Old fast food chain whose mascot's head was orange / FRI 9-28-12 / Tank named after French WW II general / Pou basis of operations / Otto goes after it / Musical with song Bui Doi / Moma's Two heads Birds in Aquarium / Eclipse alternative / English boys school founded 948
Friday, September 28, 2012
Constructor: Ed Sessa
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
Word of the Day: LECLERC (36D: Tank named after a French W.W. II general) —
The AMX-56 Leclerc, commonly known as the Leclerc, is a main battle tank (MBT) built by Nexter of France. It was named in honour of General Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque who led the French element of the drive towards Paris while in command of the Free French 2nd Armoured Division (2ème DB) in World War II.The Leclerc is in service with the French Army and the army of the United Arab Emirates. In production since 1991, the Leclerc entered French service in 1992, replacing the venerable AMX 30 as the country's main armoured platform. With production now complete, the French Army has a total of 406 Leclercs and theUnited Arab Emirates Army has 388. The current price in 2011 is €9.3 million. (wikipedia)
• • •LECLERC? Is that famous as a general, a tank, or neither? CIARDI?! (43D: John who wrote the textbook "How Does a Poem Mean?") I knew that, because I was a medievalist and I know him as a translator of Dante, but that guy is just Not common knowledge. NEDICK'S!?! (14D: Old fast-food chain whose mascot's head was an orange)?! If you lived in NYC before 1980, no doubt a total gimme. Otherwise, massive WTF? I've seen it once before, and it stumped me then, so this time ... still stumped me, but somehow that initial "N" eventually floated into my mind. If it hadn't, the NE still wouldn't be done. That "N" let me see "MISS SAIGON," which I had no hope of getting otherwise (never saw it, don't recognize the song in the clue) (5A: Musical with the song "Bui Doi").
ONE CARD). So ... I draw ... ONE CARD ... when I draw ... for an inside straight. Because I have a three, four, six, and seven in my hand? But I could draw ONE CARD ... in many situations ... card wise. An outside straight situation, for instance. I just don't see the firm connection between clue and answer. Couldn't tell if clue was verb or noun or what. ONE CARD is just bad fill to begin with. Like TWO DOGS or THREE PENNIES or something. Thought ILA was ILO (both bad, both labor-related) (11D: Pier grp.). GOT IT ON doesn't say [Began brawling] to me. It says [Brawled]. What's this "began" stuff? I see the wants-to-be-cute river-relatedness of the AARE clue now, but not while solving (10D: Swiss banks may be affiliated with it). Had SETTE as SIETE because foreign numbers, whatever (9D: Otto goes after it). Never heard of [Hyperhidrotic] and so no hope for SWEATY. DOTE doesn't mean [Be feeble-minded] to me, except in some retrospective, dictionary-esque way, as it slowly dawns on me that it's probably connected to "dotage." IRE was ADO (6D: Madness). MAPS could've been anything (5D: Hikers' helpers). That corner was a bleeping disaster. And not a rewarding one.
VUVUZELA feels like a clue that would've been timely back when that ... instrument? ... was in the news, during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa (38A: Stadium ear piercer). Now it just seems dated. I know the VUVUZELA still exists, but the puzzle reeks of 2010 because of that clue. Most (non-soccer-fan) people, if they've heard of that word, heard it in the summer of 2010 and then never again. I assume it was a seed word for this puzzle, and that this puzzle was in fact made in the summer of 2010 or shortly thereafter. I can't really imagine what the other seed answers were, except perhaps SENSORY OVERLOAD (which is a nice grid-spanner) (7D: Potential downside of the information age). I don't see much here that I'd deliberately put into my grid, and in a themeless I expect at least half a dozen nice medium-to-long answers. Don't see many that would qualify here.
CORDUROY could've been cute, but this one is just awkward, and not playing on any phrase I know (30A: What shows its ribs?). St. ALBAN'S? Hmmm, rang enough of a bell that I got it, but blah (35A: St. ___ (English boys' school founded in 948)). I guess the Mitsubishi (had to look that up) Eclipse is a sporty car ... and a MIATA is also sporty? So that's the rationale there (47A: Eclipse alternative). Thought [Atlantic follower, in Monopoly] was VERMONT. It wasn't (VENTNOR). The only thing I liked about ARPS was that I got it easily (28D: MoMA's "Two Heads" and "Birds in an Aquarium"). And ugh, STO is the Worst (well, it's not as bad as POU, which I have also seen in puzzles, but it's pretty damned bad–"Pou STO" is really the bottom of the crosswordese barrel; avoid at all costs).
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld