Saturday, February 4, 2012

New Jersey town bordering Rahway / SUN 2-5-12 / Critter whose name comes from Nahuatl / Site of Greek tragedy / Starch-yielding palm

Constructor: Charles M. Deber

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: "State Annexation" — Theme clues are all cross-referenced to other answers in the grid, and all phrased "[Cross-referenced clue] near [some US city]?"; you have to take the answer to the cross-referenced clue, add the state code of whatever state that [some US city] is in, and that will give you a word that functions as the clue for the theme answer. So, e.g., 25A: 124-Across near Dover? = 124-Across (SPA) + state code for Delaware (DE), which makes SPADE, which clues the answer to 25A: GARDEN TOOL

Word of the Day: ADL (17D: B'nai B'rith grp.) —
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is an international non-governmental organization based in the United States. Describing itself as "the nation's premier civil rights/human relations agency", the ADL states that it "fights anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry, defends democratic ideals and protects civil rights for all" while it "[advocates] for Israel [...] with policymakers, the media and the public" and "defends the security of Israel and Jews worldwide". // Founded in October 1913 by The Independent Order of B'nai B'rith, a Jewish service organization in the United States, its original mission statement was "to stop, by appeals to reason and conscience and, if necessary, by appeals to law, the defamation of the Jewish people. Its ultimate purpose is to secure justice and fair treatment to all citizens alike and to put an end forever to unjust and unfair discrimination against and ridicule of any sect or body of citizens." The ADL has 29 offices in the United States and three offices in other countries, with its headquarters located in New York City. Since 1987, Abraham Foxman has been the national director in the United States. The national chairman in the United States is Robert Sugarman. (wikipedia)
• • •

An easy enough theme to figure out, but a bear to describe clearly; sorry about that.

Lots of cross-references do not make for an especially enjoyable solve. The *idea* here is an imaginative one, but the execution is problematic. The phrase "near [whatever city]?" doesn't really work as a clue to add a state code to the end of the answer. I figured it out, so it wasn't utterly unclear, but it's highly inexact. A city is not a state. The cross-referenced answer has to be imagined as, literally, "near" (as in "right next to") a state code. A city is a poor substitute for a state code. Also, "annexation" doesn't feel quite right. If you "annex" a territory, you take it over, but here, you aren't taking over so much as supplying from your imagination. The whole set-up ended up feeling fiddly and imprecise. Also, as I've said many times before, I'm not big on the whole "answers are really clues"-type theme, and that's essentially what this was. My description has the cross-ref'd answer + state code as the "clue" for the theme answer, but really it's the answer for which the theme "answer" is really the clue. Ugh, the more I describe this puzzle, the more I dislike it, so I'll stop.

Fill was average, maybe slightly below. Lots and lots and lots of very short stuff, but oddly that wasn't where I had problems. It was stuff like AS TO COST (!?!?!) (5D: Regarding the price). This is as much a valid answer as REGARDING SALARY or CONCERNING BONUSES (i.e. not valid); or AS A MAN (54A: How Shakespeare's Rosalind dresses), an answer I've seen and disliked before; or ISELIN (30A: New Jersey own bordering Rahway), the kind of icky NE provincialism that makes most of America shrug (at best) or say "WTF?!" or something else (see also TRURO).

Theme answers:
  • 22A: 45-Down near Baton Rouge? = "hoopla" = (EXCITEMENT)
  • 25A: 124-Across near Dover? = "spade" = (GARDEN TOOL)
  • 38A: 117-Down near Salem? = "tenor" = (OPERA SINGER)
  • 58A: 1-Across near Hartford? = "extract" = (CONCENTRATE)
  • 78A: 114-Down near Boise? = "rapid" = (SPLIT-SECOND)
  • 95A: 76-Down near Springfield? = "lentil" = (PODDED PLANT) — easily my least favorite theme "answer"; you can see POTTED looking on (69D: In one's cups), going, "man, that's my phrase."
  • 111A: 61-Across near Phoenix?  = "topaz" = (BIRTHSTONE)
  • 113A: 9-Across near Boston? = "dogma" = (MORAL TENET)
  • 33D: 6-Across near Indianapolis? = "satin" = (SMOOTH FABRIC) 
  • 43D: 119-Across near Albany? = "bunny" = (EASTER ANIMAL) 

Looking over these theme answers, I realize that I didn't even check the cross-references on ... let's see ... three of these (tenor, rapid, topaz). In fact, almost all the difficulty in this puzzle lay in getting started, and then in having to wait (in some cases) for the cross-referenced answers to appear in the grid. The rest of the puzzle was easy. Had issues with ISELIN, and then got stuck on SOLARII / IDS vs. SOLARIA (70A: Sun spots) / ADS. Both IDS and ADS seemed valid for [Spots], and I wasn't thinking hard enough about my Latin neuter plurals. The "A" won out, eventually. I've never seen ODEUM except in crosswords (91D: Site of a Greek tragedy). I expect the singular of the Greek theater to be ODEON, perhaps because I've seen modern theaters called that. I wrote in STAGGER for STARTLE (88D: Shock). That's it for significant resistance.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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