Saturn's wife / THU 8-7-14 / Singer with the 1971 hit "Mercy Mercy Me" / Dorothy of old "Road" films / Jackson with 13 #1 country albums / Sch. of 2013 Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston / Wordsmith who wrote "Last but not least, avoid cliches like the plague"
Thursday, August 7, 2014
Constructor: Joe DiPietro
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: Quips About Puns About Jokes About Anagrams About Me Which Is Funny Hahahahaha — Quip puzzle where the joke is broken into give symmetric pieces and spells out IS IT / JUST ME OR / ARE THERE OTHER / ANAGRAMS OF 'EM? (i.e. there are no anagrams of "'em" except for "me")
Word of the Day: JOACHIM (21D: ___ Löw, coach of Germany’s 2014 World Cup-winning team) —
Joachim "Jogi" Löw, born 3 February 1960, is the current manager of the German national football team and a former football midfielder. In 2014, he led the German team to victory at the World Cup in Brazil.
Germany started their 2014 FIFA World Cup campaign with a 4–0 victory over Portugal. In the second game against Ghana, Germany came from behind to draw the match 2–2. In the third game, Germany beat the USA, led by former German coach Jürgen Klinsmann, 1–0, with the lone goal scored by Thomas Müller. In the second round match against Algeria, Löw's tactics were called into question after playing a high defensive line allowing Algeria to break through on numerous occasions. Nonetheless, Germany won 2–1 after extra time, thereby setting up a quarter-final clash with France. Germany edged France 1–0.
In a remarkable World Cup semi-final match Germany defeated Brazil 7–1 to reach the tournament's final. The result was Brazil's worst defeat in FIFA World Cup history. Löw led Germany to their fourth World Cup title win with a 1–0 victory in extra time against Argentina in the final. (Wikipedia)
• • •Howdy, folks. Evan again, back for Round II of my double-header. A reminder that Lollapuzzoola 7 -- only the most fun crossword tournament on a Saturday in August -- is right around the corner. If you're still on the fence about going, get off said fence and go. And say hi to me while you're there. Oh, and I know I plugged some indie meta puzzles yesterday, but there's another one just out: Francis Heaney's contest puzzle for the American Values Club Crossword (the deadline is this Sunday). I haven't gotten to it yet, but Francis has made some stunningly brilliant metas for them before, so I very much look forward to solving it.
So, we've got ourselves a quip puzzle, which is a rare species of crossword at the Gray Lady nowadays. For my own taste, I don't so much care for quote themes since it requires cross-referencing multiple answers and doesn't usually involve enough wordplay. Its value hinges primarily on how funny you think the resulting punchline is, and you only get the one punchline when you've pieced it all together, rather than multiple bits of cleverness in four or five theme answers. So if it's a really funny or unexpected joke, the theme looks pretty good. If it's a lame joke, then the theme is pretty bland. I found this quip only sorta amusing, and I think it really only works in print. I can't really imagine it getting a great laugh if you said it aloud since I think most people would assume you were saying "them" rather than "'em," and you'd have to spend time explaining it all.
So the theme wasn't really for me. Having said that, there are only 37 letters occupying theme squares, which means the grid can breathe a little bit with some good fill answers like NO COMMENT, DUST MITE, MAN UP, USERNAME, RUNS A TAB, and KATE SPADE (with a clever though fairly recently used clue, 56A: Bag lady?). There isn't much in the way of crap fill, which is good, though MUNIS (24A: City bonds, informally) isn't my favorite answer and I keep looking askance at DITSY (17A: Like a dingbat) as though it should be spelled DITZY. Overall, the fill is solid.
I will, however, take issue with some non-thematic stuff. First, HE’S GOT IT (38D: Approving remark after "By Jove") seems like a long, arbitrary partial answer. It wasn't hard to get since I know it from the complete phrase "By Jove/George I (think) he's got it," and if BY JOVE or BY GEORGE were singular answers, I'd have no problem with it since they're exclamations that stand on their own. But HE'S GOT IT by itself is missing the crucial piece to the phrase. It would be like if BY ITS COVER were an answer, clued as [How you should not judge a book]. It's part of a common phrase we all know, but the answer itself is incomplete.
