Liberal political activist Ralph / SAT 6-18-16 / Wendi ex-wife of Rupert Murdoch / Big comics character / Tavern assistant / application of democracy to love per HL Mencken
Saturday, June 18, 2016
Constructor: Todd Gross
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: squaresville (actually, none, I think)
Word of the Day: RUNAGATES (3D: Fugitives) —
1. A renegade or deserter.2. A vagabond.
[Alteration of obsolete renegate, renegade (influenced by run and agate, on the way), from Middle English, from Medieval Latin renegātus; see renegade.] (thefreedictionary.com)
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VANESSAS. Long name plurals always seem ridiculous to me. If only we could've paired the VANESSAS with a [Sergio et al.] clue for the equally-not-good LEONES. Just look at all the plurals and otherwise "S"-ending words. I mean, how many NOONS do you need? Note how the "SS" in VANESSAS and the "SS" in HARASSES are both positioned to give us "S"-ending Downs. ITERS, god, no, make it stop (44D: Things that lead to Rome?). That one's bad enough in the singular. CLI!? Come on. And who in the what in the who is NEAS??? (29D: Liberal political activist Ralph). That's just bonkers. If that were anybody, anybody crossworthy, we'd've seen him in Countless puzzles by now. According to wikipedia, "Ralph Neas (born May, 17, 1946 in Brookline, Massachusetts) is former President and CEO of the Generic Pharmaceutical Association (GPhA), a Washington, D.C.-based trade association, representing generic drug makers and suppliers." What is happening?!?! Who? Ah, here we go:
From 1981 through 1995, he served as Executive Director of the nonpartisan Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR). At LCCR, Neas directed national civil rights campaigns including the Civil Rights Act of 1991, the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1988, the 1988 Fair Housing Act Amendments, the Japanese American Civil Liberties Act of 1988, and the 1982 Voting Rights Act Extension. Senator Edward Kennedy, in a 1995 Senate floor statement, described Neas as the "101st Senator for Civil Rights.I'm sure he's a nice guy, but in a puzzle already glutted with obscuritude, and crossing the godawful LEONES, no. It's like the grid was built to accommodate a few decent longer answers, but literally nothing else. Honestly, this thing should be torn down all the way to its bones (i.e. the grid-spanners) and rebuilt. And that's only if you accept the grid design as it is, which I'm not sure I do.
This puzzle was 3/4 pretty easy and 1/4 insane—that quarter being the NW corner. The BAR part of BARBACK was easy (1A: Tavern assistant), but the rest, less so, especially considering that with __T in place at 5D: Part of the conjugation for "avoir," and *knowing French*, I went with the clear choice ... ONT. Third person plural present indicative. . . But no. Too common, I guess, because the puzzle went with third person singular present *subjunctive* AIT (hey, puzzle, you know that's an island in a stream, right? ... that is what that is). Ugh. AIT. But the big ugh, the queen bee ugh in that section, was 3D: Fugitives (RUNAGATES). It's like someone shouting at his marbles: Flee, marbles, flee!!! I have never seen that word in my life. Reaction on Twitter from serious solvers is so far similar. Run ... run ... where are we running ... somewhere ... but where? I'm guessing that a not insignificant number of people will solve this thing right down to the DENG / RUNAGATES crossing and then, just, die. Or guess, I guess. That crossing is death. Also, completely unpleasant. Luckily, I remembered that the ex Mrs. Murdoch was Asian, otherwise, lord knows what letter I'd've gone with instead of the "G."
AMII? (38D: ___ Stewart, singer of the 1979 #1 hit "Knock on Wood"). Wow. That's how you spell that? I knew it was a weird spelling of "Amy," but I didn't know it was Insane Latin Plural-looking weird. ENSE! Why won't that horrible motto part die? I'm gonna let this one go now. The only thing pleasant I'm taking away from it is the nonsense phrase "BARBACK Obama," which I hope someone turns into a wacky theme answer right quick.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
P.S. OMG, AIT is *literally* "(an island) in the stream" (i.e. it crosses the STREAM of MAINSTREAM MEDIA). How in the world do you give it the stupid French subjunctive clue, aargh?!
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