Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Alphonse's comics partner / WED 12-14-11 / No Such Thing blues rocker / Ring foe of Manolete / Metrosexual's tote

Constructor: Tim Croce

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: Add a Q — familiar phrases have Q added, creating wacky phrases, which are clued "?"-style
 Word of the Day: QUM (47D: Holy city of Iran) —
Qom (Persian: قم [ɢom], also known as Q'um or Ghom) is a city in Iran. It lies 156 kilometres (97 mi) by road southwest of Tehran and is the capital of Qom Province. At the 2006 census, its population was 957,496, in 241,827 families. It is situated on the banks of the Qom River. // Qom is considered holy by Shi`a Islam, as it is the site of the shrine of Fatema Mæ'sume, sister of Imam `Ali ibn Musa Rida (Persian Imam Reza, 789–816 AD). The city is the largest center for Shi'a scholarship in the world, and is a significant destination of pilgrimage. (wikipedia)
• • •
This actually played Easy-Medium for me, but I had some freakishly good guesses—got MANBAG (1A: Metrosexual's tote) instantly, got JOHN MAYER (35D: "No Such Thing" blues rocker) off the JO- despite not associating him with blues or rocking, etc. I was done with this before I understood the theme. I knew there were Qs in there, I just didn't know what they were doing. Turns out, nothing. Take them out, and you get ordinary phrases. Alright. Wish the theme answers had been funnier ... or just funny at all. TRADITIONAL IRAQ? If you are going to play on words, the "play" should be amusing or entertaining, not just defensible. UNEVEN BARQ'S is OK, and COUNTY FAQIR is interesting, though the much much much more common spelling of FAKIR is ... thusly ("Q" spelling has occurred exactly one time in the NYT, clued as a "Var."). QATARI COMPUTERS was just MEH for me. Enjoyed a couple of the longer Downs, but a lot of the fill felt rough. Lots of crossword accommodation—jury-rigged stuff like PANDG (39A: Consumer products giant, briefly) and LONGU (27D: "Rude" sound) and TSTOPS (?) (69A: Movie camera settings). Obscurish crosses like AMARNA (14A: Cuneiform discovery site) / GASTON (6D: Alphonse's comics partner) (two words I know *only* from crosswords). I will say that the grid is interesting—not dull, and not filled with complete junk. And it was easy for me, so I should be more delighted, perhaps. But it turns out that just shoving Qs into things doesn't excite me as much as you might expect.

Theme answers:
  • 20A: Mesopotamia? (TRADITIONAL IRAQ)
  • 28A: Inconsistent brand of root beer? (UNEVEN BARQ'S)
  • 45A: Local ascetic? (COUNTY FAQIR)
  • 53A: Some Mideast laptops? (QATARI COMPUTERS)
I'm deeply ambivalent about the one non-theme Q. PHYSIQUE is better fill than PHYSICAL under almost any circumstances, but I think I'd have gone with the latter solely for the sake of Q consistency (or Qsistency, as I'm now calling it). There shouldn't be any stray Qs in a Q-themed puzzle like this. Elegance compromised.

  • 44A: ___ Quested, woman in Forster's "A Passage to India" (ADELA) — Love the Q-iness of Quested in this Qlue.
  • 5D: Barbuda's island partner (ANTIGUA) — Currently trying to memorize all world capitals (inspired by my gorgeous new Oxford Atlas of the World). The capital of ANTIGUA and Barbuda is ... St. John's? ... yes, I'm right! (I'm only part way through the Cs, so the solidity of my knowledge at this point is super-dicey)
  • 13D: Hoopster with six rap albums, for short (SHAQ) — Holy what the!? SIX!? How can that be right???? 

  • 55D: Ring foe of Manolete (TORO) — I'm guessing this Man guy is a famous toreador ... yes.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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