Tuesday, August 2, 2016: “-Less”

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Solving time: 25:12. Blech. Hard.

Puzzle quality: 

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Theme: Each of the theme answers is clued with “What the [type of person] didn’t want to be?” and ends in -LESS. As such, the entry describes someone who literally doesn’t have the word that precedes the -LESS suffix. Confused? (That probably wasn’t the best wording). Examples:

  • COLLARLESS (17A: What the beat cop didn’t want to be?). The NYTimes crossword exploits this obscure definition of “collar” all the time: “to seize, grasp, or apprehend (someone). So a beat cop wouldn’t want to be someone who is literally “collarless” because, according to that definition, he/she wouldn’t be able to arrest a criminal. Except collar is a verb and not a noun. So grammatically this clue doesn’t really work. -.-
  • RUTHLESS (21A: What the 1920s Yankee didn’t want to be?) Babe Ruth was a very valuable player on the 1920s Yankee teams. This clue would’ve been much better phrased as “What a 1920s Yankee didn’t want to be?” The article the seems to be referring to Babe Ruth himself, and obviously Babe Ruth wouldn’t want to be without himself.
  • ARTLESS (35A: What the museum curator didn’t want to be?)
  • BASELESS (50A: What the G.I. didn’t want to be?) “Base” here is referring to military base.
  • MOTIONLESS (54A: What the trial attorney didn’t want to be?) Motion, as in “an application for a rule or order of court.”
  • HELPLESS (3D: What the mansion owner didn’t want to be?) I feel like the phrase “the help,” referring to a group of domestic workers, is so outdated that I’ve only heard it in a movie set in the 1960s. Does anyone – even a mansion owner – refer to his/her servants and maids as “the help”?
  • SEAMLESS (36D: What the coal company didn’t want to be?) This is a toughie, since hardly anyone knows that a “seam” is an underground layer, as of ore or coal.” Mr. Oxford to the rescue again.

Must I resign myself to the status quo? Must I blindly accept banal crossword themes like these, where the constructor just decides to make insipid puns out of words that end in -LESS? I don’t think a single one of those theme answers actually made me smile or chuckle. The only potential exception was RUTHLESS, which was the very first theme answer that I got. After that, it was all downhill. Seriously, you’d expect that the greatest crossword puzzle publisher in the world would come up with more amusing themes. It’s almost as though the constructors of these puzzles are just sitting in their rooms, thinking of arbitrary suffixes that they can add onto words so that those words can then become long enough for theme answers. Oh, and some of those words have to be have an equal number of letters, so that the grid is symmetric. Oh, and the theme entries should also be clued wittily. But that last part isn’t as important.

As usual when I’m tired, I acted stupidly while I was completing the puzzle, which partially explains the longer-than-usual solving time. I wanted to fill in HAHA for 1A: Reaction to a crack, but something made me write an I as the first letter for 2D: Blood-typing letters (which was clearly ABO – no idea why I wanted that I). That wasn’t the only time I had trouble with first letters. I couldn’t remember the starting letter of A-LINE, the answer to 15A: Fashion cut. Then, first words also became an issue; I thought for sure that CAPE COD would be the solution to 27A: Martha’s Vineyard alternative, but instead today’s constructor (Paula Gamache) went for THE CAPE?? When I google THE CAPE, I get this TV series that apparently aired on NBC in 2011:

Speaking of unusual ways to phrase things, I thought 44A: “Good heavens!” would be OH MY GOD, but instead Gamache went for MY STARS, which no one … ever … says … anymore. Mr. Oxford literally says it’s “dated.” Gamache probably should have stuck an “archaically” to the end of that clue, or something along those lines.

Oh, and I also forgot the word RIAL. It was on the tip of my tongue when I saw 58A: Mideast money, but I just couldn’t recall it.

Sigh.

 

However, there are definitely some difficult clues, considering that this is a Tuesday. 5D: Worry is a pretty vague hint for CARE; not even Google Translate can tell me what ISOLA (47D: Sicilia, for one) means, although I’m assuming it’s a small island; PICT is appropriately clued as 10A: Briton of old because you’d have to be very, very old to get that; and I guarantee you that 99% of solvers who weren’t actually alive at the start of the 20th century (shocker!) would have filled in PRIDE for 28D: Gay ___ and not the 1900-coined GAY PAREE. 

Peace out fam,
Kenneth, lowly serf of Crossworld

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