Saturday, March 12, 2016
Constructor: Josh Knapp
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
Word of the Day: BOX SOCIAL (14A: Old-fashioned affair à la "Oklahoma!") —
In the U.S. state of Vermont the tradition is that women decorate a cardboard box and fill it with a lunch or dinner for two. The men bid on the women's boxes anticipating a meal with the woman whose box it is. Generally the boxes are anonymous, so the men don't know which woman belongs to which box, nor what the box contains, the mystery and sometimes humorous results adding to the fun. However, it is not unknown for a young woman to surreptitiously drop hints to a favored man indicating which box is hers, as a way of "rigging" the results (and avoiding potentially less desirable company). The bidding involves teasing, joking, and competition. The event frequently takes place in a town hall, school gymnasium, or church hall. The practice had fallen out of favor with young people in the 1970s–1990s, but has seen some resurgence in recent years. The rules today have become less rigid. Men now provide boxes as well, but the goal remains the same: raising money for a school, church, or civic project. A notable example from pop culture is the second act of Oklahoma!, which is set at a box social. (Wikipedia)
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So I guess Rex was at a high school musical -- we don't know if it's "Oklahoma!" and we may/will definitely never know -- so it's me, Lena, again.
My boyfriend got QUESTLOVE (17A: "Tonight Show" bandleader with a signature 'fro) instantly (question: why do we assume his hairstyle is a "signature" rather than just, say, his hair?), and I followed on his heels with BBQ PIT (1D: Where dogs may be put in the backyard)-- a nice misdirecting clue with no "heads-up" question mark. I love the word ECLAT (6D: Acclaim) and am always happy to see it in puzzles-- which is pretty much the only place I do. BOX SOCIAL though... that was definitely a new old one on me. The concept seems weird-- it's a... meal swap? Secret sandwich? Men can put food in a box now too? Basically it's clear that I need to host one now. I will raise money for gin. For me.
THATS WHATS UP (31A: "Hell, yeah!") is a fun answer with a long stretch of consonants (TSWH) in the middle just to make you sweat your crosses. That stodgy punctuation in the clue though! Just make with the exuberance and throw caution to the comma. We've got that "hell," ASS (4D: Jerk) and SEX SHOP (13D: Once-common Times Square establishment) to make for a wild Saturday. But the [Joint issue] is GOUT (28A) and has nothing to do with a missing roach clip or passing in the incorrect direction.
I wanted TAIGA for TYROL (34D: Alpine region) because I had NO WAIT instead of NOT YET (37A: "Hang on, hang on"). I liked (10D: Keep lubed, say) for REOIL because it didn't do that annoying thing where you know it's RE- because they've put "again" in the clue. You get it. Overall I enjoyed the cluing in this puzzle-- clever, conversational, spunky.
But what's up with [Termagant] for SCOLD (56A)? This is some next-level SAT vocab trivia-- and I don't like that the definition refers first and foremost to "an overbearing woman." I hate "shrew" and the concept that it's always women who nag, so why not just clue the word as is-- [Chide] or something. Oh, I'm sorry, am I being a termagant?
Also was not a fan of PENCIL PUSHER (38A: Office drudge). I work in an office; I'm an admin, and I do a LOT more than "push pencils." Office jobs are not inherently boring-- it's a crappy stereotype. I worked in the poxvirus division of the CDC and *that* was certainly one of the most boring jobs I've had.
I had a good time with this puzzle overall and thought it was clean, but maybe a little on the easy side for a Saturday.
Signed, Lena Webb, Court Jester of CrossWorld
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