Nixon adviser Nofziger / SAT 8-1-15 / Jazz’s Beiderbecke / Cornel who wrote “Race Matters” / Put in bundles for the bookbinder / Musician Mendes known for the bossa nova / Irish runner Coghlan / Highest authority in some Eastern Churches / Basketball’s Black Mamba / Food writer Drummond
Saturday, August 1, 2015
Constructor: Kameron Austin Collins
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
Word of the Day: QUIRED (42A: Put in bundles for the bookbinder) —
Definition of QUIRE
: a collection of 24 or sometimes 25 sheets of paper of the same size and quality : one twentieth of a ream (Merriam-Webster)
KOBE BRYANT, HOLY SYNOD, BLANK CDS, LAD MAG, MATCH POINT, GEMSTONE, PEACH PIT, TONGUE-TIED, P.A. SYSTEM, and SEXTED. I’m tickled by FRIEND ZONE (32A: Relationship with unrequited love, in modern slang) appearing right below BABYCAKES (27A: Sweetie); I can guarantee that any single person who tries to put the moves on a stranger at a bar while using the word BABYCAKES won’t get any further than the FRIEND ZONE (and more likely, they'll end up far away from the Friend Zone and instead land in the Sketchy Creep Zone). Anyway, the stairway pattern of 7-plus letter answers in the middle is nicely done -- it's not the easiest grid arrangement to pull off. Now, I'm not enamored with short stuff like GPO, E'EN, ENS, TEM, and REE, though at least REE has a more interesting clue (51D: Food writer Drummond) than an old standby like [Riddle-me-___]. I’m also not really a fan of the LIBELEE/INTERNEE combo (of the two I'd say INTERNEE is the better entry). But I can overlook these things for the sparkly phrases mentioned above.
There were, however, a few answers that left me scratching my head. NAÏVE ART (50A: Works of childlike simplicity) was totally new to me. It’s a legit thing, with a Wiki page and all -- apparently the artist Henri Rousseau was a practitioner of the form -- though I was looking askance at that one for a bit, like it were as arbitrary a phrase as EAGER ART or CUDDLY ART. But alright, I'm uncultured and uncouth and don't know as much about different art forms as I should, so no real harm there. FREE UNION (32D: Cohabitation without marriage) was another question mark. I've never heard of any living arrangement described as a FREE UNION before. Cohabitation, yes; but the clue is the same, word-for-word, as Merriam-Webster's definition, which to me is usually a sign that it's not a very common phrase since the puzzle gives you the most straightforward clue on a Saturday. Even with a Wiki page of its own, FREE UNION doesn't Google all that well as a term for cohabitation -- it gets more hits on the front page as an uber-small town in Virginia. And then there's QUIRED. That word looks like a beheaded REQUIRED (and how long till we see a puzzle with that as a punny theme answer, clued as [Put in bundles for the bookbinder again]?). It's not uncommon that I'll encounter maybe one or two names in a crossword that I don't know, but these answers felt way, way more obscure as phrases relative to the rest of the puzzle. Your mileage may vary.
Despite those issues, I didn't get slowed up that much while solving. For the most part I think the cluing felt a little too over-the-plate for a Saturday. It could be because Kameron and I are in roughly the same age group, so maybe the modern slang and pop culture references were in my wheelhouse. KOBE BRYANT was an insta-get for me as a lifelong NBA fan. FRIEND ZONE fell pretty easily too, as did BLANK CDS once I had the terminal -CDS (though that had a pretty good clue, 10D: They may get burned). Even something like 30D: Sent pixxx? basically screamed SEXTED because of the triple x's. Whatever the reason, most of the clues didn’t put up much resistance when I had a few letters filled in, save for things like QUIRED and FREE UNION and NAÏVE ART.
Anyhow, all these nits aside, this was still an enjoyable puzzle. I would have liked a little more bite in the cluing, but overall, NICE.
(p.s. Just kidding, Kobe. You know I respect your bag. But on this puzzle blog you’re just like the BLANK CDS: you may get burned.)
- PEACH PIT (15A: Cobbler waste) — The ‘90s child in me felt about 0.5% sadness that this wasn’t clued as the hangout spot in “Beverly Hills, 90210,” then I realized that the other 99.5% of me didn’t care for and didn't watch much of that show when it was on. Somehow I remembered that little tidbit, though.
- OHH (21A: "Now I get it!") — Here’s how this little game played out for me: “Ah, it’s AHA!” **sees that 12D: Office paper is MEMO** ….. “Oh, it’s OHO!” ….. **SIGH** (14D: [Not that again]) “Oh, I get it now, it’s OHH.” Weirdly fitting that I would get this one wrong.
- RISKY (24A: Parlous) — "Parlous" is new to me too. It's basically the same as "perilous."
- RAILING (24D: What's up for grabs?) — This clue confused me at first. I thought it was referring only to a rail that you'd see overhead like on a subway, but I think it should be interpreted as "what's put up (i.e. built) for grabs."
- WEST (38A: Cornel who wrote “Race Matters”) — He was another insta-get for me. Two things about this answer: first, now that I realize it, if this had instead been clued in reference to NBA Hall-of-Famer Jerry WEST, then you’d have two Laker legends crossing one another, but maybe that would have been too many sports clues with MATCH POINT and ON THE ICE already in the grid. Second, this puzzle would be a pangram were it not missing the letter J, and 38A could have been JEST. But the crossing WAILERS (38D: Original band that sang “I Shot the Sheriff,” with “the”) references a fun song, so thumbs-up for that. Pangrams are overrated, anyhow.
- P.A. SYSTEM (56A: Principal means of address?) — I'm calling foul here simply because the A of P.A. stands for "Address," so I'm not crazy about it being duplicated in the clue.
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