Ultra 93 vendor / FRI 8-1-14 / Winner of inaugural Vaclav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent / First talking pet in American comics / Boorish member of Round Table / First substitute on basketball bench / Indian novelist Raja / It means sulfur island in Japanese / Deity with more than 16000 wives / Catchphrase for paranoid
Friday, August 1, 2014
Constructor: Ashton Anderson and James Mulhern
Relative difficulty: Medium
Word of the Day: AI WEIWEI (16A: Winner of the inaugural Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent (2012)) —
Ai Weiwei […] born on 28 August 1957 in Beijing, China, is a Chinese contemporary artist, active in sculpture, installation, architecture, curating, photography, film, and social, political and cultural criticism. Ai collaborated with Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron as the artistic consultant on the Beijing National Stadium for the 2008 Olympics. As a political activist, he has been highly and openly critical of the Chinese Government's stance on democracy and human rights. He has investigated government corruption and cover-ups, in particular the Sichuan schools corruption scandal following the collapse of so-called "tofu-dreg schools" in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. In 2011, following his arrest at Beijing Capital International Airport on 3 April, he was held for 81 days without any official charges being filed; officials alluded to their allegations of "economic crimes". (wikipedia)
SIR KAY—and a phrase I use all the time—DONE AND DONE ("and I mean Done!"—Homer Simpson), and there's hardly a clunker in sight. Whatever little annoyances there are—prefixes or directions or Latin plant names—are a. small and b. holding up tremendous stuff. Use your dull short stuff wisely! I am quite stunned by the three long, adjacent colloquialisms in the NW, mirrored by two others in the SE (as well as AM RADIO, with its superb clue, 37D: Rush home?). There are even clever little touches, like the placement of JAG and TIGE over TAMER (I know lions are usually the big cats being tamed, but I liked the big cat imagery just the same), or the strong noirish feel achieved by juxtaposing TRUST NO ONE and TAKE THE FALL. Then there's the fact that "TRUST NO ONE" is actually a catchphrase from "The X-Files" (see 47A). Nice. I do have one objection to this puzzle, though. I'm not crazy about AI WEIWEI. He's not so well-known yet, and his name is crazily spelled and not inferable. . . Wait, no. That's not my opinion. That's a direct quote from Will Shortz to me and Caleb Madison re: a Sunday puzzle we published a couple years back. My mistake! (See here; mentioned on Buzzfeed here) (Congrats to WS on smartly, if belatedly, coming around on that one)
Had an easier time in the east than I did in the west with this one; or at least I finished the east first. That NW didn't fall for me til late. Didn't know about CUL, despite 7 years of French (2D: French bottom). It sounds profane. "Un film de cul" is a porn film, so … yeah. It's a rough equivalent of "ass," I think, in that "ass" (as well as "tail") can mean "sex" in colloquial American English (he said, sexily over-explaining things). Wanted only ACERBIC (no fit) at 1A: Very harsh (ACIDIC), and therefore didn't get far up there at first. The fact that all those long Downs up there are multi-word colloquialisms made them pretty tough to parse.
I wrote in GENT at 20A: "I say" sayer (BRIT), only to have GENT come right back around with a bright "cheerio" at 27D: Hat-tipping sort. Could not fathom what the hell 47A: "The X-Files" program, for short even meant … until I could (SETI—Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence). SIXTH MAN! THE CLOUD! NEW-AGEY! (which I hear way more often than the way, way commoner (in crosswords) NEW-AGER). Supercool work all around.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld