Little Bighorn conflict / THU 11-28-13 / Horror film director Alexandre / Canadian-born comedian once featured on cover of Time / Mother of Nike in myth / Anti-apartheid activist Steve / Joe Louis to fans /
Thursday, November 28, 2013
Constructor: Loren Muse Smith and Jeff Chen
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
THEME: "SNAKES ON A PLANE" (61A: Cult classic whose title is depicted four times in this puzzle) — ASP appears on top of different kinds of PLANEs in the grid. What kinds of planes? Well, a BOMBER, a GLIDER, and a JET (also, the PLANE of the theme answer):
- 15A: Joe Louis, to fans (THE BROWN BOMBER)
- 34A: One interested in current affairs? (HANG GLIDER)
- 42A: Gang Green member (NEW YORK JET)
Alexandre Aja (born 7 August 1977) is a French film director who rose to international stardom for his 2003 horror filmHaute Tension (known as High Tension in the US, and known as Switchblade Romance in the UK). He has also directed the horror films The Hills Have Eyes (2006), Mirrors (2008) and Piranha 3D (2010). (wikipedia)
• • •
HANG GLIDER, which is clever, but I hate when just one theme answer has a "?" clue—all or none; feels weird otherwise). There's basically no theme, not even an appearance of one, until the revealer. When this is the case, the reveal has to be great. Today, it's OK. Maybe good. Different snakes would've been great. Just ASP = less so. Fact that ASP is itself crosswordese doesn't help me love it. But I will say that this is a cute use of the movie title. "Cult classic" is a massive stretch. I've never heard it called that, and do not believe that anyone ever actually still watches this film. But it is a movie with some fame and some campy currency, so it's certainly revealer-worthy (fun fact: my friend Christa Faust wrote the novelization of "SNAKES ON A PLANE").
There's still far too much crud in the fill. This is largely by design—not that the plan was to glut the grid with crosswordese, just that when you make a grid like this, with such a preponderance of 3-to-5-letter stuff, and when you try so desperately to Scrabble up your grid, well, there will be blood. Won't list it all, but the ISPS / RIAA / IRR is ugly and AMS / ASSNS isn't making any friends either, and for this we had to (again) have cheater squares?* You probably noticed that the grid is a weird shape: 14x16 (on account of the revealer's length). About this, I have no opinion.
CALYX and SIOUX WAR were big ???s. Had CAL- and S-OU--A-. I own an iPhone and SYNC didn't click for me. SPAWN could've been SCION. Or a host of other things. Rough. SIOUX WAR is a lovely answer, though. I wouldn't call anything else "lovely," but neither would I call the fill, in the main, any worse than average. In fact, average is about right. Xs are nice, but the ESPY EEW ENYA stuff kind of negates whatever glory is gained by those Xs.
[Again, PROFANITY ALERT—avoid "Play," avoid complaining]
*black squares that do not add to word count but make puzzle (often much) easier to fill (here, the black square next to the "8" square and before the "70" square)