Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Oka River citiy / WED 1-11-12 / Five-time All-Star second baseman Chase / Mecca for oenophiles / Toy consisting of 80 feet of wire

Constructor: Chuck Deodene

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: HATCH CHECK — "CH" is added to end of "-AT" word in familiar expressions, creating wacky expressions, which are clued "?"-style

Word of the Day: Chase UTLEY (52D: Five-time All-Star second baseman Chase ___) —
Chase Cameron Utley [...] is a second baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies of Major League Baseball. A native of the Greater Los Angeles area, he was raised in the city of Long Beach. He was a star baseball player at Long Beach Polytechnic High School, before moving on to UCLA. He now currently plays for the Philadelphia Phillies as a second basemen. (wikipedia)
• • •

Simple add-some-letters theme with no revealer—not very impressive, but you do get one great theme answer (BATCH OUT OF HELL), which is often as much as you can expect from this type of theme. I'm kind of mesmerized by this grid, specifically by how its middle is chock full of theme squares but with black squares placed so artfully that the theme answers don't seem to crowd each other or create any complications at all. And it's not like this grid has an excessive number of black squares (40 is a little high, but not distractingly so). The grid's not even at the maximum word count (the max is 78—this one's 76). It takes some care to get a 14/15/14 progression of theme answers to come out well, with a nice light touch and no real strain on the fill. Fill-wise, there's nothing spectacular, but only -ITES is really irksome. The rest is very solid (though I could do without the ORAL / OREL pairing). So the puzzle is skillfully made, if not scintillating.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Fabric store employees? (SWATCH TEAM)
  • 23A: Repair for a torn pullover? (PATCH ON THE BACK) 
  • 35A: Attend a tennis tournament because one is a fan of? (GO TO THE MATCH FOR)—this wins the award for Most Awkwardly Phrased Clue Of All Time. Why not just [Support by attending a tennis tournament]?
  • 50A: Cookies baked by Satan? (BATCH OUT OF HELL)
  • 59A: Arrest made on a side street? (ALLEY CATCH)
I made pretty good time through this one, with my one and only big holdup coming at 54D: Sidestep (EVADE). I had the "V," which is about the least helpful letter to have with that clue. I wrote in AVERT. When that proved wrong, I could think only of AVOID. Bah. Annoying to get held up by something so rudimentary. Got COLD CASES pretty easily, but not sure why the investigations are "Dead-ended" as opposed to "Dead-end." Maybe because they hit a dead end ... in the past? I think that still means they are "dead-end" in the present, but whatever. Interesting to see OKA in a clue here today (39D: Oka River city => OREL) after it featured so prominently in my write-up of that disastrous Friday puzzle. Did not know that a [Young termite, e.g.] was called a NYMPH. Very incongruous with the images of NYMPHs that dance in my head (from time to time). Broadway clue looked impossible to me until it wasn't (3D: 2005 Broadway hit based on a 1974 film => "SPAMALOT"). My parents live reasonably close to NAPA, but I've never been (14A: Mecca for oenophiles). Do they still make the SLINKY (13D: Toy consisting of 80 feet of wire)? It's fun for a girl and a boy. It's fun for a girl and a boy.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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