Oktoberfest exclamation / TUE 10-7-14 / Klugman's co-star on Odd Couple / denied Supreme Court phrase / Lee who led Chrysler 1978-92
Tuesday, October 7, 2014
Constructor: Mark Skoczen and Victor Fleming
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: TOASTs (66A: 9- 20-, 28-, 37-, 48- or 53-Across) —with each theme answer clued as [Oktoberfest exclamation]
- "DOWN THE HATCH!"
- "BOTTOMS UP!"
- "TO YOUR HEALTH!" (which is essentially what "SALUD!" means…)
"Cert" is short for "certiorari," which refers to the appeal (petition for a writ of certiorari) a party files with the Supreme Court requesting the justices review the case. If the justices decide against hearing the case, they deny the petition. This is usually abbreviated and referred to as "cert denied." (answers.com)
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The problem today is that while there are indeed a lot of theme answers, all that really does is extend a pretty dull theme while simultaneously taxing the grid—the denser the theme, the harder the grid is to fill cleanly. The north, with ILIE EELER and *especially* CERT, is just godawful. And since the theme is far from stellar, the bad fill is more intolerable than it might be otherwise. The phrase DOWN THE HATCH is great on its own, but there's really nothing to this theme as a whole. It's a bunch of TOASTs. The attempt to unite them all through the vaguely timely [Oktoberfest exclamation] clue seems forced. If I saw all these theme answers lined up, I would never in a million years think that the thing that unites them is Oktoberfest. Beer, drinking, sure. But "Oktoberfest" is overselling it. The theme is a list, and that list has only one interesting item ("DOWN THE HATCH!"). Without a clever theme, attention turns to the fill, and … that's bad news for this puzzle. To be fair, only the north is truly bad. But too much of the rest of it is truly blah. Yesterday's puzzle had its fill issues too, but the theme sparkled more, and those open corners in the NE / SW were truly wondrous to behold (esp. on a Monday, where one does not expect such things). This puzzle sputters by comparison.
CERT (thought maybe WRIT, but I just waited for the crosses to help me out). Misread [Flight-related prefix] as [Fight-related prefix], which made a Very easy clue much, much harder. Someday someone will invent a better clue for TOFU than the horrendously stale and not terribly accurate [Vegetarian's protein source]. There are carnivores who eat tofu and vegetarians who won't touch the stuff. At least drop the apostrophe "s." Better yet, come up with a non-recycled clue of your own devising. That would be … something. Cluing is particularly stale today. Straightforward throughout. Not surprising for an early-week puzzle, but still, no reason "Easy" has to mean "unimaginative."
Thanks to Annabel Thompson for her lovely write-up yesterday. She'll be back the first Monday of every month until … well, until whenever she wants, frankly.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld