Mata Hari portrayer of 1931 / FRI 10-30-15 / Lewis presidential also-ran 1848 / Halloween antagonist's surname / Deluded prospector's find / Excellent in 1990s slang / Joe Buck's pal in 1969 film / Theme song of Doris Day show
Friday, October 30, 2015
Constructor: Patrick Berry
Relative difficulty: Medium
Word of the Day: Lewis CASS (25D: Lewis ___, presidential also-ran of 1848) —
Lewis Cass (October 9, 1782 – June 17, 1866) was an American military officer and politician. During his long political career, Cass served as a governor of the Michigan Territory, an American ambassador, a U.S. Senator representing Michigan, and co-founder as well as first Masonic Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Michigan. He was the losing nominee of the Democratic Party for president in 1848. Cass was nationally famous as a leading spokesman for the controversial Doctrine of Popular Sovereignty, which would have allowed voters in the territories to determine whether to make slavery legal instead of having Congress decide.
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REESE, Doris Day, TIPPI Hedren, GRETA GARBO, Harold ARLEN, "Beau Geste," RENÉ Lacoste, and on and on. We get up to about 20 years ago, once, with PHAT. But when "Halloween" (1978) and "FAME" (1980) are your modern clues, your puzzle is old. Those last two were in my wheelhouse, but that's the point: I Am A Solidly Middle-Aged Man. When I say your puzzle is old, it's old. Again, with the caveat that old is fine if it's balanced out. But this one wasn't. Not even close. NYT is basically going hard after an established older (boomer+) audience. Safe. Doomed, ultimately, but certainly safe for the time being. And Patrick Berry is a god, so the grid is clean and even lovely in places. RASPBERRY / STUPEFIED / SPIT TAKE is my favorite stack in recent memory. But this one doesn't even try to come into the 21st century. And yet it's pop culturey as hell—it's just old pop culture that's on display. So remember, when you (you know who you are) complain about "pop culture" in modern crosswords, you're really complaining about the recent stuff you don't know. You're fine with it if it's from your childhood / teen years / early adulthood. This is to say that the pop-haters won't complain about this one's being pop-laden, even though it clearly is. We like the pop we know and love and denigrate the pop we don't. My only problem with this puzzle is that it is (overwhelmingly) lily white and old as hell. The grid is, of course, exceedingly well made.
I got through the grid pretty easily until I got to the NE, where things froze up. Right about here:
- 17A: Minor additions to the bill? (B PICTURES) — Yuck. B MOVIES or go home.
- 25D: Lewis ___, presidential also-ran of 1848 (CASS) — Because Mama CASS would've been too current.
- 36A: Twelver, religiously speaking (SHIITE) — Embarrassed to say I had No idea what "Twelver" meant. "The term Twelver refers to its adherents' belief in twelve divinely ordained leaders, known as the Twelve Imams, and their belief that the last Imam, Muhammad al-Mahdi, lives in occultation and will reappear as the promised Mahdi" (wikpedia).
- 16A: "Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive" songwriter (ARLEN) — I thought sure it was Mercer. I know I have that song on a Mercer compilation ... [looks it up] ... ah, he was the lyricist. ARLEN, writer, Mercer, lyricist.
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