters, and political activist. He is most notable for his Catholic faith, which had a strong impact on most of his works, and his writing collaboration with G. K. Chesterton. He was President of the Oxford Union and later MP for Salford from 1906 to 1910. He was a noted disputant, with a number of long-running feuds, but also widely regarded as a humane and sympathetic man.His most lasting legacy is probably his verse, which encompasses cautionary tales and religious poetry. Among his best-remembered poems are "Jim, who ran away from his nurse, and was eaten by a lion" and "Matilda, who told lies and was burnt to death".
• • •
Weird. Just three theme answers? And with so thin a concept? But the resulting grid is at least interesting looking. Without all that theme material weighing you down, you can do some interesting things with grid shape (long Downs in odd positions, a jelly-donut center). But honestly, with this little theme material, there is no excuse for all this crosswordese, no excuse for having all these little pockets of dullness everywhere you look. And who *chooses* to use BELLOC? That's a completely avoidable answer—you can do lots of nice, non-proper-noun stuff with that slot, without much grid modification. Plus, the parts you'd have to modify aren't exactly gold. That little southern section, for instance. SERA ULAN ALTA ERAT DANA ... that's junktastic. Middle theme answer is weak, so this puzzle gets you two good theme answers, a couple of solid long Downs, and then ... RUT. Gotta raise the bar, especially when you aren't serving up much in the way of theme.
Overall, not tough. Only hang-ups were the author names. Hilaire BELLOC is only barely known to me (and BELLOC was utterly ungettable without "Hilaire" in the clue—I entertained BELLOW for a while...). And Richard Henry DANA? Not anyone I know (66A: Richard Henry ___, author of "Two 67-Across Before the Mast"). Otherwise, smooth sailing. Brief pause to remember which [Sea nymph] I was dealing with (wanted NAIAD, didn't fit—it's NEREID). No idea what this "old tune" about a Tattooed Lady is (28A: "___, the Tattooed Lady" (old tune) = LYDIA). I will say that the puzzle feels "old," in general. But some days are like that. I accept that. Fans of sea novels and comics people used to read may find this one charming. Not I.
- 16A: Hefty honcho? (PORTLY AUTHORITY)
- 37A: Add just a dash of pepper? (GINGERLY SPICE)
- 57A: Successful dieter's award? (THE NO-BELLY PRIZE)
- 41A: 1964 #1 Four Seasons hit ("RAG DOLL") — again, old-skewing, though with some crosses I got this one readily enough (listened to a lot of "oldies" in high school ... yes, this was an "oldie" When I Was In High School).
- 44A: Former M&M's color (TAN) — I miss TAN.
- 15D: Russell Myers comic strip ("BROOM HILDA") — took the Sunday funnies into my Comics class to talk about the graveyard that it has become (lead comic from last Sunday was written in 1966, for example). But it's not yet so much of a graveyard that it carries "BROOM HILDA."