THEME: football terms — 61A: Org. where you can see the first words of 20-, 38- and 55-Across (NFL)
Pretty uninspired stuff all around here, from theme answers to cluing. Actually, I really love the phrase KICK UPSTAIRS (not a phrase I know well, but vivid and lively), but the theme is blecch, esp. given that the relevant NFL terms (which are really just football terms) are so basic and boring: PASS, RUN, KICK. There's very weak theme coverage overall — just the three longish theme answers, only one of which has the decency to span the grid, and then the NFL answer, which is positioned arbitrarily. Further, the fact that PASS and INTERFERENCE both appear in the grid, but apart, not together, creates a horrible clunky effect (in case you don't know, PASS INTERFERENCE is a common violation in football). Hard to explain — unintentional footballness in a football puzzle just feels sloppy. Like the constructor has a tin ear for the sport she's building the grid around. Further still, PASS, RUN, and KICK are soccer terms (almost) as much as they are (American) football terms. Whole thing feels weak and shaky. Plus, 40 black squares means no decent long Down action. We get a couple long non-theme Acrosses — I esp. like DOGPATCH (33A: Li'l Abner's home)— but otherwise very little sizzle.
- 20A: Give one's verdict (PASS JUDGMENT)
- 38A: Create a distraction (RUN INTERFERENCE)
- 55A: Get rid of by promoting, as an employee (KICK UPSTAIRS)
Crosswordese 101: R. E. LEE (27D: Surrenderer to U.S. Grant) — stupid me; I entered REBEL here without much thought, when everything about the clue was telling me to put in the very common correct answer RELEE. Usually the clue doesn't give you an exact parallel in another general whose name is expressed as initials + last name, as is the case here. The partial form of this abbreviation, E. LEE, is even more common than this incarnation. All those E's are just too h ard to resist. L and R are super-common as well, and thus the ghost of R.E. LEE will haunt the grid more than that of any other general. Sorry, OMAR Bradley.
- 1A: Small cluster, as of threads (TUFT) — I could do nothing with this at first pass. I think of hair being in TUFTS, not threads. But I'm notoriously fabric/sewing-ignorant.
- 50A: Teamsters leader who disappeared in 1975 (HOFFA) — Happy Labor Day!
- 63A: Disorderly type (SLOB) — I don't like "disorderly" for SLOB. The word implies rambunctious or unruly behavior. I get that a SLOB does not care for "order," but still, the clue clunks.
- 10D: Language group that includes Swahili (BANTU) — could easily have been Crosswordese 101. I know nothing about BANTU but knew instantly it was the answer here, which means it must appear in the grid a lot.
- 45D: Dogs from 21-Down (AKITAS) — like that this ties to the answer right above it in the grid, JAPAN (21D: Iwo Jima's country). Don't like that "Dogs" is in the clue when DOGPATCH is in the grid. Minor issue, admittedly.
- 49D: Dress bottom (SKIRT) — was thinking HEM, which is the bottom of the bottom that this grid wanted.
See you Friday,
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