Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Heavenly home of Norse gods / THU 11-24-11 / Ancient Egyptian talisman / Mrs Forsyte in Forsyte Saga / Gerard of Buck Rogers in 25th Century

Constructor: Sharon Delorme

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: NO GO (65A: Canceled ... or a hint to answering 17-, 27-, 34-, 45- and 57-Across) — phrases that begin with "GO" have the "GO" dropped, creating ... prepositional phrases! And who doesn't love those!?

Word of the Day: GIL Gerard (41A: Gerard of "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century") —
Gilbert C. "Gil" Gerard (born January 23, 1943) is an American actor. He is most famous for his role as Captain William "Buck" Rogers in the 1979-1981 television series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. (wikipedia)
• • •

Lots of things to be thankful for today, but this puzzle is not among them. Seemed both substandard (for a NYT Thursday) and misplaced (Wednesday-easy). Taking "GO" out of phrases is not interesting. At all. There is no cleverness here, no trickery, no unexpected delight. Nothing. Just ... NOGO. It's a remedial idea for a puzzle, and I'm surprised it was accepted at all. The grid is certainly adequate, but conceptually, this theme is weak. Aside from the fact that missing "GO" does nothing interesting to the phrases, there's the problem of "GO" being Not Missed At All from several of the phrases. BYTHEBOOK and OVERTHETOP are completely legitimate, self-standing phrases; if it weren't for the cluing, no one would blink at these entries—whereas FORTHEGOLD is nonsense. So many THEs ... a plural ARLENES ... EFGH ... I'm at a loss.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Try to win (FOR THE GOLD)
  • 27A: Not vary from proper procedure (BY THE BOOK)
  • 34A: Follow everyone else (WITH THE FLOW)
  • 45A: Deteriorate (TO THE DOGS)
  • 57A: Take things way too far (OVER THE TOP)

I think I was slightly slower than I might have been mainly because I spent the first half of the solve overthinking things. Once I finally accepted that the theme was as straightforward and obvious as it appeared to be, and that the grid was, at best, ordinary, words started to come a lot faster. Had only one real hang-up, with DEBT for CASH (13A: Bills, e.g.), and one real head-scratcher—IRENE (26A: Mrs. Forsyte in "The Forsyte Saga"). No idea what "The Forsyte Saga" is, but IRENE is the crosswordiest woman's name there is (esp. in five letters), so once I had the "I," I just guessed. Took me a while to get SCARAB (brain just kept saying "ANKH!?") (1D: Ancient Egyptian talisman) and ASGARD (9D: Heavenly home of the Norse gods) (learned it from crosswords, and often get it confused with AESIR, which I also learned from crosswords). "WHO'S NEXT?" is an album title (34D: Waiting room query). In what "waiting room" would you hear it as a query? Doctors know who's next. Most service providers with waiting clients do. Who is supposed to be making this query? The waiter or the waitee? Argh.

Anyone wishing to get a solid introduction to heavily overused crossword words could do worse than looking here first: OMERTA, GSUIT, OLLA, ARLENE(S), ASGARD, BABA, SRIS, ANO, ROO, EWES etcetcetc.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving. Thanks for reading.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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