Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Exotic dancer executed in 1917 / WED 8-24-11 / Fester and Vanya / River to the Rhine / 1983 Mr. T comedy

Constructor: Kelsey Blakley

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: Prepend-a-Vowel — Throw the vowels at the beginning of each of the longest entries in order. Beyond that, there's nothing that these phrases have in common as far as I can tell.

Word of the Day: LEAN ON ME (39D: 1989 movie featuring principal Joe 
Clark) —
Lean on Me is a 1989 dramatized biographical written by Michael Schiffer, directed by John G. Avildsen and starring Morgan Freeman.Lean on Me is loosely based on the story of Joe Louis Clark, a real life inner city high school principal in Paterson, New Jersey, whose school is at risk of being taken over by the New Jersey state government unless students improve their test scores. This film's title refers to the 1972 Bill Withers song of the same name. (wikipedia)

• • •
Hello everyone - it's Neville here, visiting from my regular post over at Crossword Fiend. Like Rex said, you're in for a real treat over the few days. I'm personally excited for what's coming up on Sunday, but enough about Rex's vacation. Let's get to this puzzle!

I struggled to figure this theme out for the longest time. Right off the bat I was filling in wrong letters left and right. AIR BASES are (3D: Homes for drones), but hey, so are ant farms. I did really like that NW corner construction - X-RAY LABS and MATA HARI are both nice entries. The opposite corner has LEAN ON ME, which is fine, but the rest isn't quite as fun. It serves its purpose.

My slow movement through the theme entries due to a lack of a common thread beyond the added letter (though it's not listed on the BS theme list) was slightly alleviated by some familiar content. AOLERS was an unfortunate freebie to see, but AFL-CIO looks nice in the grid. EVADE and ELATE are very familiar five-letter entries. With those in place, I could get things like ARTIST from the not-too-specific clue of (12D: iTunes search category).

Theme answers:
  • ATROPHY CASE (17A: Physical therapist's assignment?)

  • EBONY FISH (24A: Blackened seafood?)

  • ISLANDER TRIAL (36A: Castaway's day in court?)

  • OLIVE BAIT (49A: Lure for Popeye's sweetie?)

  • UNIT PICKING (59A: Choosing between pounds and kilos?)

I've hinted at it, so how about I spit it out. The theme didn't do much for me. I got a smile out of 2 of the 5 theme entries. There was nothing pulling them together. Sometimes I thought it was fishing related (FISH & BAIT), other times I thought it was a legal theme (CASE & TRIAL). I want a tight theme when you're adding just a single letter, especially if each is a different vowel. It's not a bad theme, but it's not mind-blowingly awesome, either. Some of my disappointment comes from the fact that I can think of another way one might clue UNIT PICKING.


  • (11D: Wife of BrutusPORTIA — There's also a Portia in The Merchant of Venice - that's a different one. There's a girl on this season of Big Brother whose name I thought was Portia, but it's actually Porsche. I don't blame her - I blame her parents.

  • (52D: Med-alert bracelet, e.g.ID TAG — This fell easily with the D and T in place - clearly two words.

  • (20A: Gossip, to an AussieYABBER — Yammer + jabber = YABBER. No, it more likely comes from an Aboriginal language. Oh well. Sometimes made up etymologies can be more fun that the real ones.

  • (45D: Runt's groupLITTER — Yes, a litter is a group with a runt, but it feels weird saying that the litter is the runt's group, as though it has possession of the litter. Quite the opposite!

Signed, Neville, Prince of CrossWorld

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