V-shaped fortification / SUN 3-2-14 / Strike ground in golf swing / Astronaut Thomas as four space shuttle flights / Gallic girlfriend / Daughter in Sound of Music / Post-W.W. II female service member / Locale in Gray's elegy written in country churchyard
Sunday, March 2, 2014
Constructor: Alan Arbesfeld
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: "Oscar Double Features" — wacky phrases made out of the titles of two Oscar-winning or Oscar-nominated films:
- 23A: Nelson Mandela? [1995, 1985] (BRAVEHEART OUT OF AFRICA)
- 30A: One giving unreliable testimony? [1976, 1985*] [* = Nominee] (ROCKY WITNESS)
- 53A: Reason for missing a flight? [1970*, 2000*] (AIRPORT TRAFFIC)
- 68A: Part of a line at O'Hare? [2002, 1976*] (CHICAGO TAXI DRIVER)
- 86A: Cheesy pickup line? [1944, 1995*] (GOING MY WAY, BABE)
- 106A: Reason why all the computers are down? [1976*, 2005] (NETWORK CRASH)
- 118A: Seaside outing? [1955*, 1954] (PICNIC ON THE WATERFRONT)
[F., for OF. redent a double notching or jagging, as in the teeth of a saw, fr. L. pref. re- re- + dens, dentis, a tooth. Cf. Redented.]
[Written sometimes redent and redens.]1. (Fort.) A work having two parapets whose faces unite so as to form a salient angle toward the enemy.2. A step or vertical offset in a wall on uneven ground, to keep the parts level.
Read more: http://www.answers.com/topic/redan#ixzz2ulV7cSk4
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AIRPORT TRAFFIC and NETWORK CRASH are just … things. There's no playfulness, no humor. They just lay there. GOING MY WAY, BABE was pretty funny, but all the other theme answers were just kind of blah. No HER PLATOON? No UNFORGIVEN WORKING GIRL? There've gotta be wackier pairings out there. Next, the theme is simply too easy to solve. Once you see that you're just dealing with really famous movies, all you need is a few crosses (if that) to figure out the movies involved. Theme simply doesn't provide enough resistance to be interesting. Lastly, the movies are almost all clustered in the post-1970 era. If we're including Oscar nominee as well as Oscar winners for Best Picture (and we are) then there are hundreds of potential answers, most of them pre-1970. But only three of these 14 movies go back that far. Yes, I am complaining about the puzzle's not being old *enough*. Actually, it's a complaint about overall balance. Note that it is the third complaint on the list, and not nearly as big an issue as the first two (which essentially sink the puzzle, for me).
Then there's the fill, which is really rough. Two words I've never seen (REDAN, BAFF) and another I've barely seen (HEMAL), and then a lot of … filler. There are some highlights (PINPRICKS, FINAGLED), but way, way too many lowlights. I know that not knowing a word is not a good reason for dinging it, but when it's rank obscurity used as a crutch (as REDAN is), then I think you have to wonder what it's doing here. It's not exactly a demanding place in the grid. There's a reason this word hasn't appeared in the NYT in 12 years, is what I'm saying. It's 16 years for HEMAL, and … hmm, looks like *never* for BAFF. I now feel much less bad for not knowing those. Thanks, cruciverb.com database! I like learning new words, but I also mildly resent when pro constructors rely on obscurities rather than solid, interesting, recognizable words and phrases (preferably with clever clues). Those three are just the tip of the weak-fill iceberg. I am a movie fan and really wanted to like this. But it ended up as a mild disappointment.
I've been playing golf my entire life. I've written award-winning articles for now defunct Travel & Leisure Golf. I have logged more hours watching golf on TV than I care to admit. I'm a single-digit handicap. I have never -- EVER -- heard the term BAFF (27A answer to the clue "Strike the ground in a golf swing"). I, of course, am sensitive to golf- -- esp. golf -- and wine-themed clues because they're something I know too much about. That's an example of the use of lexicological arcana in a Xword taken to the most ludicrous degree. […]
UPDATE: Puzzle of the Week was a tough call this week. Two fantastic metas from Peter A. Collins (Fireball) and Erik Agard (Glutton for Pun), respectively. I found Peter's meta harder to figure out, but Erik's overall grid tougher to solve. At any rate, both are enjoyable in different ways. Evan Birnholz is also off to a very strong start at his independent puzzle blog. His themeless puzzle was the best themeless I saw this week (and I saw some very good ones, particularly the one from Ian Livengood and the J.A.S.A. crossword class in Saturday's NYT). But we're returning to easy(-ish) themed puzzles for this week's winner: "Letter Chop" by Matt Jones (Jonesin' Crosswords) (get the PDF or .puz version from the Jonesin' Crosswords Google Group, here). I won't say much about it so that you can solve it on your own, but what most impressed me about it was how much humor he was able to get out of such a simple theme concept. Plus the overall fill is crisp and clean. If you just want to read about it but don't want to solve it, go here.
See you tomorrow.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld