Wordplay vocalist 2005 / FRI 10-18-13 / Informal name of 45th state / 1999 rap hit featuring Snoop Dogg / Musician who arranged theme for 2001 / Poverty metaphorically / Dutch city ESE of Amsterdam / Turkey baseball Hall-of-famer from Negro leagues / 45 degrees for 1
Friday, October 18, 2013
Constructor: David Steinberg
Relative difficulty: Challenging
THEME: Turkey STEARNES
Word of the Day: Turkey STEARNES (35A: Turkey ___, baseball Hall-of-Famer from the Negro leagues) —
Norman Thomas "Turkey" Stearnes (May 8, 1901 – September 4, 1979) was an African American outfielder in the Negro leagues. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000. (wikipedia)
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TESSAS? Crossing STEARNES? Crossing DEODATO (!!?) (33D: Musician who arranged the theme for "2001") *and* the astonishingly self-indulgently clued JASON MRAZ (25D: "Wordplay" vocalist)? Crossing DESERET? (29A: Informal name of the 45th state) I can accept any one of those names (except TESSAS; horrible), but that jam up is obscene. Come on. Vary your fill. Obscure proper name mobs are the Worst. NW took me the longest by far. If I hadn't known (or educatedly guessed) TOREADOR, I'd still be working on this puzzle. "STILL DRE!?" (1A: "1999 rap hit featuring Snoop Dogg) Yikes. Again, I can take it, even like it, but the crosses were wickedly vague. ORIENTE is less than great fill (20A: Cuban province where Castro was born), and the "deal" in the TWIN BILL clue makes absolutely no sense to me (23A: Diamond deal). In what sense is the word being used there? A general "thing"? I.e. the absolutely vaguest sense of that word? Is it that I pay for one ticket but get to see two games? So I get a ... "deal" ... somehow? Man, that's a huge stretch.
But back to JASON MRAZ's "Wordplay"—that song went all the way to ... 81 on the Billboard Hot 100. Eighty-one. Yes, that is, in part, why you have not heard of it. And yet we have to endure it as a clue because of the obnoxious self-congratulatory inside-jokiness of the song title, which shares its name with the 2006 crossword documentary all about Shortz and his tournament. Ugh. I liked that documentary a lot, but ugh to the smug me me me-ness of that clue, for sure. AH SO needs to die a hard, permanent death as crossword fill. Clue it however you want, it will always be some white person's racist imitation of a Japanese person. I would not be surprised if tons of people out there have an error and don't even know it at the DEODATO / PASA crossing. That "A" is utterly uninferrable. "O" seems as reasonable a guess as "A." That's a truly terrible crossing. I know the song, but ... A, O, A, O ... no idea. It's not like the title is in the lyrics.
Again, some lovely moments here and there, but the cluster of junky names and the potentially unfair crossings and some less-than-great cluing made this less-than-enjoyable for me.