Spotted rodent / WED 4-24-13 / Tourist town of Salerno / Jared of Mr Nobody / Ken Olin series about baby boomers / Comedian with 1972 album Class Clown / Astronomical red giant / Belgian city sometimes mispronounced wipers
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Constructor: Clive Probert
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: Tennis — first words of theme answers progress through tennis scores in order:
- LOVE BOATS (18A: Some cruise ships, informally)
- FIFTEEN MEN (23A: Start of a song with the cry "Yo-ho-ho")
- "THIRTYSOMETHING" (34A: Ken Olin series about baby boomers)
- FORTY-NINER (50A: One who hoped things would pan out?)
- GAME'S OVER (57A: "You lose!")
Word of the Day: hooley (36D: Partiers at a hooley => IRISHMEN) —
hooley, hoolie [ˈhuːlɪ]
n pl -leys, -lies
Chiefly Irish and NZ a lively party
[of unknown origin] (thefreedictionary.com)
• • •
LOVE BOATS is an absurdity. I'm sure there's some attestation for that usage, somewhere, but theme answers should be dead-on in-the-language, and this one just isn't. Further, and more jarringly, "GAME'S OVER" is not an expression. The expression is "GAME OVER!" It comes from video game screens in the '80s, which would give you that message when your last Pac-Man got eaten or whatever. Or maybe it has earlier origins. At any rate, it is a very common expression now, where "GAME'S OVER" .. isn't. Here's the maddening thing: LOVE BOATS and GAME'S OVER are *symmetrical* answers, i.e. if you take the ridiculous "S" out of both of them, they remain the same length and thus still Totally usable as symmetrical theme answers. I have no idea why this clearly superior (and obvious) plan was not pursued (or recommended). I've sent out an inquiry to my constructor friends asking them "why?" I'll let you know what they say, assuming someone replies in the next 20 minutes or so.
SOCHI is here to stay (30A: Russian city, host of the 2014 Winter Olympics). A couple years back, I would've considered that super-obscure. Now, it's just a word you need to know. Olympics sites = valid. Still, many won't know it, and that will make the "C" virtually impossible to get (31D: Astronomical red giant = C-STAR). AMALFI, on the other hand, is in fact pretty obscure. I know a play called "The Duchess of Malfi," but I've never heard of AMALFI. Or ... I probably have, because it doesn't seem completely alien. I've probably heard or seen it, but I don't think of it as a well-known place (2D: Tourist town of Salerno). It's not bad fill. It's actually kind of unusual and interesting, as opposed to most of the rest of the fill, which is pretty dull. Next to AMALFI is PACA, which is a rodent I know about only from crosswords (1D: Spotted rodent). It's not common, but it's common enough that it's worth knowing (see also ELENI, which is not a rodent—just feels like one) (38D: Nicholas Gage memoir). Nothing else in the puzzle seems terribly problematic. I got "FIFTEEN MEN" confused with "Fifteen Tons," which is actually "Sixteen Tons" (sigh). I had no idea what "Mr. Nobody" was, so it took many crosses before I remembered that there was an actor named Jared LETO (16A: Jared of "Mr. Nobody"). Clue on -STAN was unexpected and kind of nifty. Don't normally stand up for a suffix clue when a perfectly good non-suffix one is available, but there was something cleverish about this clue that I liked. I also like the words THRUM (53A: Dull tapping sound) and EPICURES (55A: Food critics, often). So it's not all bad today.
ALLO ALLO is ridiculous but made me laugh (20A: Repetitive French greeting). CARLIN very frequently makes me laugh (3D: Comedian with the 1972 album "Class Clown"). I had not idea bolo ties were *legitimately* popular anywhere—my understanding of ARIZONA is now richer than ever. I've heard YPRES pronounced a number of ways: "wipers" (!?) is not one of them (52D: Belgian city sometimes mispronounced as "wipers").