Iowa politico Ernst / FRI 12-12-14 / NHL players representative Donald / Relative of harrier / Number of weeks in il Giro d'Italia / Land east of Babylonia / Tuber grown south of border / Car modified for flying in Absent-minded professor
Friday, December 12, 2014
Constructor: Evan Birnholz
Relative difficulty: Challenging
Word of the Day: JONI Ernst (34D: Iowa politico Ernst) —
Joni Kay Ernst (née Culver; born July 1, 1970) is an American politician who is the United States Senator-elect from Iowa, elected in the November 2014 election, defeating Bruce Braley, her Democratic opponent. She previously served as a Republican member of the Iowa Senatefrom 2011 to 2014 and is also a lieutenant colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard. Ernst is the first woman to represent Iowa in the United States Congress and the first female veteran in the U.S. Senate. (wikipedia)
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Grid is just fine, but the clues were a. Saturday-level, and b. too cute and/or forced for me, much of the time. This was a Saturday puzzle. No question. A Medium to Medium-Challenging Saturday puzzle for me. A nearly 2x Friday puzzle. Could've been Friday. But the clues. JONI Ernst is not anyone, yet. She might be, in 2020, but she's not now. Now she is that Senator-elect best known for introducing hog castration to the lexicon of modern political advertising:
[Double threat: JONI and ERNST]
FEHR? I'm supposed to know the N.H.L.'s *players' rep*!?!?! Baffling. I can't name the players' rep for any of the major sports. I wasn't aware it was a thing I was supposed to commit to memory—especially the players' rep of the least popular of the four major US sports leagues. Attempts to get cute with the [Talk show V.I.P.] double-up meant that I was asked to believe that a BOOKER is a "V.I.P." A BOOKER is important, I'm sure, but name one. . . I know. Me either. That clue was probably (or should've been) [N.J. Senator Cory] or something like that, originally. Between the two talk show clues and the Saturday-hard clue on ABBESS (1A: Person at the top of the order), and FEHR (again, ?!), I couldn't finish the NW until the very end. Eastern grid (the southeast in particular) was somewhat more tractable, though BASEMEN has a terrible clue (35A: Ones trying to prevent stealing). It's trying to get all misdirective and cute, but it's awkward and inapt from a baseball perspective. Without "first" "second" or "third" in front of it, BASEMEN is odd. Not used. And catchers are the real steal preventers. It's defensible, this clue, but yuck. Get cutesy, you better *land* it. Otherwise, wince.
I had no idea how to spell ELISHA. I wanted ELIJAH. This made things awkward in the west. Also, I thought 32D: Run through the gantlet, say was TYPO. Sincerely. "Gantlet" is one of those words that is "right" but shifting hard to "gauntlet," which is what most people *say*, and what dictionaries list as the primary spelling ("gantlet" being the variant). British dictionaries list "gantlet" as "American." Anyway, doesn't really matter. Point is, I was sure the answer was TYPO. Well, not sure, because I figured out quickly that that wasn't going to work. HAZE… I got all from crosses. This patch in the west would've been Very hard had I not Hail Mary-guessed ADONIS and crossed it successfully with IDOL. The place was pretty blank before that moment. Finished with FIGHT, also poorly / cutsily clued (28A: All hits all the time?). That's a radio slogan, I think, but it is a poor "?" clue for the generic word FIGHT. [All hits all the time] sounds like a very violent FIGHT, i.e a subset of FIGHT. I "FIGHT" all the time without hitting anyone. Point is, boo. Again, grid is pretty nice, but the cluing just missed the mark too often for me. And, again, this should've run tomorrow.
I will say, though, that the clue on "THE WIRE" (48A: Series of drug-related offenses?) is excellent.
P.S. congratulations to a certain young woman who guest blogs for me on the first Monday of every month—she found out just yesterday that she got into Wellesley, early decision.