Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Country singer Clark / WED 1-18-12 / Oil well firefighter Red / Schemer called to mind by Madoff swindle / Univac I predecessor / King who had Labyrinth built

Constructor: Chris Handman

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: SPARE TIRE (64A: Trunk item ... or what has been put on 18-, 24-, 41- and 53-Across)— familiar phrases have letters T, I, R, and E added to their beginnings, respectively, creating wacky phrases, clued "?"-style

Word of the Day: TERRI Clark (6D: Country singer Clark) —
Terri Lynn Sauson (born August 5, 1968), known professionally as Terri Clark, is a Canadian country music artist who has had success in both Canada and the United States. Signed to Mercury Records in 1995, she released her self-titled debut that year. Both it and its two follow-ups, 1996's Just the Same and 1998's How I Feel, were certified platinum in both countries, and produced several Top Ten country hits. (wikipedia)
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[It's pledge week here at the Rex Parker site (thru Sat.) —read my pitch for donations in the opening paragraphs of Sunday's write-up, here ... and thanks for your faithful readership (and the many kind messages I've received so far)]

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This was cute, but the theme answers weren't winners. They were just OK. There was some pleasure in figuring out the theme and then trying to parse the answers, but I'm a little surprised that with such a wide-open theme (possibility-wise) there weren't zingier theme answers out there to be had. The fill is mostly ordinary—not bad, not great, not remarkable either way. Maybe a bit on the pedestrian side. It's a 78-worder with mostly short fill, so there's not a lot to be done. Best you can do is not muck the grid up too bad. Had one big hold-up—could not, for the life of me, figure out what [Hawks] was getting at, even when had all but one letter. I also put in ARE SO instead of AM TOO (playground—or sandbox—retorts being among my most hated of all clue-types), and didn't fully correct it (ended up with ARTOO, which is a correct answer for an entirely different clue). Lost about 10-15 seconds there. Otherwise, no issues. Lucked into TERRI. I'd just been (co-)constructing a puzzle, and you come across all kinds of potential fill when that happens. Had to remind myself who had the name TERRI, just so I could gauge if it was usable. I determined it was not. Wouldn't put her in a puzzle unless I had just about zero other options. And crossing EEE and GTS? Well, let's just say that that part of the grid is probably best left in our rear-view mirror.

Theme answers:
  • 18A: Monopolist's clothing accessory? (TRUST BELT)
  • 24A: Designers for Microsoft Windows? (ICON ARTISTS)
  • 41A: What Martian invaders may be intent on? (ROUT OF THIS WORLD)
  • 53A: What the backer of a failing business may do? (EAT ALL COSTS)

Constant solving came in especially handy today. Good old standbys Red ADAIR (38A: Oil well firefighter Red ___) and ENIAC (2D: Univac I predecessor) were there to lend a hand. I could've answered [Bewhiskered frolicker] in my sleep. No need even to see how many spaces are involved. Maybe KITTEN would get that clue, but how often do you see KITTEN in a puzzle. Rarely. OTTER, however, has much grid cred. He's old friends with ADAIR and ENIAC. Love the word/name PONZI (1D: Schemer called to mind by the Madoff swindle), though it took several passes for my eyes to register what the hell kind of word "Schemer" was. It was like looking at some hybrid of Schumer and schmear.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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