Depression Era architectural movement / THU 8-28-14 / Part of spiral galaxy farthest from center / Kitschy quality / Carriage puller in rural dialect / Boutros-Ghali's successor as UN chief / Adolf Hitler according to 1983 hoax / 1920s-30s Ford output

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Constructor: Ned White

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: DOWN / WARD (21D: With 40-Down, how rain falls … or a literal description of the answers to the four themed clues) — four theme answers all run DOWN and all are definitions of WARD:

Theme answers:
  • PATIENT AREA (3D: 21-/40-Down to a doctor)
  • BEAVER'S DAD (10D: 21-/40-Down on 1950s-'60s TV)
  • PRISON WING (28D: 21-/40-Down to a penologist)
  • ACTRESS SELA (24D: 21-/40-Down in Hollywood)
Word of the Day: MODERNE (38A: Depression Era architectural movement) —
Streamline Moderne, or Art Moderne, was a late type of the Art Deco architecture and design that emerged in the 1930s. Its architectural style emphasized curving forms, long horizontal lines, and sometimes nautical elements. (wikipedia)
• • •

I feel like this puzzle's heart is in the right place. Something about its playful spirit makes me want to be fond of it. It's just that there are some core problems, and then a bunch of non-core problems (mainly the fill), that make me want to say, you know, E FOR effort, but nowhere close to A MINUS. (Both the answers mentioned in that last sentence are part of the problem today—EFOR is just terrible fill, and A MINUS is so inaccurately clued that I don't know where to begin. It just is. As someone who grades, a lot, trust me, there's nothing "nearly perfect" about an A MINUS, if only because this would imply that an A is perfect, which, just, no. No no. No.). So let's take the theme. To start, DOWNWARD is one word, not two. Picky? Yes. But with no "?" or … anything to indicate you're snapping a word in half, I don't see how you can do this. So there's that. Then there's the definitions-for-answers, which I don't care for, but I recognize other people's opinions about this feature might differ, and that's fine. It's just … BEAVER'S DAD actually strikes me as quite an interesting and unexpected answer of the Definition variety, where the others do not. PATIENT AREA is a pretty weak/general definition for "WARD." Are "wing" and "WARD" synonymous now? "Wing" signifies to me a sizable architectural feature. Is that what "WARD"s are in prisons? WARDs are "sections" of hospitals, and "sections" of prisons, so making one a highly vague "AREA" and the other an oddly specific and ambitious WING just seems wildly arbitrary.

There should've been "?" or something similar somewhere in all the theme clues. I mean, imagine seeing [Down Ward in Hollywood], no "?", in your clues. Makes no sense. Never mind that having "Down" in so many clues is weird when it's half your revealer. Not sure how you'd get around that, but it feels like a design flaw. Also, [How rain falls]? This is a most bizarre clue for DOWN/WARD. Of all the way rain might fall … down? What *doesn't* fall down? Do other things fall up? Sideways? Man alive there's gotta be some better way to clue DOWN/WARD. [How rain falls] is only a hair's breadth better than [Opposite of UPWARD].

Fill is hurting all over. Currently having a debate online about whether BRA SALE is "green paint" or not. I have no problem with it, but it does have that "yes it's a thing but no it's not a specific enough thing to be an answer" quality. But "bra sale" googles astonishingly well, so I'm going to stand by my pro-BRA SALE instincts. But I won't stand by a lot of this other stuff: STR ARB ARIB ESS (when you already have both ACTRESS and EGRESS in your grid) NO TASTE (?) IN A TRAP DE ORO ITT GES GIS + two RE-words etc. With very little strong fill to offset it. (Note: I liked OFFSETS fine) OUTER ARM is easily the most interesting answer in the grid (23A: Part of a spiral galaxy farthest from the center). Vivid, inventive, good. Rest of it kind of creaks.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Truckers contest / WED 8-27-14 / Lightning setting / Political alliance of 1958 / Relative of cuatro informally / Do Not Call Registry org / First name of wolf in Big Bad Wolf / Bit of packaging detritus / Oil giant that's part of Tesoro Corporation

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Constructor: Gareth Bain and David Poole

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: -A to -ER — wacky phrases that are homophones of normal phrases if you are British (I think)

Theme answers:
  • CONGER LINES (17A: Libretto for "Eel Trovatore"?)
  • FRANK ZAPPER (24A: Microwave for hot dogs?)
  • CHARLIE THE TUNER (37A: Actor Sheen after starting a new career in piano maintenance?)
  • SALES QUOTER (50A: One who knows the earnings report by heart?)
  • TUBER PLAYER (60A: Actor in a Mr. Potato Head costume?)

Word of the Day: FTC (11A: Do Not Call Registry org.) —
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is an independent agency of the United States government, established in 1914 by the Federal Trade Commission Act. Its principal mission is the promotion of consumer protection and the elimination and prevention of anticompetitive business practices, such as coercive monopoly. The Federal Trade Commission Act was one of President Woodrow Wilson's major acts againsttrusts. Trusts and trust-busting were significant political concerns during the Progressive Era. Since its inception, the FTC has enforced the provisions of the Clayton Act, a key antitrust statute, as well as the provisions of the FTC Act, 15 U.S.C. § 41 et seq. Over time, the FTC has been delegated the enforcement of additional business regulation statutes and has promulgated a number of regulations (codified in Title 16 of the Code of Federal Regulations). (wikipedia)
• • •

Cornball puns really aren't my thing. The clues on the first couple are pretty funny, but the "humor" here kind of went over, or beside, or in some relation to my head other than the intended one. Plus QUOTER's not really a word. I mean, it is, but it isn't, so that answer really clunks. Also, I did not like the last themer, TUBER PLAYER, at all, because of its inclusion of a -ER word that did *not* conform to the theme … unless the guy on "tuba" is in fact a "playa," in which case, good for him. Seems like this theme might have been as funny, if not funnier, in reverse: -ERs to -As. [Like someone who refuses to root for the Lightning under any conditions?] => TAMPA RESISTANT. Huh? Huh? Well, maybe, maybe not. Maybe that's been done. But this didn't amuse me enough to make the mostly uninteresting trip through the rest of the puzzle seem worth it. Fill was overly common and somewhat tiresome to work through, though the long Downs (FOAM PEANUT + WHAT A LAUGH) are pretty charming (11D: Bit of packaging detritus + 29D: "That is SO stupid!").

Puzzle played hard, mostly because of some tough cluing on some short and relatively arcane stuff like ARCO (From *that* clue? No way. I had ESSO at first) (1D: Oil giant that's part of the Tesoro Corporation), and ZEKE (??) (26D: First name of the wolf in Disney's "The Big Bad Wolf") and all the 3-letter answers in the NE. I know the peanuts in question only as PACKING PEANUTS, so without FOAM up there, those short answers were in danger of not coming at all (especially as I didn't know the FTC answer, and can't remember ever seeing that abbr. in a puzzle, though I must've). In the end, there's just too much SETI ERST ERIN UAR TSAR ACHOO MOR LIU UKE EEGS EEO and not enough fun stuff.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


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