Friend of Gandalf / TUE 9-30-14 / Marbles British Museum display / Canadian comedy show of 1970s-'80s / Mineralogist for whom scale is named

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Constructor: Kyle T. Dolan

Relative difficulty: Easy


THEME: "THE PRICE IS RIGHT" (35A: Long-runninggame show with a feature spelled out clockwise by this puzzle's circled letters) — circles spell out "SHOWCASE SHOWDOWN"; other theme answers are a "modern host" and a "longtime host" of the show:

Theme answers:
  • DREW CAREY
  • BOB BARKER

Word of the Day: ELGIN Marbles (58A: ___ Marbles (British Museum display)) —
The Parthenon Marbles, also known as the Elgin Marbles (/ˈɛlɡɪn/ el-gin), are a collection of classical Greek marble sculptures (mostly by Phidias and his assistants), inscriptions and architectural members that originally were part of the Parthenon and other buildings on the Acropolis of AthensThomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin obtained a controversial permit from the Ottoman house to remove pieces from the Parthenon while serving as the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire from 1799 to 1803.
From 1801 to 1812, Elgin's agents removed about half of the surviving sculptures of the Parthenon, as well as architectural members and sculpture from the Propylaea and Erechtheum. The Marbles were transported by sea to Britain. In Britain, the acquisition of the collection was supported by some, while some critics compared Elgin's actions to vandalism or looting.
Following a public debate in Parliament and the subsequent exoneration of Elgin, the marbles were purchased by the British government in 1816 and placed on display in the British Museum, where they stand now on view in the purpose-built Duveen Gallery. (wikipedia)
• • •

Wait, the ELGIN Marbles aren't … marbles? Like, playing marbles? Little spheres? Aggies or taws or whatever marbles are called? I'm somehow disappointed.


So, the SHOWCASE SHOWDOWN, if you're not familiar with the show, involves the spinning of a giant wheel with number amounts on it; the contestant closest to one dollar without going over gets to be in the SHOWDOWN, which is this bit where you bid on something fancy … I think whichever contestant guesses value of his/her prize most accurately without going over wins said prize … I haven't watched the show in a while. But here's the thing. The wheel spins along an axis perpendicular to the one represented by the circles in this grid. It doesn't spin like the "Wheel of Fortune" wheel—it spins more like a water mill, with the rim facing outward and the numbers printed on the rim itself. Here—"WOF" wheel:



And the SHOWCASE SHOWDOWN wheel:



Point is: this circle is a highly inaccurate of the wheel on "THE PRICE IS RIGHT" (if, in fact, that was what the circled letters were going for, which … I'm not 100% sure).


Fill continues to be abysmal, or at least far below where it should be. I've seen rejection letters where the editor claims to be upholding very high standards in the matter of fill, but that claim is belied by the vast majority of puzzles that have come out lately. Not that the trend is new. It's just been highly noticeable in the past week and a half or so. Longer stuff is not bad (LOVE BITES and BREWED UP and BEER CAN will do nicely), but shorter stuff is still manifestly subpar. I'll just highlight that southern region, with TERCE and OKSO (?), but there's also MEI and ARIL and SES and ATA and ONDVD and a bunch of stuff that's just OK. Just getting by. No craft, no attempt at polish. Just … good enough! Apparently "good enough" is the new "gold standard." No idea why the puzzle continues to limp along as it does. But it does. Broken theme, below-average fill … oh, Tuesday. Will you never win?
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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    Nixon White House chief of staff / MON 9-29-14 / Hit 2002 film with talking sloths / Racking vehicle on small track / Actor stand up comic Foxx

    Monday, September 29, 2014

    Constructor: Eric Sydney Phillips

    Relative difficulty: Challenging (***for a Monday***)



    THEME: HOME TOWN HERO (60A: Local success story) — a series of words / phrases related to a hypothetical "Local success story."

    Theme answers:
    • I KNEW YOU WHEN (18A: Words to a local success story)
    • CELEBRITY (24A: What a local success story achieves)
    • HUMBLE BEGINNINGS (39A: What a local success story comes from)
    • MAKES GOOD (49A: What a local success story does)
    Word of the Day: H.R. HALDEMAN (3D: Nixon White House chief of staff) —
    Harry Robbins "Bob" Haldeman (better known as H. R. Haldeman; October 27, 1926 – November 12, 1993) was an American political aide and businessman, best known for his service as White House Chief of Staff to President Richard Nixon and his consequent involvement in the Watergate scandal. His intimate role in the Watergate cover-up precipitated his resignation from government; subsequent to which he was tried on counts of perjury,conspiracy and obstruction of justice; found guilty and imprisoned for 18 months. Upon his release he returned to private life and was a successful businessman until his death from cancer in 1993. (wikipedia)
    • • •

    The grid is 16 wide, so the fact that this played slow is not that big a surprise. But it played Very slow for me. Nearly 4 minutes. That is a Monday-eternity. I don't much care. This feels like it should've been a Tuesday, but close enough for government work. Is that the expression? I'm not sure. That expression feels at least as old as I would've had to have been for H.R. HALDEMAN to have been a gimme. As it was, I needed, no joke, every cross. Of course I've heard of him, but he's one of those "names in the air" that I can't place accurately, and I certainly didn't know (off the top of my head) his first two initials, let alone how to spell his name ("HALDERMAN?"). So my Nixonian ignorance might've played a role in my slowness today as well. I don't really understand themes like this, possibly because you so rarely see them—they're just a loose collection of phrases associated with a very general idea. There's a kind of progression (kind of) from past ("I KNEW YOU WHEN") to present (HOME TOWN HERO), but not really … CELEBRITY appears early, and BEGINNINGS is in the middle. It was all a bit too arbitrary and blah for me. The fill didn't help matters—very generic, except that HRHALDEMAN outlier there. Clue on NINE MONTHS is kind of cute (31D: Pregnant pause?). But I'll take last Monday's puzzle over this any day. I'm sorry I said anything critical about it at all, Ian Livengood. Come back, Ian Livengood, come back! Livengood! … Shane!


    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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