Half of hip-hop's Black Star / THU 7-3-14 / Female rapper with 2002 hit Gangsta Lovin / One named singer with 2003 hit Rock Wit U Awww Baby / Aptly named Olympics star / Dwarf planet beyond Pluto / Detective of '60s-'70s TV
Thursday, July 3, 2014
Constructor: Luke Vaughn
Relative difficulty: Challenging
THEME: MOUNT ST. HELENS (39A: It left part of itself in 11 states in 1980) — ASH from this volcano can be found all over the grid (in 11 different squares)
Word of the Day: ASHTON Eaton (60D: Olympic decathlon gold medalist ___ Eaton) —
Ashton James Eaton (born January 21, 1988) is an American decathlete and Olympic champion, who holds the world record in both the decathlon and heptathlon events, and is only the second decathlete (afterRoman Šebrle) to break the 9,000-point barrier, with 9,039 points.He competes for the Oregon Track Club Elite team based in Eugene, Oregon. In college, Eaton competed for the University of Oregon, where he was a five-time NCAA champion, and won The Bowerman award in 2010. In 2011, Eaton won the first international medal of his career, a silver, in the decathlon at the 2011 World Championships. The following year, Eaton broke his own world record in the heptathlon at the 2012 World Indoor Championships, and then went on to break the world record in the decathlon at the Olympic Trials. After setting the world record, Eaton easily won the gold medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. (wikipedia)
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ON A SHORT LEASH and TEXAS HOLD 'EM the best of the rebus-related answers. My main problem with this one was that once I discovered the gimmick (ASH squares), there wasn't anything left to do but find them. In practice, I found this somewhat tedious. On the one hand, I was grateful for the rebus, as it *definitely* helped me solve: SE corner went down in a flASH because SODASHOP (49D: Place to get a malted) was a gimme once I knew what I was looking for. But uncovering SLASH after CLASH after GNASH, well, it ground me down a little after a while. So this puzzle falls under the category of "Puzzles That I Recognize Are Very Well Made But That I Enjoyed Only A Little For Reasons That Are Probably Highly Personal And Idiosyncratic." There is one problem though—see if you can spot it:
That NW corner was a killer, first because it was where I started, and I could get only the weakest of footholds before falling down again and again, and second because even after I got the ASH theme, I couldn't figure out 1A: Sheepish (ASHAMED). All I wanted was ABASHED, which fit the clue, and fit in the grid, but did not otherwise work. Forgot ASHCROFT ever existed and spent some time trying to remember the other Bush appointee who was so terrible … still can't remember his name … Gonzales? *Yes*, Alberto Gonzales! If this had been an ALE rebus, I'd've been in business. But no. It was a really good day if you're a big fan of the early 2000s, what with ASHCROFT and EVE (4D: Female rapper with the 2002 hit "Gangsta Lovin'") and ASHANTI (53D: One-named singer with the 2003 hit "Rock Wit U (Awww Baby)") in the house. That is probably not the kind of company ASHCROFT is used to keeping, but whoomp, there it is. MOS DEF (28A: Half of hip-hop's Black Star) adds to the puzzle's strong Hip-Hop flavor/a.
One other main problem: wanted FELT instead of WEPT (43A: Had pity (for)). Seems small, and it is, but the consequences of that mistake seemed huge. Kept me from coming down easily into that SE corner of the grid. The inclusion of ASHEN in this puzzle is a tad disappointing, as it's the only ASH that actually relates directly to ASH. Would've been more elegant to run the table with non-ASH-realted ASHes. But again, this is good work. Much better than SO-SO (57A: All right). The ASH onslaught was a bit relentless, but that was, in its way, fitting. In parting, let me make the random observation that MOUNT ST HELENS can be parsed as MOUNTS THE LENS, and now that is all I can see when I look at the grid.
I leave you with a flick called (almost) OON FLIC:
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld