Saturday, October 22, 2011

Neurotic Martin Short character / SUN 10-23-11 / Slayer of his brother Bleda / Like average folks in Britain / Start of 1957 song

Constructor: Joe DiPietro

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "Take It From The Top" — Familiar phrases beginning with "IT" have "IT" removed, leaving ... odd phrases, clued wackily ("?"-style)

Word of the Day: Jennifer EHLE (119A: "Pride and Prejudice" actress Jennifer) —
Jennifer Ehle (born December 29, 1969) is a British-American actress of stage and screen. She is known for her BAFTA winning role as Elizabeth Bennet in the 1995 mini-series Pride and Prejudice. (wikipedia)
• • •

I pity the fool who has to follow Patrick Berry.

[For those who are solving this in syndication on Oct. 30, this puzzle followed a massive 6-day metapuzzle spectacular by Patrick Berry; I guess you all won't get to participate in the contest (don't worry, the prizes were terrible anyway), but I assume you'll be getting the first of those puzzles in about four weeks time—at least I hope so, for your sake. They were amazing]

This is one of those Sunday puzzles that makes me wish I didn't have to do Sunday puzzles anymore. It seems like a puzzle that was called into being by the title—it's so spot-on, that it almost makes me think it came first. I can't believe that's true, but if I found out it were, I wouldn't be terribly shocked. The resulting phrases aren't funny, even with wacky "?" clues, and the fill was forgettable at best, horrific at worst. I have UGH written next to whole sections. The DYNAST / SALVIA (69A: Plant known as "seer's sage" because of its hallucinatory effects) / AMIENS (75A: Somme place) / LINO / ELY section. The IDEAL GAS (115A: Matter in statistical mechanics) / EHLE (!?) / CAA (?) section (104D: Major org. representing entertainers and athletes). The AD REM / ONEISH / QUI section. The PPG / AMSO section. NON-U, ugh (97A: Like average folks, in Britain). AVISOS, ughwordese (117A: Dispatch boats). TAX SALE ... zzzz (1D: Transference of property to pay assessments). Frankly, the whole thing feels auto-filled. A human being would / should balk at much of this stuff.

I know Merril HOGE, but didn't figure he'd be well known enough for the puzzle (20D: Longtime ESPN football analyst Merril ___). And spelling his name, forget about it (it's pronounced "HODGE"—not sure where the "D" went). What's annoying is how much more constructors earn for making a Sunday puzzle (5x what a weekday puzzle fetches!). I have never, not once, had five times the pleasure or joy from a Sunday puzzle. I have (many times) had 5x the tedium. Yet another inexplicable and backward feature of the crossword world ... kind of like the technical incompetence of the people who run the NYT "Crosswords & Games" web page (who have had two big screw-ups in the last two days). No reason for it, and yet ... there it is.

All the theme answers are down, so "IT" is literally taken "from the top." That's a vaguely interesting architectural feature, I'll give it that.

Theme answers:
  • 3D: Gets up for the debate? (STANDS TO REASON)
  • 7D: Beats it and won't explain why? (GOES WITHOUT SAYING) – see, this just doesn't work, even at the wacky level. The clue supplies the "why" that is *clearly missing* in the answer
  • 8D: Proof that a "Jersey Shore" character has an incontinence problem? (DEPENDS ON THE SITUATION) — Ew. On many levels, ew.
  • 13D: Arrests an entire crime syndicate? (RUNS IN THE FAMILY)
  • 42D: Contents of Lenin's tomb, e.g.? (REMAINS TO BE SEEN)
  • 33D: Eschews Mensa material when going to parties? (DOESN'T TAKE A GENIUS) — by "material" do you mean a human being? A date? Clue is weird.
  • 50D: Merits at least a 20% tip? (SERVES YOU RIGHT) — people *usually* drop the "IT" when saying this phrase.   

  • 1A: Onetime propaganda source (TASS) — Considered ITAR and USSR as well.
  • 32A: Neurotic Martin Short character (ED GRIMLEY) — whoa, talk about dated. I'd completely forgotten about this guy (and he was before my "SNL" time, anyway — my "SNL" time being the Phil Hartman years to the present)
  • 38A: Start of a 1957 hit song ("DAY O") — He's got a new book. Belafonte, I mean.
  • 65A: 1985 film based on "King Lear" ("RAN") — gimme. Kurosawa is superb.
  • 90A: His debut album was "Rhyme Pays" (ICE-T) — he used to be a crossword standard, but I feel like he's fallen off the grid is recent years. He raps a lot in "Breakin'" (1984).

  • 99A: ___ Park, classic Coney Island amusement locale (LUNA) — I knew this only because I have a graphic novel called "LUNA Park"
  • 11D: Athlete's attire, informally (UNI) — short for "Unicycle"
  • 15D: Slayer of his brother Bleda (ATTILA) — how come no one's named "Bleda" any more?
  • 94D: Untraditional, as some marriages (SAME SEX) — really really dislike this clue. If you're going to have an "untraditional" marriage, then maybe it will be open, or bi-coastal, or sexless, or brodcast on the internet, or ... I don't know. But you're just not going to say "oh, their marriage is very untraditional ... it's SAME SEX." I see why the clue is the way it is, I know what it's getting at, but no. Clue should simply read [Like some marriages]. Done and done. You could even add "New York" or "Iowa" to the clue if you wanted.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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