Title island of 2005 DreamWorks animated film / WED 7-9-14 / Hip-hop's Racist / Ancient fertility goddess / Some Scandinavian coins
Wednesday, July 9, 2014
Constructor: Bruce Haight
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: STAR-STUDDED (60A: Like the Oscars … or the answers to this puzzle's seven asterisked clues?) — letter string "STAR" appears in seven answers:
- JUST ARRIVED (17A: *Words on a birth announcement)
- SALES TARGET (26A: *Quota for a rep to achieve)
- COSTA RICA (37A: *Oldest continuous democracy in Central America)
- TOURIST AREA (51A: *Where to find money exchange shops)
- LESS TAR (13D: *Cigarette ad claim) [note: AD is in the grid at AD MEN]
- ASTARTE (40D: *Ancient fertility goddess)
- STARE (!?!?) (27D: *Prefight psych job)
Bal Harbour is a village in Miami-Dade County, Florida, United States. The population was 3,305 at the 2000 census. [Must be a major tourist spot? Because 3,305 … ?] (wikipedia)
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LESS TAR). But ASTARTE is a sore thumb, in that it's the only longer theme answer where STAR is *not* broken across two words (a really inelegant inconsistency); and STARE … I can't believe anyone is trying to convince anyone that STARE is a theme answer. It's practically just the word STAR. Not only is STAR not broken across two words, it completely destroys the thematical symmetry. It's not a bonus answer, it's a wart. There's more: you should never, ever have these long Across answers that are *not* theme answers. MADAGASCAR *and* WISECRACKS are both longer than the theme answer they abut (COSTA RICA). Clunky design, which is also evident in the way those little 3x3 sections in the E and W just sit there like sad appendages. Segmentation adds to the slew of three-letter words, which really downgrade the overall fill quality. And thus we come to perhaps the biggest problem: deathly fill. Where to begin? Maybe ACRED? Maybe GIE!? Those just made me wince. CAS ASWAS SORORAL USEIN, all wince-ome. With the rest, there's just an overwhelming mediocrity. The S / SW is particularly illustrative here. EST and TEE and (put 'em together …) ESTEE and then TSE and (remonogram me!) RLS and then a lot more Es and Rs blah.
This could've worked. Find a replacement for ASTARTE. Get rid of the absurd STARE. Redesign grid so you don't have these awkward structural problems, i.e. over-long Across non-themers, on the one hand, and a hyper-choppy, 3-letter-heavy grid, on the other. Then completely refill the grid with a hell of a lot more actual words. Really sad to see a decent concept just mangled in the execution like this.
I did like the clue on BEER GUT, though (11D: Opposite of six-pack abs, ironically).
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld