Fragile fabric made from certain plant fibers / FRI 2-26-16 / 1991 Scorsese De Niro collaboration / Pioneering labor leader samuel / My response was informally / Yellow-flowered plant procuing sticky resin / Barber five-time Pro Bowler from Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Friday, February 26, 2016
Constructor: Paula Gamache
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
Word of the Day: ALOE LACE (15A: Fragile fabric made from certain plant fibers) —
Hvar: agave or aloe laceHvar lace is unique in that the thread is collected from the aloe leaves of agave plants that grow on the island. The leaves are picked at a certain time of the year and are then specially processed to produce a thin, white thread. // The Benedictine nuns in the town of Hvar are the only ones who make the Hvar lace, which is also called "aloe lace". (wikipedia, buried deep, deep in the entry for "Lacemaking in Croatia")
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ALOE LACE being the more hilariously outlandish cousin of GUM WEED (21D: Yellow-flowered plant producing a sticky resin), whatever that is), and there were a few unfortunate short answers, but otherwise it's mostly vibrant, colloquial, current, and (especially for a 66-worder) smooth. If I went strictly by my solving time, I'd have this in the Challenging category, but I have to factor in my debate distraction, as well as the time I spent getting a couple of mid-solve screengrabs, so ... Medium-Challenging. The distinction hardly matters. It played harder than average. Those NW and SE corners, because they have the little-answer footholds, were easy enough to polish off, but I found everything from the NE to the SW to be Saturday-hard. Thought I was gonna cut into the middle with ease after ESCAPE KEY came effortlessly out of the bottom part of the NW corner, but it got me precisely nothing.
But again those teeny tiny openings into mid-grid made breaking this thing open very tough. Somehow, from -------US, I got BETWEEN US (29A: "Mum's the word"). I think that "N" seemed probably based on my sense that 11D: Adds with a whisk would probably end in "IN" (it did), so I went with it. And then BE PATIENT jumped out from the B-P------ pattern and I had the traction I needed. Love "I'M LIKE" since it's ubiquitous and yet I (almost?) never see it in crosswords. Hate Y'ERS, as no one ever ever ever ever said that. No one even knows what Gen Y is. It goes Boomers, Gen X'ers, Millennials, and then ... Freegans, I think. I forget. What the everloving fudge is Gen Y anyway? Let alone this alleged "Y'ERS" thing. Yikes. I wonder if the fill was originally NEWTON over OXHIDE over TAILED. Not that the resulting ODER or NEDS would be great or even good ... it's just that the NEWTON / NEDS version seems like a more plausible way to go than NEW TOY (kinda "green paint") and Y'ERS (atrocity). But these are minor issues in an overwhelmingly solid puzzle.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
P.S. wait, who the hell is PA BARKER? (32D: His wife and sons were Depression-era criminals). I keep googling and finding squat. Did anyone actually call this non-criminal guy "PA BARKER?" When I google "pa barker" in quotation marks I get, first hit, some old episode of "The Untouchables" TV show (?), and then a bunch of Pennsylvania-related things. Image search is worse. Just pictures of houses (??). PA BARKER seems pretty spurious.
P.P.S. sorry I wasn't clear—Of Course I *know* who *Ma* Barker is (please stop sending me wikipedia links). She is famous. She existed. PA BARKER never did. Her husband's name was "George." He was never known as PA BARKER. These aren't the Kettles, people. Come on.
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