Eleniak of Baywatch / MON 10-27-14 / Long-running western anthology / Eponymous star of 1960s sitcom / Tennis champ Kournikova
Monday, October 27, 2014
Constructor: Stanley Newman
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: DVD RECORDER (53A: TV hookup option … or what you are by solving this puzzle?)— two answers have "DVD" as their initials:
- DICK VAN DYKE (21A: Eponymous star of a 1960s sitcom, the only American TV star with his three initials)
- "DEATH VALLEY DAYS" (37A: Long-running western anthology, the only American TV series with its three initials)
Death Valley Days is an American radio and television anthology series featuring true stories of the old American West, particularly the Death Valley area. Created in 1930 by Ruth Woodman, the program was broadcast on radio until 1945 and continued from 1952 to 1970 as a syndicated television series, with reruns (updated with new narrations) continuing through August 1, 1975.The series was sponsored by the Pacific Coast Borax Company (20 Mule Team Borax, Boraxo) and hosted by Stanley Andrews (1952-1963), Ronald Reagan (1964-1965), Robert Taylor (1966-1969), and Dale Robertson (1969-1972). With the passing of Dale Robertson in 2013, all the former Death Valley Days hosts are now deceased. Hosting the series was Reagan's final work as an actor; he also was cast in eight episodes of the series. (wikipedia)
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DVD RECORDER? Do those still exist? Did anyone ever own one? A google search reveals that said recorder is a real thing, but it's telling, I think, that the first page of hits returns an article entitled "Why DVD Recorders Are Getting Harder to Find." DVD RECORDERs did not kill the VCR—first the DVR and then streaming services did that. I cannot imagine why anyone would own a DVD RECORDER? I refuse to believe it is a common "TV hookup option." To be fair, the clue doesn't say "common." But still, it's weird to build your puzzle around such an uncommon, semi-archaic device. Third, why is it interesting that DICK VAN DYKE and "DEATH VALLEY DAYS" are "the only" things in their categories with these "three initials"? Seriously. Does that fact make anyone go "wow?" Would I expect lots of "American TV stars" or "American TV series" to have those initials? "How I Met Your Mother" is undoubtedly the only "American TV series" with the initials "HIMYM," but … so?
Lastly, if the theme is going to be this thin, the fill should be much better. It is by no means terrible, and there's some good, timely stuff in the cluing, most notably JEANNE Shaheen (50A: New Hampshire senator Shaheen), who is in a tough fight to hold on to her Senate seat right now. PAPA JOHNS is a pretty lively answer (gross pizza, gross corporation, but lively answer) (32D: Rival of Domino's). But the grid is so segmented that almost all we get is warmed over short stuff. I don't understand why, in the age of construction software, a corner like the SW corner exists. MDLII may be the most needless RRN (Random Roman Numeral) of all time. It's not like any of the other fill down there is glowing. Tear it out. Rebuild.
That's all. See you tomorrow.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld