Gunderson on Simpsons / MON 5-19-14 / Frozen structure that facilitates animal migration / Former Senate minority whip Jon / Cylindrical alternative to French fries / Extremely cool in slang
Monday, May 19, 2014
Constructor: Michael Hawkins
Relative difficulty: Challenging (**for a Monday**)
THEME: PHONE IT IN (61A: Do a job with minimal effort) — all theme answers have words or phrases in them that relate to phones:
- RING A BELL (18A: Sound familiar)
- DIAL IT DOWN (24A: "Stop being such a pompous jerk!")
- "WHAT IS THE HANG UP?!" (40A: "Will you please hurry?")
- OFF THE HOOK (52A: Extremely cool, in slang)
Orsk (Russian: Орск) is the second largest city in Orenburg Oblast, Russia, located on the steppe about 100 kilometers (62 mi) southeast of the southern tip of the Ural Mountains. The city straddles the Ural River. Since this river is considered a boundary between Europe and Asia, Orsk can be said to lie in two continents. Population: 239,800 (2010 Census); 250,963 (2002 Census); 270,711 (1989 Census). (wikipedia)
Omsk (Russian: Омск, IPA: [omsk]) is a city and the administrative center of Omsk Oblast, Russia, located in southwestern Siberia 2,236 kilometers (1,389 mi) from Moscow. With a population of 1,154,116, it is Russia's second-largest city east of the Ural Mountains after Novosibirsk, and seventh by size nationally.
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DIAL IT DOWN has more to do with overreaction / loudness than it does with pomposity or jerkery, so that clue felt quite off. And I don't know why PHONE IT IN wasn't clued as a true revealer, since it's clearly different from (and encompasses) all the other answers. But the answers themselves were fresh and interesting (esp. the pseudo-revealer), so I'm fine with the theme.
UNES or TZU or NYAH. Couple of major problems, first with geography. ORSK? That's a place? I had OMSK (a very Big place) and then ended up with ICEBM- in the Down and had no idea what to do. Had to get all the crosses to realize the answer had to be ICE BRIDGE—and thus the cross was ORSK. They're easy to tell apart—one is medium-sized and borders Kazakhstan, whereas the other is large and *almost* borders Kazakhstan. Oh, and they're both in oblasts, but Orsk is in Orenburg Oblast whereas Omsk is in Omsk Oblast and OMG do all oblasts start with "O"?! Anyway, there's your Russian geography lesson for the day: you're welcome.
Then there was the clue on GIL, which is hilarious because I watched "The Simpsons" regularly for the better part of two decades and I know GIL well, but I can't ever recall his surname being used. Only a non-"Simpsons" fan could use that clue on an easy puzzle and think it meant something. Once again, to repeat, Not A Monday, this thing. But look at the fun long answers! Six of 'em! And very serviceable small corners—no easy feat, as we've seen time and again. Often with a grid this choppy the small stuff is both pervasive and dire. Not today. Verdict: enjoyable.