Gaming trailblazer / SUN 2-12-17 / 1950s French president Rene / Dismaying announcement about disaster relief / Roker's appeal before bastric bypass surgery / Abductor of Persephone
Sunday, February 12, 2017
Constructor: Lynn Lempel
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: "Do the Splits" — familiar phrases are clued as if one of the words is in fact two words, i.e. clued wackily
- GO OFF ON A TAN GENT (23A: Berate some guy for getting too much sun?)
- POE, TRY READING (37A: Suggestion to a bored short story writer?)
- BRA IN WAVES (55A: Result of a serious wardrobe malfunction at the beach?)
- LAB OR PARTY? (74A: Scientist's dilemma regarding work vs. play?)
- JUST ICE FOR ALL (86A: Dismaying announcement about disaster aid?)
- FAT AL ATTRACTION (106A: Roker's appeal before gastric bypass surgery?)
- UNFUNDED MAN DATES (36D: What a cash-strapped beau might take you on?)
- FU MANCHU MUST ACHE (16D: "That villain in comics has sure gotta be sore!"?)
noun: pouf; plural noun: poufs
- a dress or part of a dress in which a large mass of material has been gathered so that it stands away from the body.
"a dress with a pouf skirt"
- a bouffant hairstyle.
"he grew his hair out in a sort of pouf" (google.com)
• • •
GO OFF ON A TAN GENT and UNFUNDED MAN DATES, so I thought it was going to be all about dudes somehow ... but then it just ended up being "split" words. Results were often good, but it's an extremely loose premise. There must be tons of words one can split. Why these? Just 'cause. I'm not a big fan of "some stuff I could think of that's symmetrical" as the primary limiter on a theme. Still, as I say, some were quite funny, including BRA IN WAVES and LAB OR PARTY? I still don't get what JUST ICE FOR ALL means in the context of its clue. How is "disaster aid" relevant here? It's dismaying to get ice as a form of disaster aid? To get *only* ice? But ... who brings ice to a disaster at all? I can't even imagine the context in which this makes any sense, let alone is funny. I asked Twitter. No response. Fu Manchu is a creation of *novelist* Sax Rohmer, so that whole "villain in comics" angle in the clue (16D) was lost on me. Also, that FAT AL ATTRACTION clue is super-off-putting. Somehow referring to someone's gastric bypass surgery felt ... overly personal. Dumb. Bad. There had to be a better way to go. I was thinking maybe Weird Al's video for "Eat It," but, improbably, that's NOT the one in which he gets fat. The one in which he gets fat is (improbably) yet another Michael Jackson parody: "Fat."
I finished with a wrong square. Totally unfindable for me, even though I suspected that one of the words involved was wrong. But POUFS (75D: High hairdos) is not a thing I know very well, if at all, and as clued, well, I went with POOFS. If you hair is poofy ... POOFS. So I had NOB at 83A: Gist, and, as my friend Austin (who made the Same Mistake) said, NOB "sounded perfectly gist-like to me." NUB, like POUFS, is a fussy word I'd never use. Also, I think of a NUB as a little stump, like a worn-down pencil. Just change NUB to SUB and the whole thing would've been confusion-free. But no. NUB. NUB was the preferred answer.
It's terrible form, design-wise, to have a 10-letter non-themer literally abutting a 10-letter non-themer (as happens twice in this grid). When themers are longer answers (as they are the vast majority of the time), there shouldn't be any non-themers as long (at least not running in the same direction). This is basic. Avoids confusion. Is elegant. RAWRECRUIT (51A: Greenhorn on the force) on top of BRAINWAVES is just yuck. I kept wanting RAWRECRUIT to be theme material and couldn't "split" it. ADMITTANCE (77A: Entry) didn't bug me as much (though, again, a word I'd never use), but the principle holds—non-themers are Shorter than themers. This is 101 stuff. The grid overall seems pretty solid, and many themers were enjoyable, but there was more clunk here, esp. in the theme, than there should've been.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
PS this is a treasure (the things you stumble on to when you're blogging a crossword...)
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