THEME: Medieval puns — phrases all have word "medieval" in them, and all answers involve puns on things associated with the Middle Ages
I studied medieval literature in grad school and still sometimes teach it, so this theme was up my alley (though there's nothing particularly literary about it). The theme answers don't exactly sizzle, but they're all solid puns, CHANNEL SERF being by Far the best. There was a bit too much cruddy little fill in this puzzle for my tastes. ONEL and N-TEST, and SSS (UGH) and KER and ILA and TSGTS (which I've never seen in a puzzle before — SSGTS and MSGTS are familiar) (49D: Some USAF NCOs). There's a general lack of care with the small stuff that gives the puzzle a dull cast, rather than the shine it ought to have. SOMA ILA MASSA STOA — all legal, but none of it good. I just finished a puzzle in which I *had* to use ILO and it's still killing me, right now, even as I type. ILA (7D: Tuscan marble city) might have caused me to tear the whole thing down. On the plus side, DIDDY (35D: Bad Boy Records founder, as he's now known) and NAS (40A: "Thugz Mansion" rapper) and BASIE (22D: Count in jazz) give the puzzle an unusually upbeat, musical vibe.
- 17A: Medieval commuter between Dover and Calais? (CHANNEL SERF)
- 22A: Medieval castle owner's view? (BARON LANDSCAPE)
- 34A: Manages medieval real estate holdings? (MINDS ONE'S MANORS)
- 46A: Medieval lord's efforts? (FEUDAL ATTEMPTS)
- 53A: Weapons for medieval warriors? (KNIGHT CLUBS)
I was really slow on the uptake with AT THAT (42D: Besides). It's a phrase I never use and couldn't clearly define, frankly, so I needed crosses aplenty. Also double-stacked some wrongness in the NW, putting in CHE over DEAR before realizing that 12D: Sell at an inflated price had to be SCALP, which meant CHE had to go to MAO (19A: Revolutionary leader) and DEAR to DOLL (21A: Honeybunch).
Crosswordese 101: Jack OAKIE (15A: Jack of "The Great Dictator") — As far as I can tell, Jack OAKIE is the only acceptable clue for OAKIE. He is famous today only to cinephiles and crossword aficionados. Why does his fame live on in crosswords? One word: vowels. He's 80% vowels, this guy. To a constructor, that's like AIOLI in IONIA (i.e. tasty). His lack of massive fame, and the slightly Scrabbly "K," keep him from being ENYA-common, but he's definitely a repeater.
- 39A: 1950s Edward R. Murrow news show ("SEE IT NOW") — ooh, I like this too. Before my time, but right in the heart of the period that my favorite crime fiction comes from. Mmm, Cold War.
- 21D: 747 competitor (DC TEN) — I would never have thought of plane models as being in "competition" with one another.
- 47D: Peak near Jungfrau (EIGER) — learned it from xwords
- 55D: Pique condition? (IRE) — Peek-a-boo! Throw in PEKE and you've got yourself a weak crossword theme!
See you Friday,
PS For those of you who have been away for the past couple days, I want to draw your attention to a puzzle I wrote to benefit the breast cancer foundation of Christina Applegate (whose birthday was Wednesday). Please go HERE to read about it and download it or print it out, and please share it with anyone you know who likes puzzles (or breasts). I'm going to be promoting this puzzle for the rest of the weekend. Check it out, and then go here to get the completed grid and commentary (and to leave comments).
PPS here's a recent Slate article by Matt Gaffney about how it is that two constructors might come up with virtually identical puzzles completely independently of one another — very informative about constructing issues.
Everything Else — 1A: Like litigants (SUING); 6A: Campaign unpleasantry (SMEAR); 11A: Onetime lottery org. (SSS); 14A: Block house (IGLOO); 15A: Jack of "The Great Dictator" (OAKIE); 16A: Make a scene? (ACT); 17A: Medieval commuter between Dover and Calais? (CHANNEL SERF); 19A: Revolutionary leader (MAO); 20A: 1994 co-Nobelist with Rabin and Arafat (PERES); 21A: Honeybunch (DOLL); 22A: Medieval castle owner's view? (BARON LANDSCAPE); 27A: Hogwash (BALONEY); 28A: Geezer (COOT); 29A: Hope contributed to it for 50 yrs. (USO); 30A: Settled, as plans (FIRMED UP); 34A: Manages medieval real estate holdings? (MINDS ONE'S MANORS); 39A: 1950s Edward R. Murrow news show (SEE IT NOW); 40A: "Thugz Mansion" rapper (NAS); 41A: Mover or shaker (DOER); 42A: Threaten to attack (ASSAULT); 46A: Medieval lord's efforts? (FEUDAL ATTEMPTS); 50A: Easter bloom (LILY); 51A: Barbershop device (STROP); 52A: 007, for one: Abbr. (AGT.); 53A: Weapons for medieval warriors? (KNIGHT CLUBS); 59A: Flop preceder (KER-); 60A: Heart line (AORTA); 61A: Country known for its distance runners (KENYA); 62A: Big period (ERA); 63A: Bikini blast (N-TEST); 64A: Exorbitant (STEEP); 1D: [error left as is] (SIC); 2D: You might close your eyes when you say it (UGH); 3D: Dockworkers' org. (ILA); 4D: Amateur (NON-PRO); 5D: Been happening (GONE ON); 6D: One way to be responsible (SOLELY); 7D: Tuscan marble city (MASSA); 8D: Barely manage, with "out" (EKE); 9D: Inflation cause? (AIR); 10D: Whistle blower (REF); 11D: Island group near Fiji (SAMOA); 12D: Sell at an inflated price (SCALP); 13D: It's a wrap (STOLE); 18D: Seaside flier (ERNE); 21D: 747 competitor (DC-TEN); 22D: Count in jazz (BASIE); 23D: Single-handedly (ALONE); 24D: CBS military drama (NCIS); 25D: Campus quarters (DORM); 26D: "Brave New World" drug (SOMA); 27D: Saddens, with "out" (BUMS); 30D: "A __ Good Men" (FEW); 31D: Coffee mate? (DONUT); 32D: Continent-dividing range (URALS); 33D: Hissed "Over here!" ("PSST!"); 35D: Bad Boy Records founder, as he's now known (DIDDY); 36D: Greek portico (STOA); 37D: First-year law student (ONE-L); 38D: Author Ephron (NORA); 42D: Besides (AT THAT); 43D: Rockefeller Center muralist (SERT); 44D: Preschoolers' protection (SMOCKS); 45D: Task-oriented program (APPLET); 46D: Cereal bit (FLAKE); 47D: Peak near the Jungfrau (EIGER); 48D: Prefix with conservative (ULTRA); 49D: Some USAF NCOs (TSGTS); 53D: The Sunflower St. (KAN.); 54D: "As if!" ("NOT!"); 55D: Pique condition? (IRE); 56D: Nice one? (UNE); 57D: "Later!" ("BYE!"); 58D: Gullible one (SAP).