Monday, March 5, 2007
Solving time: 4:10
THEME: Dirt - all theme answers begin with a synonym of DIRT, or in the case of 17A, DIRT itself: 17A: Planter without hired hands (dirt farmer) [this phrase is new to me]
One of the most disappointing, poorly conceived Monday puzzles I've ever experienced. Its awkwardness didn't slow me down much, but I winced multiple times. Once I'd finished and had time to review the whole grid, I confirmed that the whole thing looked a mess. Where to begin. First, for a much better, more coherent DIRT-themed puzzle, please see Byron Walden's Thursday, Nov. 9 puzzle of last year. Now, a brief survey of the hurricane-ravaged grid.
4D: Cleanses (deterges) - king of the bad answers. I would kick this word out of almost any grid - might allow it on Friday or Saturday, but only in the case of a constructing emergency. I can say that never in my entire life have I encountered this word in verbal form. "Oh, you spilled soup on your shirt, let me DETERGE that for you." No. There's DETERGEnt, and that is the only time the letters D-E-T-E-R-G-E should appear in succession in any word in the English language.
24A: Fabrics for towels, robes, etc. (terries) - another word that never sees the actual light of day in ordinary human conversation. It's another one of those violent plurals (see AVARICES from this past weekend) that one finds only in xword grids. This answer is made worse by its intersection with the aforementioned DETEREGES. "Mommy can't help you with your homework just now, Junior; she's too busy DETERGING TERRIES. . . . oh, don't cry. Why are you crying, honey? Was it something I said?" Yes.
32A: Nests, for birds (homes) - I just don't like the clue. It's not offensive, but [Great Lakes mnemonic] = so much better.
19A: Game-stopping call (time) - irky, if not totally unapt. I had FOUL and then TILT (!?) before TIME. Colloquially, one does indeed "call" TIME if one is a player or coach. Refs and umps make "calls," so this clue is very misdirecty - which is part of the game, I realize. Alright, I have nothing against this clue/answer pairing. Moving on.
53A: Popular drink mix (Nestea) - killed me, mainly because NESTEA is not "popular" anywhere, or with anyone, that I know. Wanted KOOL-AID, then had NESTLE (thinking maybe it was the name of a hot chocolate mix).
37A: _____ Brothers, who sang "Rag Mop" (Ames) - who? Not Monday fill, that's for sure.
38A: Fur tycoon John Jacob (Astor) - Jingleheimmer Schmidt? Like the AMES Bros., Not Monday Fill.
51D: One iron, in old golf lingo (cleek) - you're kidding, right? Absolutely insane. Wasn't CLEEK the name of the Wonder Twins' pet monkey? Damn! That was GLEEK. So Close!
38D: Emphatic words of agreement (Amen! Amen!) - this is just lazy. Why not [Sherman Helmsley comedy mini-marathon]?
45D: Small seed (nutlet) - This was where I sighed "ughghghch" out loud. How many completely ridiculous words are you going to torture me with on a MONDAY!? I don't even have the energy to complain about SORRENTO (40D: Bay of Naples tourist city), so wiped out am I by the DETERGES-CLEEK-NUTLET trifecta.
Lastly, no single grid should ever contain both OMIT (42A: Leave off) and EMIT (63A: Give off) - two tired bits of fill that most decidedly do Not taste great together. Their resemblance here is made worse by both clues' having @#$-ing "off" in them. The EMIT/OMIT ban is a hard fast rule as of right now. Violate it at your peril.
Better luck tomorrow.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld