THEME: PRIME (70A: Steak rating, and word that can precede the first words of the answers to starred clues)
Hey everyone, it's Rex here filling in for the (choose one) a. injured b. lazy c. jet-setting d. burned out Puzzle Girl today. As "word that can precede" puzzles go, this one is OK—pretty average—but what's weird about it is that the *last* words (i.e. those Not involved in the theme) are the ones that appear to go together: TICKLER, CRUNCHER, SHAKER, KILLER. I spent a good minute trying to figure out what the link was before I realized that there was no link: PRIME was the key word, and the first, not the last, words were involved. What's more, the phrase structure is identical in 3/4 of the theme answers: Obj. VerbER, i.e. NUMBER CRUNCHER, RIB TICKLER, and TIME KILLER. This only solidified my conviction that those second words were somehow implicated in the theme (though the incongruity of the phrasing of MOVER AND SHAKER gave me pause, rightly).
- 17A: *Funny story (RIB TICKLER)
- 27A: *Financial analyst (NUMBER CRUNCHER)
- 47A: *Influential one (MOVER AND SHAKER)
- 63A: *Diversion while waiting (TIME KILLER)
Rest of the grid looks pretty good. Did not pick up PARAPHRASE quickly because I associate it with concision, not merely restatement—was really looking for "RE-" beginning. Parallel tracks of UNINVITING and NIELSENS are pretty nice-looking, and KEVLAR, GOTHAM, COMETS, and MOREAU are pretty tasty too (for mid-length fill). Puzzle really pays a price for trying to run RYDER CUP alongside PARAPHRASE: forced into plural abbrev. RPMS, which puts a stranglehold on the whole corner. Random Roman Numeral becomes virtually impossible to avoid at 12D: XII years before the Battle of Hastings (MLIV), which brings along the crosswordtastic YALU and SUPE. Sub par corner for sure. Worth it for the long Downs? Judgment call, but I'd have scrapped that corner and started over. Dreck quotient just too high.
Crosswordese 101: YALU (16A: Strategic Chinese border river) — also called the "AMNOK" river (in Korean), this river separates China and North Korea. A lot of North Koreans are crossing it in recent years in order that they can, you know, live. By which I mean eat. Not starve. Etc. Great / horrifying recent article on effects of last year's currency devaluation.
PG should be back tomorrow. See you later—
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