Mandrake the Magician's sidekick / THU 2-18-16 / Land of ancient Ephesus / Rarest of 50 state birds / Devastating namein 2005 news
Thursday, February 18, 2016
Constructor: Bruce Haight
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: "I"s — Black squares form two large "I"s, which act as the letter "I" in the Across answers that run into them and extend away from them.
Word of the Day: LOTHAR (47D: Mandrake the Magician's sidekick) —
comic strip, created by Lee Falk (before he created The Phantom). Mandrake began publication on June 11, 1934. Phil Davis soon took over as the strip's illustrator, while Falk continued to script. The strip is distributed by King Features Syndicate. [...] Lothar is Mandrake's best friend and crimefighting companion. Mandrake first met Lothar during his travels in Africa. Lothar was "Prince of the Seven Nations", a mighty federation of jungle tribes; but forbore to become king and instead followed Mandrake on his world travels. Lothar is often referred to as "the strongest man in the world", with the exception of Hojo — Mandrake's chef and secret chief of Inter Intel. Lothar is invulnerable to any weapon forged by man, impervious to heat, cold and possesses the stamina of a thousand men. He also cannot be harmed by magic directly (fire bolts, force bolts, spell incantations). He can lift an elephant by one hand easily. // One of the first African crimefighting heroes ever to appear in comics, Lothar made his first appearance alongside Mandrake in 1934 in the inaugural daily strip. In the beginning, Lothar spoke poor English and wore a fez, short pants, and a leopard skin. In a 1935 work by King Features Syndicate, Lothar is referred to as Mandrake's "giant black slave." When artist Fred Fredericks took over in 1965, Lothar spoke correct English and his clothing changed, although he often wore shirts with leopard-skin patterns. (wikipedia)
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MAZ clue, for instance—no way that's the constructor's, for a host of reasons) (9D: ___ Kanata, "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" character) (original clue was probably something like [1960 Pirates World Series hero, familiarly]). But -ICAL and -ENCE in the same grid? That's criminal (actually, either one of those suffixes on its own is pretty bad). ERST TOG CRU? WHO'S EFTS? SRI EEO? On and on. The central crossing wants to pass itself off as winky and self-referential, as opposed to just two more tired bits of fill. Sure, why not? Knock yourself out. But overall this puzzle has a general concept with no specific sense of purpose (i.e. it's just "I"s ... just ... 'cause), and the fill is a problem.
TOUT (14D: Ballyhoo) and IODIZING for IONIZING (17A: Like some radiation). I don't think repetition of little words matters much, but three ITs, two of them on top of one another (IN ITSELF, IGNORE IT), seems a little much. Kate BEATON is a wonderful, popular comics artist—she has been all over the NYT "Graphic Books" bestseller list for her collections "Hark, A Vagrant" and "Step Aside, Pops" (with both books reaching #1). Her work is amazing and I have at least two t-shirts and one refrigerator magnet designed by her and you should definitely check out her smart and hilarious comic-strip takes on literature and history. Like, now. This is all to say that seeing BEAT ON clued as 49D: Pummel was very, very disappointing.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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