Hogwarts fifth-year exams for short / WED 11-25-15 / Style is option clean is not sloganeer / Disney subsidiary / Disappearing conveniences / Latin word shared by mottoes of Yale Tufts
Wednesday, November 25, 2015
Constructor: Duncan Kimmel and Clara Williamson
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: Somewhat literal TV shows — I think the deal is that theme answers reimagine famous TV show titles as (mostly) straightforward descriptions of things:
- 16A: "Mad Men"? (PSYCHOPATHS) (that one's pretty literal)
- 22A: "House of Cards"? (HALLMARK STORE) (also pretty literal)
- 46A: "Game of Thrones"? (MUSICAL CHAIRS) (see, this is less literal ... a "throne" is a ridiculous way to refer to a simple "chair," so ... this clue probably needs two question marks)
- 57A: "The Walking Dead"? (PALLBEARERS) (I'm not sure I even understand this one—PALLBEARERS "walk" while also *carrying* the "dead," so ... I ... yeah, I don't see how this one works. Maybe, uh, "those walking the dead" ... like ... taking them for a walk? I want this to work, but syntax and grammar matter in crossword cluing, and you'd have to torture the English language pretty hard to get it to agree that this clue/answer pairing makes any sense.
• • •
PALLBEARERS to work without hiring a very talented theme lobbyist and paying her a lot of money. If I carry a dead body, I am a pallbearer. So ... I am walking, but not dead. I am walking THE dead. But the title is "The Walking Dead," so ... how is PALLBEARERS a literal answer (in a way that is parallel to "Mad Men" / PSYCHOPATHS)??? I thought maybe we had entered the realm of the super-figurative, and "The Walking Dead" were zombies, who of course "bear" a "pall," in the sense that their complexion is the opposite of ruddy, but ... then I realized I was thinking of "pallid," not "pall," and besides, that kind of a wordplay stretch just isn't in keeping with the more straightforward literalizing that is going on with the other themers. I want this theme to work, but I just don't think it does. "The Golden Girls"? (EMMY AWARDS) ... I think that works. Am I doing it right? I honestly don't know. It just seems like there must've been many, many more TV shows that you could do this with, with better results. I will say that these shows are all very recent and non-network, so they have a kind of consistency. Which is nice ... if you can stick the landing.
One of my friends just remarked on Twitter that "I've never seen 37-Across (i.e. AMUCK) spelled that way." I replied, "No one has." That's god-awful. How you get yourself stuck with AMUCK, I don't know, but you need to rethink your choices. In fact, the grid seems really oddly built. Huge gaps between theme answers in the middle, with these intervening longer Acrosses that have nothing to do with the theme but that somehow result in our getting stuck with AMUCK. And also stuck with singular SCAD, which, jeez louise, no. No no. Stop it. Back to the drawing board. SES and MEI are also yucky in a super-undemanding grid. Ditto ETUI. The puzzle felt easy, but sussing out the themers actually took some work. I forgot that HALLMARK had STOREs, so getting the STORE part took an odd lot of work. And PALLBEARERS ... well, you can see why that took work. I also struggle with GANGSTERS, largely because that seemed a very anti-climactic answer for 33D: Capone and Corleone. Those aren't just GANGSTERS. Those are crime bosses, crime lords, kingpins. So after GANG- I was looking for something signifying Big Cheeses ... but all I got was -STERS. Not inaccurate, but kind of a letdown.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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