Japanese flower-arranging art / THU 11-7-13 / Cereal killer / Joe of NCIS / Parthian predecessor / You in you caught my eye in 1965 #1 hit / Willingly old-style
Thursday, November 7, 2013
Constructor: Alan Derkazarian
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
- 18A: Casino sights ([ARMED] BANDITS)
- 24A: Small-time thieves ([BIT] [BIT] CROOKS)
- 54A: Con game ([CARD] [CARD] [CARD] MONTE)
- 62A: What an intersection may have ([WAY] [WAY] [WAY] [WAY] STOP)
Ergot or ergot fungi refers to a group of fungi of the genus Claviceps. The most prominent member of this group isClaviceps purpurea ("rye ergot fungus"). This fungus grows on rye and related plants, and produces alkaloids that can cause ergotism in humans and other mammals who consume grains contaminated with its fruiting structure (called ergotsclerotium). Claviceps includes about 50 known species, mostly in the tropical regions. Economically significant species include C. purpurea (parasitic on grasses and cereals), C. fusiformis (on pearl millet, buffel grass), C. paspali(on dallis grass), and C. africana (on sorghum). C. purpurea most commonly affects outcrossing species such as rye(its most common host), as well as triticale, wheat and barley. It affects oats only rarely. (wikipedia)
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IKEBANA and OPORTO and ERGOT, at least one of which was probably tough if not outright new to many people) (I learned all three from crosswords, and couldn't remember the first one today for a good long while). Spent a lot of time getting nowhere in the NW—in retrospect, it's very clear why (the two BITs I had no hope of seeing early on). Then I got [ARMED] BANDITS and spent a good deal of time looking for other ARMs or body parts or something. Figured the conceit out after ramming my head against CARD CARD CARD for a while.
Lots of short gunk in this one sort of soured the whole experience. Uncovering the theme was a nice challenge, but otherwise it's a lot of FIVE-O this and INI that and RIATAS aplenty and whoever the hell SPANO is (6D: Joe of "NCIS"). Quite an OLIO of yuck. Ridiculous double cheater squares in SW/NE, but they are understandable given how hard those WAYs must've been to accommodate. A TOUCH OVER is an interesting improvisational answer, and RETURN FIRE has some spark. The crosses on the rebus squares are fairly skillfully handled.
I call complete B.S. on 4D: + 6 (TEN). At a minimum, you'd think there'd be a question mark, since the clue number is never (ever ever ever, except in certain rare, specially designed themes) a component of the clue itself. 4+6 = TEN? Am I even interpreting that right? Is there another scenario where "+ 6" means TEN? I don't think so. That is some miswit, right there. Also off: [One usually buys a round one] for TRIP. No. You don't buy a TRIP. You might buy a round-TRIP *ticket*. But the phrasing here is deathly. And again, no "?" Sloppy (or lazy, or surprisingly imprecise) editing.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld