Huck Finn's father / SUN 9-30-12 / Sholem Aleichem protagonist / One-named Brazilian soccer star / One-sixth of drachma / Weavers willows / Capital of Swiss canton of Valais / ABC in Variety-speak / Wild equine
Sunday, September 30, 2012
Constructor: Elayne Cantor and Victor Fleming
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
THEME: "Car Talk" — car-related answers, wacky non-car-related clues
Word of the Day: PELEG (12D: Genesis man who lived 239 years) —
Peleg (Hebrew: פֶּלֶג / פָּלֶג, Modern Péleg / Páleg Tiberian Péleḡ / Pāleḡ ; "division") is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible as one of the two sons of Eber, an ancestor of the Israelites, according to the "Table of Nations" in Genesis 10-11 and 1 Chronicles 1. Peleg's son was Reu, born when Peleg was thirty, and he had other sons and daughters. According to the Hebrew Bible, Peleg lived to the age of 239 years. (wikipedia)
OSIERS, ENOTES, RAYONS, NAES, LEOS, TSETSES, GRRS, OLLAS, TEHEES (!?!?!)—just painful. There's lots more non-plural junk as well, and almost nothing sparkly or thoughtful on the plus side to balance it out. I've written down "YO, DUDE," NIGHTIES, and BACK PAY as non-theme answers that I particularly like. That's it. I'm begging constructors—try harder! DEMAREST is a massive waste of an 8! You only have so many longer answers—make them count. And the short stuff doesn't have to be scintillating, but keep the truly stale and outright gag-worthy stuff to a small handful. It Can Be Done. In this day and age, what with all the tools available to constructors, and with more scrutiny than ever given to puzzles, there's just no excuse for filling puzzles in ways that are barely serviceable. I'm looking at that KIP, PAP, ANEMO-, ADESTE, ASI, CTS corner and thinking "Why!?" Yes, BACK PAY and "YO, DUDE" (both in that corner) are good, but did they really necessitate all that dead weight? Sundays especially, being long, should have many, Many highlights. "Barely serviceable" becomes "actively abusive" in a puzzle that's 21x21.
I have a long list of the stale fill that plagues this puzzle, but I'll spare you. You can see it. You saw it. It has been SEEN by you (50D: Comprehended).
- 23A: What Katie Holmes lost in divorce court? (CRUISE CONTROL) — "lost?" I thought she wanted out. Also, "control?" That's what you have in a marriage? What kind of vaudvillean gag is this? "Take my spouse ..."
- 28A: Commute on a crowded bus, e.g.? (REAR BUMPER) — not even sure how this works. Is the guy bumping people's REAR ends? Is he at the back of the bus? Mystifying.
- 55A: Epiphany? (HEAD LIGHT)
- 69A: What "Send" triggers? (AUTOMATIC TRANSMISSION)
- 80A: Legal proceeding over a meth bust? (CRANK CASE) — drug slang. Good. More of that.
- 110A: Smell of sour milk? (TURN SIGNAL)
- 118A: Bling-bling? (HOOD ORNAMENTS) — "Bling" (and esp. "bling-bling") is, and has been, dead. From the wikipedia entry, subheading "Mass Usage" (emph. mine):
While the specific term bling was first popularized in the hip hop community, it has spread beyond hip hop culture and into mass culture. This is similar to the meteoric rise of hip hop music itself, which has led to its most popular artists becoming mainstream pop music icons. "Bling" was added to the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary in 2002 and to the Merriam Webster dictionary in 2006. Companies such as Sprint and Cadillac have used the word bling in their advertisements. During a 2008 Martin Luther King, Jr. Day parade in Jacksonville, Florida, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney admired a baby decked in dress attire with gold jewelry and said, "Oh, you've got some bling-bling here."
In 2004, MTV released a satirical cartoon showing the term being used first by a rapper and then by several progressively less "streetwise" characters, concluding with a middle-aged white woman describing her earrings to her elderly mother. It ended with the statement, "RIPbling-bling 1997-2003." In 2005, the rapper B.G. remarked that he "just wished that he'd trademarked it" so that he could have profited. Like many cases of once-exclusive vernacular that becomes mainstream, the views of the originators towards the term have changed significantly over the years. On VH1's Why You Love Hip-Hop, rapper Fat Joe stated, "rappers don't call jewelry 'bling' anymore, we just call 'em "diamonds"."
- 51A: Digit in military lingo (NINER) — not the "digit" I was imagining. I was picturing a toe or finger.
- 85A: Programming behind computer pop-ups (ADWARE) — aka The Worst Thing About The Internet (after trolls).
- 109A: Potentially slanderous remark (LIE) — I had DIS.
- 123A: Wild equine of ASIA (ONAGER) — crossworld's biggest ass. Anagram of "orange." Always makes me think of Pushkin's "Eugene Onegin," for some reason.
- 126A: ABC, e.g., in Variety-speak (NET) — neglected the "e.g." which had me thinking of ABC specifically. I knew CBS was "the Eye," but ABC ... eluded me.
- 2D: One-named Brazilian soccer star (ADRIANO) — I don't know this guy. RONALDINHO I know.
- 55D: ___ bar (HEATH) — Ugh. Lowercase "bar" made me doubt it til the bitter end, but I guess the bar is just called HEATH, so "bar" would be lowercase. Still, ugh on this clue.
- 70D: One-sixth of a drachma (OBOL) — if I had to nominate, say, five crossword answers for Most Quintessential Crosswordese, this would almost surely make the slate. The clue reads like a parody of itself. Sounds like every pop culture representation of crosswords ever. Movies and TV shows always imagine crosswords as reservoirs of exotic and/or obscure words. In "Someone to Watch Over Me" (1987), for instance, Mimi Rogers (speaking of ex-Mrs. Cruises) impresses her bodyguard when he asks for help with his crossword and she comes up with the answer: URDU. And I thought: Of course. Of course it's URDU. Had to be something four letters long and foreign, right? But at least URDU has the virtue of being spoken by millions and millions of people, whereas no one currently living has ever spent an OBOL.