Lobbying org. formed in 1944 / SUN 7-12-15 / Harry's 1948 Dixiecrat opponent / Berkshire racecourse site / Western city named after Shoshone chief / Children's heroine with dog Weenie / Tabloid show beginning in 1991 / Ruler entombed in Great Pyramid / Perambulates western-style / Fictional resort in 1988 #1 hit
Sunday, July 12, 2015
Constructor: Patrick Berry
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: "Start Again" — Opening syllable of familiar phrases is doubled (and respelled), creating much wackiness:
- CUCKOO D'ETAT (23A: Bird involved in French government affairs?)
- TUTU OF DIAMONDS (28A: Glittering ballet costume?)
- MIMI AND MY BIG MOUTH (45A: "La Bohème" song in which Rodolfo regrets saying too much to his lover?)
- AYE AYE, DOCTOR (53A: "I'll obey your medical advice!"?)
- CHOO-CHOO TOYS (85A: Lionel trains?)
- COCOA CONSPIRATORS (93A: Group planning a hostile takeover of Swiss Miss?)
- BYE-BYE PRODUCTS (107A: "That's my last trip to the store, ever!"?)
- CHI-CHI DEVIL (118A: One who's pretentious as hell?)
The American Veterans, Inc. (AMVETS) is a volunteer-led organization formed by World War II veterans of the United States. It advocates for its members as well as for causes that it deems helpful to the nation at large. The group holds a Federal charter under Title 36 of the United States Code. It is a 501(c)19 organization.
• • •
CUCKOO D'ETAT and COCOA CONSPIRATORS, largely because that initial doubling results in a solid word where the two syllables are spelled differently, despite having the same sounds. Why that should be more pleasing than a simple doubling of sound *and* spelling, I don't think, but it is.
I don't have much to say about the puzzle, though, beyond polite applause for the theme. There are a couple of drawbacks to today's puzzle (type). The puzzle is conceptually basic, and the grid is constructed in a way that minimizes longer non-theme fill, so the puzzle ends up being both far too easy, and also, outside the thematic material, kind of boring. Solid, but dullish. Creamy smooth and inoffensive, but lacking that crunch and oomph and zazz that are semi-necessary to really scratch the itch of a constant solver. Everything in the grid is generally familiar. All this fill would've flown decades ago (except IPOD, I guess). There's just not a lot of fresh colloquial phrases, not a lot of wordplay, not even a lot of interesting vocabulary. It's all just fine. But not exceptional. This would make a very, very nice entry-level puzzle for people who enjoy crosswords but think the NYT is too highbrow, or who can get M and T OK, but start falling apart at W and never really try Sunday. The world does need starter-kit puzzles, and as those go, this is a good one.
TUTU OF DIAMONDS is the weakest link, as the base phrase (two of diamonds) is just a random card in a deck. But the it creates a nice visual, so it's not so bad. The most confusing themer for me was MIMI AND MY BIG MOUTH, as I didn't know what was "La Bohème" about it, or whether the base answer was going to be a real song, or what. I'm guessing someone named "Mimi" is in "La Bohème," is that right? I could look it up. [Does so] Ah, yes, look, a seamstress. Well, there you go. I'm sure Maleska-era solvers know that stuff like the backs of their hands. Anyway, that one took me a little time because I was thinking of a song and all I could come up with was MIMI AND MY SHADOW (didn't fit).
My people are Idaho people, so POCATELLO was both fun and nostalgic for me (though I've never actually been to POCATELLO). Everything else in this puzzle, and I mean everything, is right over the plate. CHEOPS and AMVETS are probably the most "obscure" things in the puzzle, and they aren't. Obscure, that is. So, overall, this was vanilla, but tasty. Excellent vanilla. Simple, old-fashioned, over far too quickly.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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P.S. Peter Gordon is Kickstarting (re-starting) the themeless puzzle he used to edit for the Washington Post. Fittingly (-ish) it is called the Fireball Postmodern (get it?) Puzzler. You can support it here. Amazing constructors. Great puzzles (as good as the best NYT themelesses, for sure). Worth your support. At least watch the cute promo video here.