Tribal symbol of luck / WED 8-6-14 / Rapper with the 2008 hit "Paper Planes" / The Time Traveler's hosts / "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" lyricist Harbach / 1998 Alanis Morissette hit with a slangy misspelling / "Catch-22" character who "hasn't got brains enough to be unhappy" / Dreyfus Affair chronicler
Wednesday, August 6, 2014
Constructor: Brendan Emmett Quigley
Relative difficulty: Let's go with Medium-Challenging, since it felt tougher than normal
THEME: BBQ (or, phonetically, "B Be Q") — B's in normal phrases turn into Q's, phrases become Wacky. The revealer BBQ is at 63D: Summer event, briefly … or a phonetic hint to 19-, 26-, 47- and 53-Across.
Word of the Day: ISADORA (38A: Dancer Duncan) —
Angela Isadora Duncan (May 27, 1877 – September 14, 1927) was an American dancer. Born in California, she lived in Western Europe and the Soviet Union from the age of 22 until her death at age 50. She performed to acclaim throughout Europe after being exiled from the United States for her pro-Soviet sympathies.
Duncan's fondness for flowing scarves contributed to her death in an automobile accident in Nice, France, when she was a passenger in an Amilcar. Her silk scarf, draped around her neck, became entangled around the open-spoked wheels and rear axle, breaking her neck. In 1987, she was inducted into the National Museum of Dance's Mr. & Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney Hall of Fame. (Wikipedia)
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'Sup, CrossWorld. Devil Cross puzzler-in-chief Evan Birnholz here, taking a double dip in the dangerous waters that is Rex Parker's blog today and tomorrow. Let's do this thing.
- 19A: French chicken dish garnished with kernels? (CORN ON THE COQ) – I'm pre-pubescently tittering about this answer if only for the fact that coq au vin means “cock with wine,” so putting corn on the cock, well…..you'd titter too.
- 26A: Quartet on an online help page? (THE FAQ FOUR)
- 47A: What Ben stitched for his business partner? (JERRY QUILT) – This is fine, but I thought this screamed out for a Seinfeld clue. [Appropriate gift for Seinfeld at the premiere of "Bee Movie"?], perhaps?
- 53A: Royal ending to a mathematical proof? (QUEEN SIZE QED)
This puzzle....I dunno, there's something that felt a little clunkier than what I'm used to seeing from Brendan's work. This was harder for me than I expected, but that's not really what's bugging me about it. A challenge during a midweek puzzle is fine. It's just that some of the theme answers fell a little flat for me, and the fill isn't particularly sparkly. THE FAB FOUR is a nice base phrase, but THE FAQ FOUR doesn't conjure up a humorous wacky image in my imagination – four what? Four questions? Same sorta deal with QUEEN SIZE QED. Good base phrase, but the resulting theme entry feels a little strange. Is it that the QED is written in larger print, or that it has a royal flourish? It's just confusing. If you go wacky, go Wacky. I'm also whistling QUEEN SIZE QED for a 10-yard holding penalty for the extra unchanged Q.
Plus, owing to all of those Q's, the fill gets pretty constrained – THANK U (8D: 1998 Alanis Morissette hit with a slangy misspelling) and BASQUE (36D: Like the sport of jai alai) are nice entries, and who doesn't love JUJU right at 1-Across? But there’s also the FRAS/ATNO combo in the northeast, the ICBM/COS/ESQS/MES mash-up in the southeast, and other answers like ORR/ENOS/ELOI/UTNE/ONER elsewhere (though the latter is salvaged a little bit by its duplicate clue with QUID (53D: British Pound, informally)).
The phonetic revealer itself is cute, and appropriate given Brendan's initials. From a constructing standpoint, I'll also grant that it’s very difficult to find enough words (actually, any words) where you can change a B to Q and get a viable new word and, on top of that, have it work reasonably well in a common phrase. I assume that's why of the four theme answers, only one of them changes a B at the beginning of a word – just not many options when the new Q comes at the end. The only other theme answer I can sorta come up with is VAMPIRE QAT [Dracula’s chewable African stimulant?], but, eh.
Like I said, this was a Wednesday toughie. I couldn't crack any theme answer until I wandered down to the southeast corner where BBQ was sitting. The cluing was pretty ambiguous in other places. 40D: Flat fish must be GAR....no, it's EEL....no, it's actually RAY. 31D: "You're right about that" has to be SO TRUE, yes? Nope, it's SO IT IS (one of those pesky 6-letter 3-word answers). The clue for OTTO (7D: "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" lyricist Harbach) is quite challenging for a Wednesday, and I had no idea who ISADORA Duncan was, though both were fairly crossed. I think UNICEF would be maybe the 10th or 11th thing I'd think for the clue 4D: Trick-or-treater's cause, since I'm always expecting it to be candy-related, but it's definitely a creative clue.
So, perhaps this one didn't have the punch I would have hoped for, though the challenging cluing raises it up somewhat. Admittedly I'm probably spoiled by Brendan's awesome puzzles at his indie site -- his themeless Mondays and his themed Thursdays always offer up some fresh new phrases and interesting twists. In fact, Matt Gaffney nominated BEQ's "Check Your Privilege" puzzle for Puzzle of the Month for July -- a well-deserved nomination, in my opinion. Go do that puzzle if you haven't yet.
- 23D: Deceitful (SHIFTY) — I had CRAFTY at first. Oh, how heads would have rolled if that crossing OFT (37A: Frequent, in odes) had instead been crossword staple OTT.
- 49D: John who won two Pulitzers for fiction (UPDIKE) — He always wins my childhood for having probably the fewest number of lines for a celebrity guest on "The Simpsons" and being told by Krusty the Clown, "Shut up, Updike!"
- 57D: Book of Mormon prophet (ENOS) — My wife and I just saw The Book of Mormon this past weekend, yet I don't think ENOS came up at all in the dialogue. Still a hella good show either way.
1) First, meta master and occasional Rex substitute Matt Gaffney is running his annual tip jar drive -- please chip in whatever you can to support his great puzzle work.
2) Speaking of metas, Pete Muller just released his monthly music meta for August. Go do it before the deadline on Sunday, August 10 at 11 pm ET. I haven't solved it yet but according to the leaderboard it looks a little easier than the last couple of them.
3) Speaking of metas x2, *I* just released a meta of my own at Devil Cross. E-mail me your answer before the deadline on Tuesday, August 12 at 6 pm ET. One random winner gets a free t-shirt. Without giving anything away, Monsieur Gaffney has the following to say about it: "Ah, I see you've got the crazy. Congratulations." Which is kind of the best quotation ever.
Signed, EVAN Birnholz, Earl of CrossWorld