Czar's edict / WED 11-19-14 / Self-proclaimed leader of ISIS, e.g. / Krupp Works city / Instrument with sympathetic strings / Tropicana Field site informally
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Constructor: Jacob Stulberg
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: THERE'S NO TWO / WAYS ABOUT IT (18A: With 64-Across, words of certainty .i.. or a hint to 23-, 40- and 56-Across) — "NO" appears at the beginning of each theme answer, and "NO" going the other way (i.e. "ON") appears at the end of each theme answer. So there's "no" two ways about (i.e. on either side of of, framing) each theme answer.
- NORA EPHRON (23A: "Silkwood" screenwriter)
- NON-PRESCRIPTION (40A: Like Advil vis-à-vis Vicodin) (is the "vis-à-vis" necessary here? Advil is NON-PRESCRIPTION. It just … is.)
- NOMINATION (56A: Convention outcome)
A ukase, or ukaz (//; Russian: указ [ʊˈkas], formally "imposition"), in Imperial Russia, was a proclamation of the tsar, government, or a religious leader (patriarch) that had the force of law. "Edict" and "decree" are adequate translations using the terminology and concepts of Roman law.From the Russian term, the word ukase has entered the English language with the meaning of "any proclamation or decree; an order or regulation of a final or arbitrary nature". (wikipedia)
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NORA EPHRON is great, the others are forgettable), and that's a Lot of real estate to waste on the revealer, but overall the theme holds up. Shockingly, neither NORA EPHRON nor NOMINATION (!?!) is in the cruciverb.com database. Now, that database is not without its gaps (one of my LAT puzzles somehow never made it in), but it's pretty damned deep, and goes back roughly 20 years, so the complete absence of both those terms is stunning to me. I'm slightly down on NON-PRESCRIPTION, but only because NON- is so close to NO. Seems like ideally "NO" would be "hidden" (i.e. the letter pairing would appear in answer where it didn't have the negative meaning of the word "no"). But it's gotta be pretty hard to get answers to follow this NO…ON formula. So the concept is nifty, the resulting theme answers so-so. The fill is completely unremarkable. Net result is neither good nor bad. It just is. Actually, I take that back—it's a little on the disappointing side. It's painfully dull. Grid structure doesn't allow for any longer interesting answers, and the 5-letter and shorter stuff is pretty mothbally. But if you're looking for good fill on a regular basis, you're really doing the wrong puzzle at this point.
So … UKASE. I learned this word from crosswords, and I have never seen it outside crosswords. It strikes me that if genpop (i.e. non-puzzle-nerds) were to look at this grid, *that* is the term they'd be least likely to know. Maybe ERSE would be the bigger WTF, but UKASE strikes me as fairly arcane. Is that true? I consider it really bad fill, largely because a. as I said, it's arcane, and b. it's lazy. It's not in anyone's grid because it's beloved—it's there because vowel/consonant/vowel/consonant/vowel, and someone's used it before so Good Enough! But I know some people who are not nearly as UKASE-intolerant as I am, so maybe mine is a highly idiosyncratic personal reaction.
- 49D: ___ dragon (huge lizard) (KOMODO) — turns out I really, really can't spell this. First vowel had me flummoxed. Wanted KIMODO. That still looks better to me.
- 21D: Self-proclaimed leader of ISIS, e.g. (CALIPH) — I'm generally opposed to calling attention to terrorists in crosswords, especially if they are still active. I don't feel very strongly about this, however.
- 51D: Like a "before" versus "after" photo subject, say (FATTER) — puzzle seems oddly fat-obsessed of late. FAT AS A PIG, very recent. "Phat mama" in the THAI clue. OK, so maybe not "obsessed."
- 33A: Little pain in the you-know-where (IMP) — it's weird to me that the puzzle can be all ANAL this and ANAL that but somehow blushes at "ass."