Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Archer's wife in Maltese Falcon /THU 9-8-11/ Nevada county containing Yucca Mountain / Italian scientist who lent name to number / Episode VI returnee

Constructor: Matt Ginsberg and Pete Muller

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: "Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test" by Tom WOLFE (25A: Author of the 1968 work named in the circled letters (reading clockwise)) — WOLFE is in the grid along with KESEY (44A: Leader of the 35-Across) and MERRY PRANKSTERS (35A: Subject of the 1968 work)

Word of the Day: STU ERWIN (1A: He played Joe Palooka in the 1934 film "Palooka") —

Stuart Erwin (14 February 1903, Squaw Valley, California — 21 December 1967, Beverly Hills, California) was an American actor. Erwin began acting in college in the 1920s, first appearing on the stage, then breaking into films in 1928 in Mother Knows Best. He was cast as amiable oafs in several films such as The Sophomore, The Big Broadcast, Hollywood Cavalcade, Our Town, International House and Viva Villa!. In 1934 he was cast as Joe Palooka in the film Palooka, and in 1935 he had a supporting role in After Office Hours (starring Clark Gable). He co-starred in the Paramount Pictures all-star revue Paramount on Parade (1930). // In 1936, he was cast in Pigskin Parade, for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. // In Walt Disney's Bambi, he did the voice of a tree squirrel. // In 1950, Erwin made the transition to television, where he starred in Trouble with Father, which was eventually retitled The Stu Erwin Show. He co-starred with his wife, actress June Collyer. He later appeared in the Disney films Son of Flubber and The Misadventures of Merlin Jones. He also appeared with Jack Palance in the ABC series The Greatest Show on Earth during the 1963-1964 television season. // Erwin has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6240 Hollywood Blvd. He is buried in Chapel of the Pines Crematory. (wikipedia)

• • •

Well, that was something. On the one hand, I like the theme idea, though I don't quite understand what the answer going around the perimeter clockwise has to do with the theme. It's a cool trick, but it is related to the book somehow? No matter, that part is fine, though this is one of those themes that favor (heavily) older solvers. The New Journalism and '60s drug culture aren't really on the radar for people who didn't live through the '60s. I got the references, but I have a Ph.D. in English, so I'm not exactly typical. But, again, fine. Narrow, and old-skewing, but fine. The fill in this puzzle, however, was often less than fine. I'LL NEVER and I LEAVE aren't not free-standing phrases in any way, shape, or form. They are partials pretending to be something more substantial. Will doesn't generally allow partials longer than five letters, but apparently he'll allow Two if he likes your theme and you can dress the partials up as legitimate independent phrases. If the MERRY PRANKSTERS skews old, STU ERWIN skews superold. He also happens to look Horrible in the grid. TRACTILE should have its wordness revoked (17A: Able to be drawn out), and PTUI (30A: Cartoon "Yuck!") and O'TEA think I don't see them, but I do. All in all, a little too much KLUDGE for my taste (44D: Workable if awkward solution to a crossword computer problem).

Had weird issues with the NYT solving applet, which was cutting off the ends of some clues, such as 46D: Last word in a showman's spiel [sp...] (VOILA!) and 48A: Like ruckuses or roadster roofs [roo...] (RAISABLE). OK, RAISABLE should've been on my horrible fill list, above. Firefox hates it (giving it the red underline treatment) and really, a ruckus? Sure, and a fit is pitchable. Bah. I actually thought I might sail through this one at first, when SETH (1D: MacFarlane who created TV's "Family Guy") and TARE (2D: Amount ignored in weighing) and USAF (3D: Org. with the ad slogan "It's not science fiction. It's what we do every day") went right in and gave me the first letters of all those long Acrosses in the NE. I got none of them. Never (or barely) heard of STU ERWIN, even EAST- couldn't get me EASTERLY (tried EASTWARD) (15A: Like the trades) and TRACTABLE (a real word) didn't fit at 17A. After some struggle, picked up the theme and again thought I'd sail through (theme got me a lot of free squares). But no. Clued (and filled) to a solid Thursday/Friday level. Very much liked "YOUR MOVE" and SIDEKICKS. Rest of the fill seemed tolerable to poor.

  • 8D: Nevada county containing Yucca Mountain (NYE) — Oh, *that* Nevada County. [facepalm] [facedesk] [deskfacepalm]
  • 18A: National park whose name means "the high one" (DENALI) — so-named because the natives smoked a Lot of weed. It's medicinal, man.
  • 19A: Bunny fancier (HEF) — there is a new show starting this fall about the Playboy Club. It looks like something that will last ... about five weeks.
  • 39A: Source of the saying "The gods help them that help themselves") (AESOP)AESOP knew that welfare just gives poor people incentive to be lazy. Aesop '12!
  • 34D: Language from which "spunk" is derived (ERSE) — one of the few words less appealing than ERSE is "spunk"
We're having epic rains here: schools canceled, record flooding, 10,000+ people evacuated from their homes. Population centers get all the media attention, but upstate NY and New England have just been getting destroyed the past two weeks. Combine climate change patterns (our last "70-year flood" was in 2006, for example) with climate change denial and general gov. brokeness and unwillingness to invest in infrastructure improvements, and things don't look good for near future. It's enough to make me wanna take some acid and get in a van and go do some merry pranking, man. And I'd do it. It's just that the funds aren't RAISABLE at this time.

Happy 10th birthday to my amazing nephew, Miles.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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