Card game popular in Germany / TUE 10-5-10 / Van Gogh locale / Malfoy's look / Cleavage-revealing dress feature / French brainchild
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Constructor: Paula Gamache
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: "BYE BYE MISS AMERICAN PIE" — ends of the theme answers form this lyric by DON MCLEAN (62A: Singer of the lyric formed by the ends of the answers to the four starred clues)
Word of the Day: EARLE Combs (38D: Hall-of-Famer Combs who played with Gehrig and Ruth) —
Earle Bryan Combs (May 14, 1899 – July 21, 1976) was an American professional baseball player, who played his entire career for the New York Yankees (1924‑1935). Combs batted leadoff and played center field on the Yankees' fabled 1927 team (often referred to as Murderers' Row). He is one of six players on that team who have been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame; the other five are Waite Hoyt, Herb Pennock, Tony Lazzeri, Lou Gehrig, and Babe Ruth. (wikipedia)
Well, that's the lyric, but with the exception of MISS, those lyric words aren't exactly buried or hidden or repurposed, as they should be, ideally, in a theme like this. LAT ran a puzzle with this exact type of theme yesterday, where *first* words of theme answers formed the phrase "PEANUT BUTTER AND JELLY SANDWICH." But in that puzzle, the theme answers crackled a bit, where here, they just fall flat. SAY 'BYE BYE' is phenomenally weak, as BYE BYE appears as itself, inside a contrived phrase ("GO BYE BYE" at least has a baby talk angle ... "BYE BYE LOVE" would have added much-needed bounce—I wonder if there weren't much better answers available if the words had appeared at the beginning of the phrases). In the end, it's not a bad puzzle—perfectly adequate—it's just not very thoughtful or imaginative at the level of the theme answers. AFRICAN-AMERICAN just lies there (the same way CENTRAL AMERICAN would). Why not "THE UGLY AMERICAN?" "CUTEY PIE?" "HONEY PIE?" Something to give the answers some damned life...
- 17A: *Bid adieu, informally (SAY 'BYE BYE')
- 26A: *Failure by a narrow margin (NEAR MISS)
- 40A: *Like Oprah Winfrey and Michael Jordan (AFRICAN-AMERICAN)
- 51A: *It's often ordered à la mode (APPLE PIE)
NO TASTE is a pretty cruddy answer, requiring a really awkward clue (26D: Characteristic of bland food and bad dressers). "Characteristic" is a noun, but "NO TASTE" ... well, I guess it's nominal, but ugh. BAD TASTE = good phrase, NO TASTE = wobbly. This and EARLE and the strange clue on EPITOMES (42D: Abstracts) were the only sticking points, and they were pretty minor. Really like SCOOP NECK (37D: Cleavage-revealing dress feature). Otherwise, happy to move on to Wednesday (and I actually really like the song in question, still, despite my massive overexposure to it as a kid).
- 57A: 'Do that one would rarely wear a hat with ('FRO) — yo, somebody forgot to tell Oscar Gamble.
- 29A: Gorilla famously taught to use sign language (KOKO) — Acc. to wikipedia, "Koko is short for the name Hanabiko (花火子, lit. "fireworks child" ) in Japanese, a reference to her date of birth, the Fourth of July." Also, she seems to be still alive at nearly 40.
- 45A: Where a pear's seeds are (CORE) — read this as "WHAT a pear's seeds are"; misreads are a speed-solving hazard.
- 58A: Online portal since Windows 95 was launched (MSN) — didn't know the portal was tied to the OS.
- 67A: French brainchild (IDÉE) — BRIE also fits. It's not a good fit, but it is a good brainchild.
- 71A: Card game popular in Germany (SKAT) — I did not know that.
- 2D: Never-ratified women-related measure, for short (E.R.A.) — wow, that is one long, awkwardly phrased way of cluing the most common crossword word in existence.
- 12D: Van Gogh locale (ARLES) — it's always ARLES, which has a lot of useful letters in a very unusual (for English) combination.
- 39D: Malfoy's look, in the Harry Potter books (SNEER) — interesting SNEER clue. Must be good, because I got it instantly.
- 56D: No enrollees at Smith College (MALES) — this is like the NO TASTE cluing problem in reverse. Awkward incorporation of "No." "No enrollees" = "MALES." Further, I am no fan of calling human beings MALES and FEMALES — unless you are studying them scientifically, they are MEN and WOMEN. MALES has the ... benefit? ... of transcending age (i.e. includes children and adults), but it's awkward and (often) unnecessarily clinical-sounding.
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]