Jean old-time French pirate with base in New Orleans / MON 3-21-16 / Coffee shop employee / Sink-side rack / Action star Jason
Monday, March 21, 2016
Constructor: Michael Hawkins
Relative difficulty: Challenging (3:45, i.e. a Medium Tuesday)
THEME: HUSH HUSH (66A: Top-secret ... or a hint to 17-, 25-, 39- and 56-Across (AND 66-Across!) — phrases contain "SHH"
- SMASH HIT (17A: #1 success)
- RUSH HOUR (25A: Likeliest time for a traffic jam)
- TRASH HEAP (39A: Rubbish pile) (not RUBBISH HEAP?)
- FISH HOOK (56A: It's at the end of the line)
Word of the Day: Jean LAFITTE (21A: Jean ___, old-time French pirate with a base in New Orleans) —
Jean Lafitte (c. 1780 – c. 1823) was a French-American pirate and privateer in the Gulf of Mexico in the early 19th century. He and his elder brother, Pierre, spelled their last name Laffite, but English-language documents of the time used "Lafitte". The latter has become the common spelling in the United States, including for places named for him. (wikipedia)
• • •
LAFITTE is late-week stuff, STATHAM is a name I know but had no clear idea how to spell, understanding the clue and parsing the answer at 47D: Union agreements, informally? (PRE-NUPS) were both really tough to do, etc. Vague clues on UNWISE and UNTIDY, plus LAFITTE, plus IGNEOUS made that NE weirdly slow-going. Annoying when puzzle is so badly mis-slotted, but again, that has nothing to do with the puzzle's inherent quality. So ... quality. I mean, it's fine. I sort of like the SHHs (SHH is horrible fill on its own, but it's a neat little hidden element), and I like that the revealer also participates in the gimmick—nice trick. The fill is OK, but seems very 50-years-ago (despite Jason STATHAM crossing SAM Smith). I don't think people have given each other NOOGIEs in generations, DIG? Sorry if I sound like a FUSSPOT (another word no one has used in decades), but this just felt musty. It's like a nice-ish sweater that smells a little of mothballs: I'll keep it, but I won't find it too pleasant to ... wear ... in the near term. I think the simile fell apart a bit there, but you get the idea. Do WAH Diddy Diddy Dum Diddy old (60D: Do ___ Diddy Diddy" (1964 #1 hit)).
IN SPACE is kind of a weak stand-alone answer (44D: Where "no one can hear you scream," per "Alien"). I really dislike UNCAST, but I think that might just be personal taste (although, in my defense, it really really doesn't google well). Most of the annoying stuff is too slight to be too bothersome. I tripped all over the place. Took a while to remember DRAINER (3D: Sink-side rack). I call mine a "drying rack" and actually tried DRY RACK here, which is ridiculous, since "rack" in is in the clue. Had NEW DAY for NEW ERA (59A: Dawning period). Had CUT IT for CAN IT (63A: "That's enough out of you!"). I'm going to CAN IT now and get back to my laundry.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]