Wednesday, January 25, 2012

W.W. II Pacific battle site / THU 1-26-12 / Moore who wrote Gate at the Stairs / Horseshoe-shaped lab item / 1980s sitcom filmed with puppet

Constructor: Alan Arbesfeld

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: ST- — common phrases have "ST-" added to beginning of one of the words in said phrases, creating wackiness

Word of the Day: TRUK (39D: W.W. II Pacific battle site) —
Operation Hailstone (known in Japan as Japanese: トラック島空襲 Torakku-tō Kūshū, lit. "the airstrike on Truk Island") was a massive naval air and surface attack launched on February 17–18, 1944, during World War II by the United States Navy against the Japanese naval and air base at Truk in the Caroline Islands, a pre-war Japanese territory. (wikipedia)
• • •

What the TRUK?!

This was a Wednesday dressed up as a Thursday (i.e. with fairly difficulty cluing throughout). The theme concept is not really Thursday-worthy—just a pretty loose add-a-letter (OK, two letters). No rhyme or reason to the add-ons. It's a theme that could be replicated over and over and over again, ad infinitum. I'd be shocked if it hadn't been done several times before. At least the ST-s could've been added to, say, all R-words (you're 3/5 there! STRAP MUSIC ... STRIPE FRUIT ... STRING FINGER ... come on!). JACK THE STRIPPER is mildly cute; the rest, shrug. And the fill. Pretty lousy. I cannot believe that that TRUK / UTUBE fiasco was unavoidable (44A: Horseshoe-shaped lab item). The grid parameters just aren't that challenging. The whole thing smacks of laziness, esp. at the fill level. Then you've got the AGASP / AROAR crossing (abarf) and then junky stuff all over the place. Not the NYT puzzle's finest hour, by any stretch.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Private quarters in a stable? (STALL FOR ONE)
  • 23A: Dallas tourists, perhaps? (TEXAS STRANGERS)
  • 37A: Name for a bachelorette party performer? (JACK THE STRIPPER)
  • 49A: Vacation spot for some who stop working? (STRIKERS ISLAND)
  • 60A: Not saluting for quite some time? (STILL AT EASE)

  • 15A: Moore who wrote "A Gate at the Stairs" (LORRIE) — ambivalence ... she is crossworthy, for sure, but she is only here (or in any puzzle) because of her friendly letters, and I don't like seeing her except where she's propping up something Very nice (in an otherwise very-difficult-to-fill section). LORRIE / ARRET is (yet) another inglorious crossing (7D: Stop over in Paris?). 
  • 41A: Announcement that comes from an envelope (OSCAR) — timely, as the nominations just came out. I've seen practically nothing. "Bridesmaids." I saw that. I am familiar with every film and its cast because I make it my business to keep up with this stuff—important for solvers as well as constructors. I tear through my "Entertainment Weekly" as soon as I get it and write down all the interesting-looking names that I didn't previously know.VIOLA Davis, for instance, or Berenice BEJO.
  • 5D: 1980s sitcom filmed with a puppet ("ALF") — he ate cats. My sister looked like sister on that show. My best friend in college liked (likes?) this show. I've never seen an episode all the way through. I associate ALF with MR. T. I don't know why.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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