Mumbai titles / MON 4-25-16 / Don't mess with him per old song lyric / Walter who created Woody Woodpecker / James of Gunsmoke
Monday, April 25, 2016
Constructor: Betty Keller
Relative difficulty: North of Medium by a little bit (i.e. Medium-Challenging *for a Monday*)
THEME: MR. IN-BETWEEN (37A: "Don't mess with" him, per an old song lyric ... or a hint to 18-, 20-, 55- and 58-Across) — "MR." is "IN BETWEEN" (i.e. straddling) two words in two-word phrase:
- BOTTOM ROW (18A: 64-, 65- and 66-Across, in this puzzle)
- STEAMROLLER (20A: Heavy vehicle that smooths a road surface)
- PALM READING (55A: Means of fortunetelling)
- AM/FM RADIO (58A: Audio feature that comes standard on cars)
Walter Benjamin Lantz (April 27, 1899 – March 22, 1994) was an American cartoonist, animator, film producer, and director, best known for founding Walter Lantz Productions and creating Woody Woodpecker. (wikipedia)
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Then there is the much much bigger problem of fill quality. It's quite poor. This is a 74-worder—that is low for a Monday. I Do Not understand why this grid wasn't built in a more accommodating, good-fill-friendly manner. Bring it up to 76 or 78 words, pull the themers apart a little, or at least add some corner cheaters in the NW and SE. *Something*. That NW corner is in excusable—and it's where people's first impressions of the puzzle come from. Will or Joel could refill that thing cleanly inside of 10 minutes, guaranteed. So why didn't they? I am baffled. We have to endure a partial, a foreign partial, a Latin phrase word, a single BEATLE, a tired golfer name, and (most improbable of all) *crossing* *old-timey* *names*. That square will Natick more than a few people guaranteed. It nearly got my wife. It got one other person I've heard back from already. This problem is—I can't stress this enough—utterly foreseeable. LANTZ is not and will never be a Monday name, no matter what it crosses, but crossing it with ARNESS.... (3D: James of "Gunsmoke") ... that is baffling. People who have been doing the puzzle forever and ever might not be troubled at all by either of those names, but man, look this puzzle over—from the theme, to every corner (but especially the NW corner), it's basically telling people under 40 to f-off.
The grid is both poorly filled and unacceptably narrow in its cultural frame of reference. Cleaning up that NW corner *alone* would've made this puzzle 2x as good. There are fill problems throughout, but virtually *everything* from ABANG down to MMLI is objectively not good, so a quick clean-up there would've made a huge difference. I do like the NE and SW corners on this one, with all those long Downs alongside one another. But they're not worth the pain we have to endure elsewhere. I mean, MAAMS plural? SRIS plural? You can't let puzzles go out like this—unpolished, unfinished. It's not fair to the constructor, and it's especially not fair to the solvers.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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