First name in '60s radicalism / FRI 3-28-14 / Screw up / English hat similar to a fedora / Superlatively bouncy
Friday, March 28, 2014
Constructor: David J. Kahn
Relative difficulty: Easy, moderately breezy
Word of the Day: BLUECHIPS (3D: "Relatively low-risk investments") —
"in reference to the high-value poker counter, from 1904 in the figurative sense of "valuable;" stock exchange sense, in reference to "shares considered a reliable investment," is first recorded 1929; especially of stocks that saw spectacular rises in value in the four years or so before the Wall Street crash of that year." (Online Etymology Dictionary, which looks suspiciously like the OED)
• • •Hello! This is Ben Tausig, editor of the American Values Club xword and person who does other things as well. I'm glad to be back as a guest blogger for my friend Rex.
Big ups to David Kahn generally, but today's puzzle didn't elate me. There's a mini-theme afoot, in which CAPTAINPHILLIPS (38A) crosses SOMALIPIRATES (16D: "Hijackers who captured 38-Across"), and then Tom Hanks returns with a strained wink in the clue for SAG (48A: "Org. of which Tom Hanks is a member"). I checked to see if today was Hanks's birthday. No soap. There is in fact, delightfully, an official Tom Hanks Day, but it's April 12th. Is there some rationale I'm missing? And just like that, I'm halfway down a "Crying of Lot 49" rabbit hole.
[This 2005 film, in which I co-star, certainly won't clear anything up (Hanks is prominent, but you must be patient and maybe crazy enough to watch until the end.)]
The highlight of the puzzle (along with the aforementioned BLUECHIPS) was ALEXANDERCALDER (63A: Mobile creator), which fell quickly and brought big, colorful shapes to mind. None of the other stacked 15s (ORLANDOSENTINEL, SOURCESOFINCOME, and LOSEONESMARBLES) produced the least sensory excitation, in answer or clue -- an unacknowledged part of puzzle construction is evocation. The solver should perform mental gymnastics, sure, but it's nice to give them some imagery, if not some music and scents, in return. LOSEONESMARBLES (64A: "Go mad") has no pungency. ORLANDOSENTINEL (15A: "Central Florida daily") has all the haptic delight of smudged black ink on fingers after finishing a story about the passage of a local levy.
I won't dwell on partials COSA, AROW, ALLOR, KEA, and GEES, obscurities MEHTA, TRILBY and KLEBAN, the redundancy of ALLOR and ALLSET, or the mehness of MTNS, EDENS, MMII, ETAS, EST, ARR, and HRS. This might be a bit too much junk, but that happens in themelesses and can't be judged too harshly.
I will, however, call out ENOTE (12D: Modern message), for which I can't find support of any kind. E-whatever is a scourge and an anachronism retained almost exclusively by crosswords. Perhaps at some point in the past it seemed like "e-" could and would be affixed to anything -- e-mail, e-mag, e-rugby, e-buffet, e-chimpanzee. But now, maybe because the Internet of things, e- feels extremely dated in almost all cases. No one says "Hey guys, I'm going on an e-date! Wish me cyber luck! Winking emoji!" You can e-file or send an email, but that's about all you can e-do without getting actual-laughed at.
Signed, Ben Tausig, acting King of CrossWorld