Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: Yore kidding, right? — Familiar phrases are tweaked to create "medieval tournament" (in this case, jousting) puns.
Word of the Day: BESOM (18A: Broom made of twigs) —
- A bundle of twigs attached to a handle and used as a broom.
- Sports. The broom used to sweep the ice from the path of a curling stone.[Middle English, from Old English besma.]
• • •
Unbearable on at least two levels. First, the puns. I'm no pun-lover. No pun-lover, I. But I figure I can tolerate them now and again. But these barely qualify. The best "KNIGHTS" pun you could get is KNIGHTS GOING??? LANCES is supposed to pun on "lenses?" I'm just supposed to accept the second "S" in LISTS WE FORGET? The only one of these four that actually works is JOUST KIDDING, and even that necessitates a kind of tortured clue, since the grammar of it doesn't work out very neatly. But maybe corny, awkward, and highly inexact puns are your cup of tea. It happens. If so, then I have to ask if BESOM is also your cup of tea. There is absolutely no excuse for that crusty, useless hunk of old-time crosswordese to be in this puzzle. None. That's a three-minute rewrite, tops. What in god's name!? Also, please tell me what XOX is doing in this grid? The [Tic-tac-toe loser] clue is the last refuge of a desperate constructor, but usually he/she has something to be desperate about, i.e. nothing else will work, I'm holding up some golden "X" words, one of which is a theme answer, etc. Here ... There Is No Excuse. I know, Xs are pretty, but not this pretty. Not when they occur *only* in crosswordese (in both directions!). Why not go whole hog and make 63D all Xs (XXX) and make 68A a Roman numeral? I mean, since the only criterion for quality down there seems to be "maximum Xs."
Love DELOREAN (10D: "Back to the Future" transport) and SLIPSHOD (39D: Sloppy). That is precisely all that I love. Nope, wait. I kinda like the clue on SAMSON (9D: Biblical fellow who was distressed?). Though I probably would've gone with another word besides "fellow" (see FELLA, 43A: "The Most Happy ___").
- 20A: End of some medieval tournament action? (KNIGHTS GOING)
- 27A: Weapons that hit in a medieval tournament? (CONTACT LANCES)
- 48A: Really boring medieval tournaments? (LISTS WE FORGET)
- 53A: Joking around at a medieval tournament? (JOUST KIDDING)
- 68A: "The occupation of the idle man, the distraction of the warrior, theperil of the sovereign," per Napoleon (LOVE) — TLDR
- 23D: Chow down on (SCARF) — I had EAT UP
- 30D: TV courtroom drama, 1986-94 ("L.A. LAW") — Gimme. Super popular in my pre-internet college days. Must-see TV. That and "Twin Peaks."
- 31D: Start or finish of an aphorism regarding justice (AN EYE) — a bit too much of this partial-y stuff. AN EYE, AS IT, I'M ON, TO DIE, IN NO. I take it back. There's *way* too much of this partial-y stuff. Inexcusable. Can't remember last time I saw five partials in a simple 76-worder.
- 59D: Juana ___ de la Cruz, Mexican poet/nun (INES) — not sure whether it was "S" or "Z" until TOMES (70A: Heavy reading) set me straight.
PS My university's research magazine published this video of me yesterday, in advance of an article/interview that comes out later this month. (I believe the "urban invader" mentioned in the video turned out to be "ROACH")