Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Brazilian port of 1.4 million / TUE 1-10-12 / Actor Sam of stage screen / Lapel attachment / One not looking for individual glory

Constructor: Gary Cee

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: TEPEE (40A: Indian home ... or a hint to nine other answers in this puzzle) — two word answers, where first word starts with "T" and second word starts with "P"

Word of the Day: Sam LEVENE (52D: Actor Sam of stage and screen) —
Sam Levene (August 28, 1905 – December 28, 1980) was an American Broadway and film actor. He made his Broadway debut in 1927 with five lines in a play titled Wall Street, and over a span of nearly 50 years, appeared on Broadway in 37 Shows, of which 33 were the original Broadway Productions, many now considered legendary. Levene made his film debut in 1936 as Patsy recreating the same role he had created on Broadway in Three Men On A Horse (1935). Levene also appeared in the USO Tour of this same Show; the Radio Version; the Musical version that opened on Broadway called Let It Ride (1961) as well as the 1969 Broadway Revival of the play directed by 'George Abbott', the original Broadway Director and co-author. (wikipedia)
• • •

The deal seems to be that if you have a pretty weak theme, if you just cram a ton of theme answers in, that cramming will more than make up for it. I'm not a fan of cramming (in most situations), as it leads to discomfort. Today, specifically, a pretty rocky grid with at least one Highly unfortunate cross. What the hell is a TACK PIN? I know what a TIE TAC(K) is (from crosswords), and I know what a LAPEL PIN is, but TACK PIN is mysterious. Never heard of it. Very odd for a Tuesday puzzle. Odder still, though, is the LEVENE / BELÉM cross. Most people are just guessing at that "E" because it seems like the most plausible letter. I don't care if *you* knew LEVENE and/or BELÉM (57A: Brazilian port of 1.4 million), those simply aren't commonly known (proper!) nouns, and there is no way in hell they should be crossed at the "E." None. LEVENE has been in precisely one puzzle in the last decade (acc. to, almost ten years ago. His name is also spelled differently from other LEVINEs, so with the "I" different I was not sure at all that the first "E" was a given.

Now throw in BELÉM. It's a city of over a million, you say. Uh huh. But no way in hell most Americans can name it. Some, perhaps. But not most. I know it *only* because I was poring over my Atlas recently marveling at all the cities in the world with 1 million+ populations that I had never heard of (and even then I wasn't sure if it was BELAM or BELÉM). BELÉM is dwarfed, population-wise, by NINGBO. Never heard of it? What about (much larger) HARBIN? SURAT? FAISALABAD? You can see why the "the population's over a million!" argument doesn't impress me much. I mean, BELÉM is only the 11th most populous city in Brazil. Can you name the other 10? No. No you can't. You can name three: RIO, SAO PAULO, and (maybe) the captial, BRASILIA. Once again (and again and again and again) the the point isn't whether BELÉM or LEVENE should be allowed in a puzzle. They should (though maybe not on a Tuesday—that's a judgment call). But they shouldn't cross, and they damn sure shouldn't cross at an "E." And again (and again and again and again), I guessed right, so I'm not sour-grapesing this thing. It's. A. Bad. Cross.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Essay, say (THINK PIECE)
  • 21A: Lapel attachment (TACK PIN)
  • 58A: Backup group for Gladys Knight (THE PIPS) — as my wife said, "when one of your 'T' words is 'THE,' maybe there's a problem ..."
  • 63A: One not looking for individual glory (TEAM PLAYER) — I admire both TEAM PLAYER and THINK PIECE very much
  • 11D: Group associated with 2009's Taxpayer March on Washington (TEA PARTY) — also [Group having no success influencing the election of the 2012 Republican presidential nominee]. Romney 2012! Feel the Inevitability!
  • 39D: Singer with the Heartbreakers (TOM PETTY)
  • 25D: La Brea fossil preserve (TAR PITS)
  • 4D: Coach on a court (TENNIS PRO)
  • 36D: Disneyland, e.g. (THEME PARK)    
Also, I want the revealer to be TPS (i.e. pulls a Halloween prank), even though TPS is itself a initialism for "toilet paper." Feels more accurate (not to mention entertaining), and the "S" suggests the plural (i.e. there are nine TPS in the puzzle).

  • 16A: Major-leaguer Tony or Alejandro (PEÑA) — forgot about the latter, but grew up with the former, who was a 5-time All-Star in the '80s.
  • 13D: U-___ (Berlin railway) (BAHN) — did not know this. Figured answer was probably not HAUL. Inferred BAHN from "autobahn."
  • 45A: Fireplace (INGLE) — does anyone say this? The only time I've ever seen this word is in 16th-century Scottish literature.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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