1957 Patrick White novel 1986 opera / FRI 9-5-14 / Deterioration of standards by competitive forces / Title heroine of Wagner opera / Silents actress Negri / Ray of old pictures /
Friday, September 5, 2014
Constructor: Joe Krozel
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
Word of the Day: REEDUCATION CAMP (16A: Propagandists' detention site) —
Reeducation camp (Vietnamese: trại học tập cải tạo) is the official title given to the prison camps operated by the government of Vietnam following the end of the Vietnam War. In such "reeducation camps", the government imprisoned several hundred thousand former military officers and government workers from the former government of South Vietnam. Reeducation as it was implemented in Vietnam was seen as both a means of revenge and as a sophisticated technique of repression and indoctrination, which developed for several years in the North and was extended to the South following the 1975 Fall of Saigon. An estimated 1-2.5 million people were imprisoned with no formal charges or trials. According to published academic studies in the United States and Europe, 165,000 people died in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam's re-education camps. Thousands were tortured or abused. Prisoners were incarcerated for as long as 17 years, with most terms ranging from three to 10 years. (wikipedia)
• • •REEDUCATION CAMPs were fresh on my mind after having seen Rory Kennedy, the director of the new documentary "Last Days in Vietnam," on "The Daily Show" the other night. Having heard so recently about how horrific the "camps" were, the clue here today struck me as oddly … anodyne. Creepily so. First, I couldn't tell if the clue was saying that the people who *ran* the camp were "propagandists," or if "propagandists" were the ones "detained" there. I'm still not entirely sure, but I think the clue is saying propagandists run the thing. But "propagandist" is way too mild a term, as is "detention," and somehow leaving the victims of said propaganda / detention completely out of the equation … there's just something in that clue that feels casually violent and inhumane, given the scale of suffering and death at the those "camps." Cross that answer with LEAVES TO DIE (dear lord, really?) and you've got one massively tin-eared and tone deaf puzzle on your hands.
But leaving aside the significance of the words themselves, this is a nicely filled 15-stack-based puzzle. The theme … I don't even know. I guess the black squares say what the puzzle says they say. Why anyone should care or how it adds any value to the solving experience, I have No idea. I'm just grateful that as far as terrible short stuff goes, I don't have much to grumble at beyond the occasional HOTL and ANGE. Long answers (besides the aforementioned) are nice, though PATRONAGE HIRING (52A: Political machine practice) googles pretty poorly as a phrase, and STEMLESS GLASSES is only about a half step up (down?) from PEER ASSESSMENTS in terms of outright crutchiness. The HILLBILLIES / MODERN DANCE juxtaposition offers an amusing visual, for which I am grateful.
If you want to solve a truly exquisite code-based puzzle, you owe it to yourself to drop $1 on Patrick Blindauer's latest American Values Crossword puzzle, entitled "Bi-Curious." Hard as hell, but once you put it all together, wow. It's got at least two genuine "aha" moments. Give it time—it might grind you down—but the payoff is worth it, I swear.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
P.S. RIP Joan Rivers, who was a badass, pioneer, and role model.