Heady stuff / FRI 3-3-17 / Mortal sister of the immortal Stheno and Euryale / Jumpsuit-wearing music group / Champagne grape / "Jaws" locale / "Why is a raven like a writing-desk?" / "Only little people pay taxes" / Dachshund, colloquially
Friday, March 3, 2017
Constructor: Patrick Berry
Relative difficulty: An averagely challenging themeless to finish out the week
Word of the Day: DEVO (15A: Jumpsuit-wearing music group) —
Devo (//, originally //) is an American rock band that formed in 1973, consisting of members from Kent and Akron, Ohio. Their classic line-up consisted of two sets of brothers, the Mothersbaughs (Mark and Bob) and the Casales (Gerald and Bob), along with Alan Myers. The band had a No. 14 Billboard chart hit in 1980 with the single "Whip It" and has maintained a cult following throughout its existence.
Devo's music and stage shows mingle kitsch science fiction themes, deadpan surrealist humor and mordantly satirical social commentary. Their often discordant pop songs feature unusual synthetic instrumentation and time signatures that have proven influential on subsequent popular music, particularly new wave, industrial, and alternative rock artists. Devo was also a pioneer of the music video, creating many memorable clips for the LaserDisc format, with "Whip It" getting heavy airplay in the early days of MTV. (Wikipedia)
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As with many themelesses (themelessi? themelesstrixes? themelesstropodes?), the solved grid looks way easier than the solving experience was. All three of the middle stack just fell into place right away: the aforementioned ASTEROID BELTS, the MAD TEA PARTY (31A: Where Alice is asked "Why is a raven like a writing-desk?" -- you might recall that Andrew Kingsley used this as the seed for a riddle puzzle last fall), and QUEEN OF MEAN (36A: Sobriquet for the woman who said "Only the little people pay taxes"). In the early 90s I used to walk to work in Manhattan, taking a shortcut through the Midcentury Modern masterpiece PanAm Building (I refuse to call it the MetLife Building), which led into the Beaux-Arts masterpiece Helmsley Building (née New York Central Building), where there was a huge (yuge!) portrait in the lobby of Leona Helmsley, the Queen of Mean herself (in those pre-9/11 days when you could just stroll through office buildings with impunity). She and that era (and tax evasion) are forever linked in my mind with our current president. The north and south of the grid presented a few stumbling blocks -- I had NOAH for ESAU (8D: Biblical polygamist [though weren't they all?]), and could not recall the idiom IN STIR (59A: Doing time).
- ABASES (4A: Brings down) and ABATE (32D: Lose intensity) — As my solving buddy Austin pointed out, having both in the same puzzle seems like an editorial oversight.
- UNICYCLE (22A: Take the wheel?) — Loved the clue for this; very clever misdirection to clue it as a verb instead of a noun.
- AMITY (4D: ___ Island ("Jaws" locale)) — Had trouble remembering this; I blame the dominance of the Sharknado oeuvre in the current crop of shark movies.
- EEL (48A: Ocean floor burrower) — What's a grid without an EEL?
- CHARO (23D: Her albums include "Cuchi-Cuchi" and "Olé, Olé")
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