Japanese mat / THU 3-5-15 / CSA general Stuart / Funny Silverman / Jean-Claude Van Damme film set in 1994 2004 / Kona catch / Jose to friends / Great Wonder Woman cry / Session meeting after legislative dissolution

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Constructor: Jim Peredo

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium



THEME: FALLING BEHIND (38A: Lagging … or a hint to 17-, 19-, 56- and 61-Across) — several Across answers "fall" (i.e. go Down) at their tail end … the parts that "fall" are all synonyms for "behind":

Theme answers:
  • BABY AL(BUM) (19A: Record of infantile behavior?)
  • DONALD T(RUMP) (17A: Who said about himself "Women find his power almost as much of a turn-on as his money")
  • UNAMERI(CAN) (61A: Hating baseball and apple pie?)
  • GORY DE(TAIL) (56A: Part of a story you might not want to know)

Word of the Day: DRAY (58D: Farm cart) —
noun
  1. a truck or cart for delivering beer barrels or other heavy loads, especially a low one without sides. (google)
• • •
Hey, this works. I wasn't so sure at first. I wasn't having a ton of fun cutting through the grid (even though the fill was OK), and when I saw that BABY AL(BUM) drop I was like "man, didn't we just see this idea? … answers that turn or bend or whatever … this better be good." I had no real hope that it would, in fact, be good. I could see that the Acrosses made nonsense but the Downs made real words—or, rather, that the Acrosses made sense if you threw in the Down bits. But I honestly didn't see the connection that all the Downs had until pretty late, because I didn't get the front part of the revealer until pretty late (3/4 done). This is all to say that when I did, finally, fill in FALLING BEHIND, I did, in fact, have a genuine AHA moment. (I think I'm going to call the opposite of an AHA moment an "AHI moment," as in "Oh … I get it … that's fishy.")

[Profanity, but mostly incomprehensibility, ahead]

So the theme wins—makes a tired concept (bend-the-answer) interesting, and BEHIND ends up having a cool double-meaning (i.e. the part that falls means "behind," *and* comes at the "tail" end of the answer). The overall grid has pretty solid bones, and GALACTIC and (esp.) WE'RE LOST add a little color. Not much to complain about in the fill. Suboptimal stuff is pretty spread out. Things get a mite dicey in the NE (with the two 5-letter prefixes and the French and the two abbrevs.), but whatever bad taste is up there doesn't linger. Very decent Thursday.

Bullets:
  • 45A: José, to friends (PEPE) — José Le Pew?? I had no idea. 
  • 62D: Low (MOO) — last letter in the grid were those "O"s, both because I forgot exactly what James DOOHAN's last name was, and because (predictably) I misspelled DIARAMA thusly.
  • 3D: "Hurray" or "alas" (IAMB) — very, very tough clue. I spend much of Tuesday explaining exactly what an IAMB is to my 17th-century lit class, and *I* didn't get this until virtually everything around it was filled in. Unstressed stressed. "Eclipse," "Today," etc. The opposite (stressed unstressed, e.g. "tailor," "panic," "Batter (my heart three-personed God…") is a TROCHEE, which we somehow never see in crosswords.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Wild Duck dramatist / WED 3-4-15 / Bow-toter on seasonal cards / Title woman of 1957 #1 Paul Anka hit / Popular Japanese pizza topping / Walrus mustache feature

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Constructor: Jeff Stillman

Relative difficulty: Medium



THEME: puns involving male movie roles  — familiar phrases are clued as if they have some relation to roles played by famous actors

Theme answers:
  • BOND TRADERS (17A: Connery and Lazenby, between 1967 and 1971?)
  • ROCKY START (11D: 1976, for Stallone's rise to stardom?)
  • TRIPLE AXEL (29D: Eddie Murphy, after 1984, 1987 and 1994?)
  • PLAYING SOLO (64A: What Harrison Ford was doing in 1977, 1980 and 1983?)
Word of the Day: SERIN (44A: European finch) —
noun
  1. a small Eurasian and North African finch related to the canary, with a short bill and typically streaky plumage. (google)
• • •

Inconsistent. Off. Wonky. I just couldn't get into this one. The fill skews old and stale, too (SE is particularly gunky), so there wasn't much for me here, except CETOLOGY (big Moby-Dick fan) (27A: Study of whales). So what, exactly, was wrong? BOND TRADERS was OK. A little thinky (i.e. you have to know that the role of Bond went from Connery in 1967 to Lazenby in 1969 and then *back* to Connery in 1971 …). Even then, the answer's a little forced, but I could roll with it. But both the answer, ROCKY START, and its clue (11D: 1976, for Stallone's rise to stardom?) felt off. It's *Stallone's* rise to stardom. But it's the franchise "Rocky"'s start. Stallone got his start (stardom-wise) playing Rocky, but ROCKY START does not capture that. Also, ROCKY START … isn't the tightest phrase. No tighter than "rough start," which means roughly the equivalent. Then there's the role-outlier, AXEL (Foley), which belongs in this puzzle not at all. Those movies did big business, but compared to James Bond, Rocky Balboa, and Han Solo, the name "Axel" just doesn't rate, fame-wise. Worst of all is PLAYING SOLO,  which isn't a phrase. Or, it is, but it's weak. GOING SOLO or, better, FLYING SOLO, are better, more solid, more real things. PLAYING SOLO … meh. Also confusing that the three years quoted in the clue for TRIPLE AXEL mattered (i.e. three years relates to "TRIPLE"), but the three years quoted in the PLAYING SOLO clue … didn't. So lots of little junky things about the cluing and answer quality just kept this from being that entertaining to me.

[FALTERMEYER]

Bullets:
  • 56A: ___-watch (BINGE) — by far the hardest thing for me to get. Not knowing the [Title woman of a 1957 #1 Paul Anka hit] (told you the fill skewed old…) I figured it must be something uncommon like DEANA, so I had BENGE-watch and stared at it and had no idea what part could be wrong. This is especially weird, considering I had just finished watching Season 1 Episode 3 of "Mad Men," which I am semi-BINGE-(re-)watching in its totality, leading up to the series finale this April 5.
  • 55A: Cy Young candidates's stats (ERAS) — ??? … They're every pitcher's stats. The worst pitchers have ERAS. This clue is ridiculous.
  • 34A: Walrus mustache feature (DROOP) — ??? … I see that the wikipedia entry for "walrus mustache" says they have a DROOP (because the lip hair "droops" over the mouth…), but … man, that is a weird direction to go for this clue. If I had to list ten features of a "walrus mustache," that word wouldn't come up.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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