Rallying cry during Polk administration / SUN 9-6-15 / Israelite progenitor / hand-made percussion / nog topper / Arabian Nights predator / 1960s buddy cop sitcom informally / 2004 rom-com in which middle schooler transformed into adult overnight / Relentless faultfinder / Beau Brummell accessories / Game people rarely agree to play twice
Sunday, September 6, 2015
Constructor: Patrick Berry
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: "Double Digits" — 9 boxes have two-digit numbers in them
- 'ADAM 12' / '12 ANGRY MEN'
- 'CAR 54' / TOP 40 / '54-40 OR FIGHT!'
- APRIL 15 / 15 MINUTES
- THE B-52S / 52 PICK-UP
- CENTURY 21 / '21 GRAMS'
- '13 GOING ON 30' / PG-13 / '30 ROCK'
- THE LOWER 48 / '48 HRS.'
The southern boundary of the United States with Mexico was not the only western territory under dispute. The Oregon Territory spanned the modern states of Oregon, Idaho, and Washington, as well as the western coast of Canada up to the border of Russian Alaska. Both Great Britain and America claimed the territory. The Treaty of 1818 called for joint occupation of Oregon — a solution that was only temporary. Led by missionaries, American settlers began to outnumber British settlers by the late 1830s. But Britain was not Mexico. Its powerful navy was still the largest in the world. Twice before had Americans taken up arms against their former colonizers at great expense to each side. Prudence would suggest a negotiated settlement, but the spirit of manifest destiny dominated American thought. Yet another great showdown loomed. Oregon fever swept the nation in the 1840s. Thousands of settlers, lured by the lush Willamette Valley headed west on the Oregon Trail. Families in caravans of 20 or 30 braved the elements to reach the distant land. Poor eastern families could not generally make the trip, as outfitting such an expedition was quite expensive. The Conestoga wagon, oxen and supplies comprised most of the cost. The families fought Native Americans at times, but often they received guidance from the western tribes. It took six months of travel at the speed of fifteen miles per day to reach their destination. In the east, the subject of Oregon was less personal and more political. In 1844 the Democrats nominated James K. Polk, an unknown candidate from Tennessee. It appeared as though the Whig Party candidate, Henry Clay, would win in a landslide. Very few Americans had ever heard the name Polk, but Clay's illustrious career was widely known. However, Polk was an excellent strategist. He tapped into the public mood and realized that manifest destiny was the very issue that could lead him to victory. Polk called for expansion that included Texas, California, and the entire Oregon territory. The northern boundary of Oregon was the latitude line of 54 degrees, 40 minutes. "Fifty-four forty or fight!" was the popular slogan that led Polk to victory against all odds. (ushistory.org)
• • •
54-40 OR FIGHT" and "13 GOING ON 30" was unexpected and delightful. In the former case, impressive, actually. I was surprised he could get adjacent "double digits" to work like that. Not much to say about it. The theme leans toward proper nouns and titles, perhaps unsurprisingly. I count seven movie/TV show titles among the theme answers. "CAR 54" was the only one that seemed like a stretch, both in terms of its familiarity (it's old, and most under-50s will barely have heard of it, if they've heard of it at all), and in terms of the whole "informally" part of the clue (actual name of the show was "CAR 54, Where Are You?"). It's one thing to expect me to remember / know a half-century-old show, it's another to expect me to accept it slangily. But that was really the only part of the theme that was even vaguely weak. Everything else, solid; grid, solid. Totally acceptable and pleasant Sunday fare.
There were only a few memorable / noteworthy moments during this solve. Really had trouble parsing ILL AT EASE. Honest to god, I got the first five letters and considered that ILLATERAL might be a word describing something that is [On edge]. Yipes. I can never spell NEESON on first pass, so that second "E" slot was blank for a bit. Loved the clue on NOSE JOBS (39A: Changes to the bill?). Only two complete WTFs for me today: CASSIE (72A: Zach's old flame in "A Chorus Line") and AVIANCA (35D: Colombia's national airline), though the latter I've almost certainly seen before. I'm not sure I even really know what "A Chorus Line" is. I know "One" is the finale. Is that right? "One ... singular sensation ... every little etc." But "Zach" and "CASSIE" are just names to me. No significance.
The SW was, far and away, the hardest part of the grid, starting with CITY GIRL, the first part of which I needed virtually all the crosses for, and those weren't that easy to come by. Wasn't sure AMY was Little Dorrit's first name. Had HOT but not ASTRIDE. Had GOWNS before COWLS, so that hurt (99D: Religious outfits). Could not figure out exactly what kind of GIRL I was supposed to believe Eloise was. With G-T-GIRL in place, she really seemed like a GOTH GIRL there for a bit. And then the whole SW corner was tough, with FARMS hidden behind a vague clue (89A: Growing businesses), and ORB looking like ARC for a bit 105A: Ornament shape (I now see that it's "ornament," not "ornamental," as I'd originally thought). MEANS had a singular clue but looked plural in the grid, so that was disorienting. Don't think of a bee as a SOCIAL (though obviously that's one meaning). I knew Beau Brummell was a clothes horse, but did not know ASCOTS were a signature look. Still, I wouldn't call that section 'hard.' Just tougher than the rest.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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