Travolta's Saturday Night Fever role / THU 11-5-15 / John Peter early English publisher free press champion / Big record label in 1960s pop / Opera with Willow Song / Greek matchmaker / Mother of Selene / Short negligee for short / Small-runway craft in brief
Thursday, November 5, 2015
Constructor: Samuel A. Donaldson
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: HIGHER POWER (63A: Divine being ... or a hint to 17-, 31- and 48-Across) — the letter string "NTH" in various answer has been "raised" above its home answer, into the answer above it (where it appears in circled squares, as seen above). So NTH (a degree, or POWER) has been raised (made HIGHER)
- ALLI(NTH)EFAMILY (17A: Groundbreaking 1970s sitcom)
- ELEVE(NTH)HOUR (31A: Just before the deadline)
- EVE(NTH)ORIZON (48A: Point beyond which light cannot escape from a black hole)
John Peter Zenger (October 26, 1697 – July 28, 1746) was a German American printer and journalist in New York City. Zenger printed The New York Weekly Journal. The first generation of American editors discovered readers loved it when they criticized the local governor; the governors discovered they could shut down the newspapers. The most dramatic confrontation came in New York in 1734, where the governor brought Zenger to trial for criminal libel after the publication of satirical attacks. The jury acquitted Zenger, who became the iconic American hero for freedom of the press. // In 1733, Zenger began printing The New York Weekly Journal, in which he voiced opinions critical of the colonial governor, William Cosby. On November 17, 1734, on Cosby's orders, the sheriff arrested Zenger. After a grand jury refused to indict him, the attorney general Richard Bradley charged him with libel in August of 1735. // Zenger's lawyers, Andrew Hamilton and William Smith, Sr., successfully argued that truth is a defense against charges of libel. (wikipedia)
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ZENGER and MANERO (1A: Travolta's "Saturday Night Fever" role) were mysteries to me (even though I've seen "Saturday Night Fever" many times), but besides them, the only part of this puzzle that put up any resistance was (initially) the theme. But once I got it, zoom zoom. I'm ambivalent about the execution here. Maybe I'm not math-y enough to appreciate what's going on. Here, you raise the NTH ... but don't you normally raise something *to* the NTH degree? I think there is meant to be some connection between the raised NTH and the superscript that exponents are normally written in too. Maybe? There's raising and there's raising, is what I'm saying. The concept seems a little blurry / muddled to me, even though I can lawyer my way into an explanation for any one part of it. I'm not sure what the rationale is—or if there is one, of if there needs to be one—for the way the theme answers have to kind of double back on themselves after they return from their NTH journey. Feels a little awkward. As does AGE ONE (that whole section is kind of rough). But fill is OK. Not atrocious. Fine, but not exciting. The longer Downs are solid. Not sizzling, but solid. All in all, a clever, if somewhat wonkily executed, theme. I would say something about 54D: Heads of the black community? (AFROS), but I'm kind of exhausted with talking about the way the NYT crossword treats "the black community." Maybe someone else can do it for a while.
Big news in puzzle world: Evan Birnholz has been chosen as the Washington Post's new Sunday crossword constructor, taking over a position last held by the late, great Merl Reagle. I'm excited to see what kind of work he produces over there on a weekly basis. Merl is irreplaceable, but I'm happy to see the Post giving someone young, ambitious, and absolutely in love with crosswords a shot at the gig. This should be fun.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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