Monday, December 5, 2011

1862 battle site / TUE 12-6-11 / Fruit named after town in Turkey / Christiania today / Elevator pioneer Otis

Constructor: Steven E. Atwood

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: -ISH — ordinary adjectives ending in -ISH are clued literally, but with an example that plays on the pre-ISH part of the word.

Word of the Day: "SCTV" (1D: Onetime "S.N.L."-type show) —
Second City Television (SCTV) is a Canadian television sketch comedy show offshoot from Toronto's The Second City troupe that ran between 1976 and 1984. (wikipedia)
• • •
This was kind of a chore. It's like a joke that's mildly funny the first time, but then you go on to repeat it six more times, and it's less funny each time, largely because the pattern is so predictable. The one thing that made it unpredictable in a couple places also made it annoying. FLOURISH and CHERISH involve repronunciations of FLOUR and CHER, and thus the whole play on words thing is lost. I know that there is consistency at the orthographic level, but that's somehow not enough. Further, this is a very light theme—seven theme answers, but only 45 total squares [aha ... I see there are actually nine theme answers. I missed two. That's how interesting they were]. It's not clear to me why such an undemanding theme should yield such a dull, lifeless grid, with literally *no* good answers. I mean, they're mostly fine, adequate ... but because the theme answers are all just ordinary, unremarkable words, and because the grid is so highly segmented that there's not much room for longer fill, we get no interesting answers. Anywhere. At all. The few 7+-letter answers are all lifeless. HASHANAH is weak on its own (see also CARTA, DU LAC). And SCOOPERS ... well, no -ERS-ending word is ever really "good," and do you really want the most original word in your grid to be one that makes people think of dog poop? I don't know. This puzzle just didn't work for me.

Theme answers:
  • 4D: Extravagant, like a W.C.? (LAVISH)
  • 20A: Disappear, like a moving vehicle? (VANISH)
  • 18A: Be healthy, like a type of meal? (FLOURISH)
  • 39A: Love, like a popular singer? (CHERISH)
  • 48D: Do away with, like a 1950s car feature? (FINISH)
  • 56A: Hurt, like a groan-inducing joke? (PUNISH)
  • 60A: Wave menacingly, like a red-hot iron? (BRANDISH)  
  • 24A: Obtrusively bright, like a needlefish? (GARISH
  • 49A: Touch up, like a candidate for office? (POLISH
This started out tough. Both SHILOH (1A: 1862 battle site) and CASABA (14A: Fruit named after a town in Turkey) took some work to uncover (clues weren't transparent), and since I wasn't expecting to see theme answers that were a. six letters long and b. up in the NW corner, it took a little bit before I figured out what those clues were going for with their question-markiness. "Familiar" hardly seems strong enough, or specific enough, for AMIE (34A: Familiar femme). I have no idea who Sarah RAMOS is (42A: Actress Sarah of "Parenthood"). "Parenthood" is some show I've barely heard of and (obviously) don't watch. In fact, I assumed the clue was referencing the movie of the same name. How would you know? Couple of interesting crosswordese moments today. We see OTIS in the puzzle a lot, but rarely (or far less often) do we see his first name, ELISHA (63A: Elevator pioneer Otis). I remembered it, though I wanted it to be ELIJAH at first. Then there's OSLO—that clue is tougher than your average OSLO clue, but somehow I remembered that little bit of trivia about its formerly being called "Christiania" (8D: Christiania, today). FILCH is a word that always sounds NASTY to me—perhaps because of its resemblance to a (slang) word that *is* truly NASTY, which I will refrain from repeating here.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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