Second....the JOACHIM/OPS/CROSS stepladder. JOACHIM isn't exactly the most common name and may be completely unrecognizable for those who didn't follow the World Cup. I'll even say that I like JOACHIM as an answer -- he makes a very timely appearance in the grid and he's an unusual though lively entry (and how long until his nickname JOGI becomes a regular answer?). I was fortunate enough to dredge his name up from memory of the World Cup broadcasts, but if you didn't watch it, you're not going to get much help from the crossing clue on OPS (23A: Saturn's wife), so you may be tempted to write in JEACHIM OR JUACHIM (by the way, OPS is the Roman equivalent of the Greek RHEA). Even OPS as clued crossing CROSS as clued (7D: Pen name) is just cruel (it's a brand of pen, in case it's not clear). I wouldn't mind those tough clues in a late-week puzzle by themselves, but if you're not up on your World Cup coaches, or your Roman deities without planetary names, or your brand of writing instruments -- and I'll go out on a limb and say that these particular proper nouns are not going to be familiar to many, many solvers -- then that combo is going to be an absolute killer. Easy fix: just clue OPS like [Black ___] or [Photo ___] or something like that. Problem solved. And it's not like an easy clue would be unusual for a Thursday puzzle -- see 25D: Composer Stravinsky (IGOR) and 28D: Kit ___ bar (KAT).
Last, I’m giving IT IS I a few demerits for the fact that it’s a little too close to the first piece of the theme IS IT (and that there’s another stray “it” in HE’S GOT IT). I don’t mind the occasional repeat of small, common words like “is” or “it” when they’re part of the general fill (for instance, "up" repeats with MAN UP and EYES UP (46D: Looks at covetously)), but the repeats stand out a little more here because a) in one instance they're part of the theme and in another instance they're not; and b) two non-thematic repeats of the same word in one puzzle is a lot.
- 1A: Extends credit (LENDS) — I got off on the wrong foot with LOANS. Same problem with putting in LSAT where I wanted MCAT (6A: Exam for a future G.P.), though that mistake was more about carelessness in reading the clue; I think I saw G.P. only out of the corner of my eye and assumed it was D.A., or something. Who knows.
- 22A: Temple of ___ (DOOM) — This is odd. It feels like there should be a more explicit reference to Indiana Jones in the clue, yet they made it look like it’s a standalone phrase. Is “Temple of Doom” a common phrase outside of the movie? If so, I haven’t heard of it.
- 41A: Italian Riviera resort (SAN REMO) — I got this one confused with SALERNO before RUNS A TAB jumped out at me.
- 48A: Still liquidy (UNSET) — The puzzle: U_SET. Me: "How can that be any word except UPSET?" Brain: "It's not UPSET. Stop trying to force an answer where it doesn't work." Me: "Shut up, Brain, or I'll stab you with a Q-tip!"
- 49A: Lead-in to a 2000s “-gate” (CIA) — The Valerie Plame affair, yes? Yes. I first considered SPY(gate), a.k.a. the scandal surrounding the 2007 New England Patriots when the NFL discovered they were videotaping other teams’ defensive signals during games … which, coincidentally, seems fitting with the correct answer.
- 54D: Oversize sunglasses, these days (RAGE) — If you say so. The only oversize glasses I ever got a real kick out of was Will Ferrell as Harry Caray.
- 56D: Company with a bucket list? (KFC) — Nice clue.
- 58A: Formal response at the door (IT IS I) — Sorry, one more thing about this....yes, it’s grammatically formal, but the thing is, nobody would really say this at the door unless they were being faux-pretentious.
Signed, IT IS I, Evan Birnholz, Judge/Jury/Executioner of Devil Cross
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