MONDAY, September 7, 2009 — Teri Smalley

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.

Theme answers:

  • 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.

What else?

  • 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,


[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Greene said...

Loved the shout out to my neck of the woods: TAMPA. After that...not so much. I liked seeing POACHER, DOGPATCH, and B MINOR in the grid, but none of these has much sizzle. KICK UPSTAIRS is really a terrific phrase and is the best thing about this puzzle.

I couldn't download the Across-Lite version from Cruciverb this morning so had to do the puzzle on the Applet. Ugh. Anything up with Cruciverb?

Orange said...

@Greene, it's Labour Day in Canada, where Cruciverb is based. Maybe Kevin's at a...what's the Canadian word for "cookout"? Is it pronounced "cookoot" there?

@Rex: "Teri Smalley" anagrams to "it's really me," so this is another Rich Norris pen name.

chefbea said...

easy puzzle, even though it was sports related.
Two sports related puzzles I've done today

Enjoy the rest of the weekend everyone

Anonymous said...

Good puzzle! Good catch on the anagram, Orange!

That Canadian accent you are referring is found only in the Maritimes (and is basically from Scottish roots). You won't here it elsewhere in Canada (unless a Maritimer has relocated). :o)

Unknown said...

I agree with Rex's description "clunky." Here are my nits to pick:

5D: ("Star Trek crewman"=Sulu) When did Mr/Lt Sulu get demoted to crewman?

47D: (Low-carb maven=Atkins) While technically correct (expert, connoisseur), I have never heard a man referred to as a maven; the same goes for doyen. Anyone else? Seriously, I'm asking.

51D: (Kalahari refuge=oasis) Minor gripe - while there are some oases (most are pubs) in the Kalahari, it's not really a desert. It's quite livable on its own, thriving with flora and fauna (including humans).

mac said...

I have to agree, blah and "kick upstairs" is the best answer.
Most fun thing about the puzzle is the anagram!

Joon said...

i liked this a little more than others seemed to. PASS, RUN and KICK aren't just "three football terms"; they're the three types of plays in football. literally every play in a football game can be classified as one of those (even fumbled snaps and QB kneel-down plays, which are technically runs). so the theme is a little bit tighter than you give it credit for.

Unknown said...

I forgot to mention, "kicked upstairs." I'm sure I've never seen it in an American puzzle before. This is actually a very familiar British political expression. Basically, if the ruling party wants to get rid of someone in the House of Commons, they put them on the Honours List for a life (non-hereditary) barony. Since almost no one will refuse, the "someone" is "kicked upstairs" to the House of Lords, which is a much less influential house of Parliament.

shrub5 said...

This Labor Day puzzle wasn't laborious but still enjoyable IMHO. Like @RP, I plunked in REBEL instead of RELEE, but got it straightened out right away with DUAL. I also had ABUSING for ABASING, but knew there was no low-carb maven UTKINS!

@Gavin: I agree that "maven" seems to have a feminine aura in the usage we see today, but nothing in its definition or wiki entry supports that. One example from wiki: William Safire, longtime political columnist for the NYT and regular contributor to "On Language" in the NYT magazine, described himself as "the language maven."

I had a little chuckle at the clue "Sweat spot" for SAUNA. My first thought was armpit.

Orange said...

@Gavin, doyen is a gender-neutral term; doyenne is the word that's specifically female. That said, doyenne is much more commonly used than doyen.

ddbmc said...

I remember when Hoffa disappeared! They keep saying he's part of Giant's Stadium! Couple of minor hiccups, but nothing of note and got those in the crosses.@Green, thanks for the discourse on Elia Kazan yesterday, got me reading more. Not a great time in American History, but then I guess we need to look at what went on after 9/11, too. McCarthyism and Roy Cohn were also bad guys of that era-Roy Cohn ultimately an incredibly destructive human being and a hypocrite, to boot. I imagine he was "kicked downstairs" upon his demise. @Orange-you CW people are always thinkin'! Never would have guessed the anagram. Guess I need some better antenae! Headin' off to the Rutgers game, where I'll see some kicking, passing and running....RU Rutgers, RU RAH! :)

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Charles Bogle said...

I don't know about that last comment, @anonymous; it's all greek to me. Anyway, couldn't agree more w @RP-"dunky" is apt, theme is listless. Ok, pro football starts this coming wkend, but it's "Labor Day"-could it be so hard to construct a Monday puzzle that honors the working men/women and esp this year the want to be working men/women...did like KICKUPSTAIRS; also, SAUNA, TUFT, IRRIGATE, ABASING, MESSKIT, DOLTS...was driving around Seattle Thurs and everything w/in ten miles of the football arena was jammed, packed, three hours BEFORE a Seahawks pre-season, exhibition game--so I gguess I'm in NW football country. UWash and WashState get lots of play here too as does high school ball

Orange said...

Charles, that wasn't no Greek spam, that was Russian spam from our friend Anonymous. (People who post as "Anonymous," you see who we mix you up with?)

I wonder if they sell Spam in Russia—or Greece. I'll bet feta cheese and olives would set off the salty pork by-products flavor nicely.

Bohica said...

I've always taken issue with advertisers making the claim of "new and improved" product (RE:13D). How can someething be both new and improved? It's either new or improved, because if were improved it had to have been in existance, thereby it cannot be new. (RIP George Carlin).

Sfingi said...

@Chefbea, I now do believe I can learn sports xwords w/o learning sports.

33A Al Capp - I loved his stuff - and there was so much - until he was caught being a molester. Damn him.

What's this with tuff guys having tuff Moms? Mario Puzo based the Godfather on his; Sinatra's had a number running operation and more unappetizing stuff. He would never admit to being a Sicilian speaker or her being from Castellamare.

I was away from my papers/crosswords over the weekend. Why did no one remember we had Amahl on 8/12/09?

I had learned what a jetty is when I studied villanelles and ran into this ridiculous one by Cosmo Monkhouse: "Beautiful distracting Hetty, as we strolled upon the jetty."

This is the last time we attend the Feast of Tre Sante in Lawrence, MA. If that's the feast, I'd hate to see the famine.

Hope y'all had a better Labor Day vacation than we did!