Tin Drum boy / SAT 7-9-16 / Jazz great Montgomery / Unconventional and hippielike informally / Hockey sticks in cards
Saturday, July 9, 2016
Constructor: Josh Knapp
Relative difficulty: Easy
Word of the Day: The Lost Battalion (38A: Where the Lost Battalion got lost (ARGONNE)) —
77th Division, roughly 554 men, isolated by German forces during World War I after an American attack in the Argonne Forest in October 1918. Roughly 197 were killed in action and approximately 150 missing or taken prisoner before 194 remaining men were rescued. They were led by Major Charles White Whittlesey. On 2 October, the division quickly advanced into the Argonne, under the belief that French forces were supporting the left flank and two American units including the 92nd Division were supporting the right flank. Unknown to Whittlesey's unit, the French advance had been stalled. Without this knowledge, the Americans had moved beyond the rest of the Allied line and found themselves completely cut off and surrounded by German forces. For the next six days, suffering heavy losses, the men of the division were forced to fight off several attacks by the Germans, who saw the small American units as a threat to their whole line. // The battalion suffered many hardships. Food was short, and water was available only by crawling under fire to a nearby stream. Ammunition ran low. Communications were also a problem, and at times they would be bombarded by shells from their own artillery. As every runner dispatched by Whittlesey either became lost or ran into German patrols, carrier pigeons became the only method of communicating with headquarters. In an infamous incident on 4 October, inaccurate coordinates were delivered by one of the pigeons and the unit was subjected to "friendly fire". The unit was saved by another pigeon, Cher Ami, delivering the following message:
WE ARE ALONG THE ROAD PARALELL 276.4. OUR ARTILLERY IS DROPPING A BARRAGE DIRECTLY ON US. FOR HEAVENS SAKE STOP IT.Despite this, they held their ground and caused enough of a distraction for other Allied units to break through the German lines, which forced the Germans to retreat.
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CHILLAXED is old hat by now, and everything else seems tame. Not bold. Again, it's technically proficient. Just somewhat flavorless. I like more daring from my themelesses. I will admit that my slightly negative feelings are undoubtedly, at least partially, the result of a NYT puzzle website screw-up, which resulted in an ERRONEOUS puzzle download. To wit, I tried to download the puzzle in .puz (AcrossLite) format, as I always do, but even though the file had the correct name, it was actually the Mini puzzle... that's at least two kinds of disappointing right there. So I whined audibly (i.e. on Twitter) for a few minutes, but I don't have all night so I had to go in and solve on-site, and yuck ugh boo I don't like the interface. I have a system and a time frame and when that gets thrown off, blargh. NYT got the file problem fixed pretty quickly, but not quickly enough for me. This is all to say that I wasn't in the Greatest mood when I started in on this puzzle. Still, even now, having taken the time to breathe and look at the puzzle objectively ... it seems a bit tepid.
- 14D: Heaps (LOTS) — few things are more annoying, solving-wise, than being confronted with the familiar LOTS v. TONS dilemma. Since neither IDOL (11A: Treasure hunter's loot, maybe) nor SYST (18A: Way: Abbr.) was very clear, that little NE corner took me somewhat longer than it should have.
- 26D: Sphere of control (FIEF) — I keep looking at this and it keeps looking like not-a-word. Somebody call a dom.
- 27D: Org. in "Patriot Games" (IRA) — never saw it. Thought the International Olympic Committee might be involved. Also, as far as I knew, the Last Battalion were something from the Star Wars universe, so ARGONNE took some doing.
- 52D: Land on the Gulf of Guinea (TOGO) — forgot this place existed. Adjacent clue 53D: Project with a lot of momentum (HURL) also very tough (needed 3/4 before I got it). Since these two answers provided the first two letters in all the long Acrosses in the SE, that section took a little longer than it should have, but, again, I'm gonna blame the dumb / unfamiliar-to-me interface and my mild annoyance. The crossword was, objectively, easy. And solid.
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