1983 sci-fi drama / WED 11-26-14 / Old galley / Willow shoot / Like Toves in Jabberwocky / Sci-fi author Stanislaw / Letterman's favorite activity? / Doo-wop group with 1963 hit Remember Then / Biblical debarkation point
Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Constructor: Michael S. Maurer
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
THEME: WAR GAMES (58A: 1983 sci-fi drama … or a possible title for this puzzle) — theme answers are terms related to the military and … I guess the clues are playing "games" by being wacky (?):
- M*A*S*H UNIT (17A: Potato?)
- SHORE LEAVE (24A: Ebb tide?)
- PRESENT ARMS (34A: Inoculation order?)
- FIRING LINE (49A: "Clean out your desk!"?)
lavaliere′ mi`crophone n.
a small microphone that hangs around the neck of a performer or speaker.
• • •
M*A*S*H UNIT and, possibly, FIRING LINE). The others are military, but have no necessary connection to war. The whole "possible title" makes very little sense. Seems awfully tenuous. In the revealer clue's defense, though, it just says "possible title," not "appropriate" or "good title." Puzzle played hard for a Wednesday, largely because the themers were not easy to pick up even after you grokked the theme. PRESENT ARMS took me forever. I ended up solving this in very unusual fashion—closing in on the middle from all sides. I think my last letter in the grid was the "R" in PRESENT ARMS / LAVALIERES. I'd never heard of the latter. Not that I could remember. Other crosses for PRESENT ARMS were hard to pick up as well. SALESMAN was not easy to get from 37D: Infomercial figure. I'd never heard of the EARLS (did they wear LAVALIERES? (which I keep wanting to call LEVOLOR, like the blinds, which I only just now found out was spelled that way). STEP INSIDE, also tough to get to from [Words of welcome]. Bit of a toughie, and a bit old-fashioned-feeling, overall. Outside LISTEN UP and STEP INSIDE, the fill is pretty musty/creaky. All DAR and BIREME (43D: Old galley) and ELIA and OSIER and RMN. This puzzle might've felt fresh during the RMN administration.
From a purely aesthetic standpoint, I don't like the "?" clue on ANAGRAMS. In a puzzle where the themers have "?" clues, you don't give "?" clues to other long answers that run in the same direction. That's just confusing. Getting the "?" clue there, in an answer that's as long as the themer in the NW corner, made me think theme clue. Then when I got ANAGRAMS, I tried to see how it was thematic, only to discover it wasn't. OK, fair game, my fault for not noticing it wasn't precisely in a theme position. But I would've avoided the "?" clue there. The clue itself doesn't really make sense. Is the idea that a "Letterman" is someone who enjoys … letters? But … why would that mean you enjoyed *rearranging* them, specifically? There's just a ton of slack in the logic of this puzzle. IOR IOR IOR. SPLAT. Maybe next year I'll get the birthday puzzle I've always wanted. This year, I'll have to settle for cake.
I'm also not convinced "WAR GAMES" is a "sci-fi" movie, even though wikipedia says it is. Everything was supposed to be plausible, right? It's not like aliens inhabited the computer. "Joshua" wasn't like Hal—it didn't develop a kind of human sentience. Did it? Maybe I'm misremembering the level of Joshua's anthropomorphosis. Anyway, "Star Wars" was sci-fi. "Blade Runner" was sci-fi. "E.T." was sci-fi. "WAR GAMES"—I'm less sure.
Travel safe if you're traveling, especially in the NE.
See you on Thanksgiving.