I love me some superheroes. I'm not quite to the level of dorkitude as my twin brother, who can not only name all four people who have been the Flash, but who can also list off all the alternate Flashes in the DC Multiverse. (I'm not-so-secretly in awe of him, although sometimes I wonder if his brain cells could be used for better purposes.)
I wish I had that level of ability when it came to pop culture! I stared and stared at FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE, sure that it must be some play on words or a kooky phrase formed from a solid base phrase. My realization that it's a real band was alas, far from Flash-quick. They had a hit called "Stacy's Mom"? I watched the video and was amused.
I had a similar issue with DUKE OF KENT. That band's hit was …
Wait, that's the person, the Duke of Kent?
You're saying he's Superman?
WELL HE SHOULD BE.
Thankfully STARK NAKED, NOSY PARKER, and BANNER YEAR worked perfectly for me. I especially liked the first, so apt for playboy billionaire Tony STARK. Ten years ago, I would have worried that no one would have recognized these alter egos, but thankfully the "Avengers" movies have brought them more into popular consciousness.
Theme concerns aside, such solid gridwork coming from two newer constructors! Five themers, including a 16-letter one, is rarely easy to build around. I hardly noticed a blip during my solve. Even going back for a second look, the only thing I picked up was a stray OTRO. That's a much better than many established constructors can produce.
Working in IN ANY CASE, HEAT MAP, and especially ALTER EGO? That's dynamite. Notice how carefully they deployed their black squares in the middle of the grid? They separate all the long slots so well.
Neat idea and superb craftsmanship. If all the themers had worked for me — I think it'd be tough to argue for FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE being something educated solvers ought to know — this could have been in POW! territory.
NO WAY = remove "way" from phrases for kooky results. The theme confused me a bit since RUN A TRAIN is something I see in some of my kids' books. It's a bit kooky … but a bit real, too. And SUBSTATIONS is a real word, isn't it? (Yup.)
Thankfully, HIGH ROBBERY clarified the theme (more or less) for me. There's no such thing as HIGH ROBBERY! And I like me some heist movies like "Tower Heist," especially when they happen up on rooves. So that worked for me.
ONE STREET … not kooky enough for me.
But I did love some of the fill. RIGHT-O! The GEM STATE shone. (*rimshot*) A LONDONER next to a STOCKADE painted a funny 17th-century picture. And CEMENT MIXER was fantastic!
Er, CEMENT MASON. Hmm. I so badly wanted it to be CEMENT MIXER. Such a great clue, riffing on "concrete plans." Let's just pretend it was the much more awesome CEMENT MIXER, shall we?
Overall, mixed results, especially given my high expectations for creativity on my Thursday puzzles. What other, more surprising WAY removals are there? WAYNE NEWTON to NE (Nebraska) NEWTON? PROJECT RUNWAY to PROJECT RUN? It turns out to be a tough trigram to work with. Huh.
I did appreciate much of the gridwork, not bad at all to finish up with just some ignorable stuff in a debut puzzle. Let's just try not to eke (ha) out so much similar ETE, ERE, ENE stuff next time.