Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Romain de Tirtoff's alias / WED 12-28-11 / Wroclaw's river to Poles / Grounded avian / Y sporter

Constructor: Louis Zulli

Relative difficulty: Medium

 THEME: ID THEFT (54A: Modern crime, briefly ... or a hint to 17-, 36- and 59-Across) — familiar phrases have "ID" removed, creating wacky phrases, which are clued "?"-style

Word of the Day: SEWANEE (22A: The University of the South, familiarly) —
The University of the South is a private, coeducational liberal arts college located in Sewanee, Tennessee. It is owned by twenty-eight southern dioceses of the Episcopal Church and its School of Theology is an official seminary of the church. The university's School of Letters offers graduate degrees in American Literature and Creative Writing. The campus (officially called "The Domain" or, affectionately, "The Mountain") consists of 13,000 acres (53 km2) of scenic mountain property atop the Cumberland Plateau in southeastern Tennessee, although the developed portion occupies only about 1,000 acres (4.0 km2). // Often known simply as Sewanee, the school has produced 26 Rhodes Scholars and was ranked 32nd in the annual US News & World Report list of liberal arts colleges. In 2009, Forbes ranked it 94th of America's Best Colleges.[6] Sewanee is a member of the Associated Colleges of the South. (wikipedia)
• • •

First, there was this (just 3.5 years ago). Will has said (somewhere ...) that he doesn't mind repeating themes. Apparently, he means it. Lately, it's the late 00's all over again.

With only three real theme answers, this puzzle felt thin. Seems like the kind of theme that could go on forever, to Sunday-sized proportions at least, so getting three just-OK answers wasn't very satisfying. Also, I rarely if ever hear "ID THEFT." If someone stole my drivers' license, I'd say that's ID THEFT. I see that the abbrev. is used to refer to "identity theft" here and there, but still, the phrase doesn't resonate the way it should. Still further, ID THEFT is just hanging there, in this weird slot, with no corresponding symmetrical answer. Dislike.  So, thematically, it's pleasant, but more miss than hit.

Theme answers: 
  • 17A: Gift to an outgoing member of Congress? (LAME DUCK PRESENT)
  • 36A: Dialect coach's slogan? (ACCENTS HAPPEN) — easily the best of the three
  • 59A: European gin mill? (CONTINENTAL DIVE)

As for fill, again, it's hit and miss. It's mostly decent, but BAD ANSWER is just that. Actually, it's worse than that. It's terrible. About as coherent as "OLD TABLE" or "TALL PLANT." I can much sooner imagine someone saying "WRONG ANSWER" than BAD ANSWER as an equivalent for ["You shouldn't have said that!"]. I'd have sent this grid back to the constructor on the basis of that answer alone. And if I was at all wavering on that decision, ODRA would've sealed the deal (49D: Wroclaw's river to Poles). Wretched. Never heard anyone called a COHAB, either (1A: Roommate, informally). Blecch.

Wrote in INGE for 16A: James who won a posthumous Pulitzer, which is, of course, wrong. It's AGEE. But surprise, there's INGE after all down there at the bottom of the grid (58D: "Bus Stop"). Pure malapop (i.e. writing in a wrong answer, only to find out later that it's a *correct* answer somewhere else in the grid). Didn't trust SEWANEE / ADELA, though in the end SEWENEE just looked too stupid to be correct. Biggest problem for me was writing in EDGES instead of EASES (28D: Moves carefully). That one hurt, because EDGES is just as good answer. As a result of my mistake, those damned ASIAN elephants were hard to see.

  • 26A: Y sporter (ELI)ELI Manning also sports an "N" — "NY" — it's on his helmet. [Yes I know this clue is about Yale.]
  • 64A: Romain de Tirtoff's alias (ERTE)ERTE is how his initials ("RT") sound when you pronounce them in French.
  • 6D: Cyber-nuisance (HACKER) — I'd have pluralized this and put it where SEWANEE is. But that's just me.
  • 19D: Grounded avian (EMU) — Also good as steaks, I'm told.
  • 48D: Poet who wrote "They also serve who only stand and wait" (MILTON) — I teach this sonnet every year. Very famous last line. Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) says a variation of this line at the beginning of "Psycho": "They also pay who meet in hotel rooms."
When I consider how my light is spent,
   Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
   And that one Talent which is death to hide
   Lodged with me useless, though my Soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
   My true account, lest he returning chide;
   “Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
   I fondly ask. But patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need
   Either man’s work or his own gifts; who best
   Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
   And post o’er Land and Ocean without rest:
   They also serve who only stand and wait.”

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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