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Monday, May 23, 2016
Constructor: Ori Brian
Relative difficulty: Easy (even for a Monday)
THEME: body part of the something — colloquial phrases following the pattern "___ OF THE ___" where first word is a body part:
- BUTT OF THE JOKE (20A: One being laughed at)
- HEAD OF THE TABLE (28A: Where Mom or Dad sits at dinner)
- NECK OF THE WOODS (47A: Locale)
- EYE OF THE STORM (54A: Where it's calmest in a hurricane)
Liam James Payne (born 29 August 1993) is an English singer and songwriter. He made his debut as a singer when he auditioned as a solo artist for the British television series The X Factor in 2008 with "Fly Me to the Moon" by Frank Sinatra. Though cut by Simon Cowell following judge's house, Payne was encouraged to audition again. He reauditioned as a solo artist in 2010, where he was put into a group along with four other contestants, to form the boy band that would later become known as One Direction. (wikipedia)
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BUTT OF THE JOKE really should've been the *final* themer, not the first. It's got the funniest body part in it (the only slangy one, the only one located below the shoulders), and it makes the perfect "punchline" for this theme. Why would you not put that answer at the bottom (!)) of the grid? Themer order matters, and your final themer should really be the best expression of the theme—it should merit its finality (Merl taught me that). But, as I say, that is the only issue I have. The theme makes sense, and the fill is mercifully clean and even occasionally interesting (HOVERBOARD!). No, wait, I have one more minor issue with the theme—if you ask me [Where it's calmest in a hurricane], I'm going to say "in the EYE OF THE ... hurricane, actually." EYE OF THE STORM is a fine answer. The cluing just struck me as somehow slightly amiss.
There were precisely two trouble parts for me in this one ("trouble" being a relative term, as I finished in 2:39). First, I had fishing in my head when I read 8D: Catch in a net, so I couldn't parse ENMESH at all at first. Needed many crosses. Also, you'll excuse me if I'm not up on all the members of One Direction. [___ Payne] meant nothing to me, though now that I see LIAM in there, that name sounds familiar. I know there's a Harry in there somewhere, and ... sure, LIAM, why not? So there was the problem of ENMESHing LIAM. Then there was just getting a handle on NECK OF THE WOODS. The clue ([Locale]) is so terse and enigmatic that how you were supposed to get from that one word to a 13s-letter phrase was not at all clear. But even after I had N-C-O... I could think of nothing but NECRO-something. But again, this is all happening at pretty high speeds, and a few more crosses took care of the confusion.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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