MONDAY, Jun 8 2009 — Montreal baseballers 1969-2004 / Tray transporter / German-made car since 1899 / "Do Ya" group, for short
Monday, June 8, 2009
Constructor: Randy Sowell
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: Like a Dimwit — theme answers are all two-word phrases in which the first word can be a synonym for "unintelligent"
Word of the Day: HOOSEGOW (37D: Lockup) — n. Slang.
[Spanish juzgado, tribunal, courtroom, from past participle of juzgar, to judge, from Latin iūdicāre, from iūdex, iūdic-, judge. See judge.]
A very tight theme with excellent, interesting theme answers. The non-theme fill, however, is kind of not great. It's almost all 4- and 5-letter words, so admittedly it's not going to be easy to make it all exciting, but this puzzle is just drenched in tired fill. The word, I think, is LAZY (10A: Indolent). Take that LAZY corner (the NE). Two proper nouns, both of which are not-very-famous people whose noteworthy achievements are long past, plus the suffix -AROO, all equals yuck. Too much crutchy stuff. I think ARIE is what really tips it to bad up there. YOST (13D: Dennis _____ and the Classics IV (1960s-'70s group)) and AROO (16A: Suffix with buck) put that corner at its compromise-fill limit. Actually, YOST might be just fine on its own, but the inclusion of ARIE makes the corner just too weird-namey. Plus, that ARIE clue reeks of mothballs (11D: 1997 Indy 500 winner _____ Luyendyk). There's a talented and reasonably popular singer named India.ARIE — using her wouldn't have fixed things completely, but it would have made that corner slightly more palatable.
Without much effort, I redid the NE a couple times:
... neither of them great (who wants to see ULEE again? Answer: no one), but both of them better (IMHO). A quick trip around the grid shows more ETNA-ORE-AXLE-type stuff, everywhere. Some would say "who cares? Mondays are about good themes and this one's good." And that's fine. I disagree. Easy puzzles are harder to make (well!) than most solvers think, and the best constructors take the time to minimize the crosswordese and make sure the fill is smooooooth throughout.
- 3D: Crockpot (SLOW cooker)
- 21A: Thick growth of trees (DENSE forest)
- 29D: Tray transporter (DUMB waiter)
- 49A: It's more than 90 degrees (OBTUSE angle) — I (obtusely) tripped over this one; had the "angle" part at the end and wrote in ... TRIANGLE.
Two more criticisms, a minor and a major. The minor — I admired the pick-up of the BARA / SILENT connection in 44D: Like 33-Down's films, just as I admired the NW intersection of the words in the phrase TASTE / TEST (1D: With 1-Across, Coke vs. Pepsi competition, e.g.). But is there a limit on the number of cross-references you can do? Because dear god you crossed (literally) DELLA (18A: Perry Mason's secretary _____ Street) with her creator (ERLE Stanley Gardner) and didn't mention the connection. Weird. That's not really a criticism, I guess, since a failure to cross-reference doesn't diminish the puzzle in any way. It's just a missed opportunity. So here's the criticism: the worst answer in the puzzle, for me, was "N.A.S." (45A: 1980s TV's "Emerald Point _____"). I don't know where to begin. How about the fact that I live and breathe 80s TV and have never heard of this. How about the fact that it ran exactly one season, and thus was on television for less than 6 months, from Sep. 1983 to Mar. 1984. How about the fact that (rightly, wisely) the NYT hasn't touched this clue for NAS in a decade. There is a super famous rapper named NAS, and he has largely taken over NAS duties. When the puzzle wants something a little less familiar, it will go for the "Naval Air Station" abbr., but only late-week, and never via this less-famous-than-"HEC Ramsey" TV show. Why not go with the rapper NAS here? If that's too much rap for one puzzle, then just reclue NATE Dogg (who is far, far less well known than NAS) to NATE the Great or NATE Archibald or something. Ugh. But if you find none of the above objections to "Emerald Point N.A.S." compelling, perhaps this one will stick — the "S" in "N.A.S." stands for "STATION" and in this puzzle, N.A.S. crosses ... STAS, the abbreviation for "STATIONS."
On the up side, HOOSEGOW is a phenomenal answer.
- 2D: Montreal baseballers, 1969-2004 (Expos) — bound to make at least one north-of-the-border reader I know defend this puzzle to the death
- 23A: Former Ford compacts (Escorts) — more obtuseness on my part, as I had the ESC- part and wrote in ESCAPES. Ford makes an ESCAPE. It is the Opposite of a "compact."
- 21D: Beat badly (drub) – this is what I would call "Good 4-Letter Fill"; I like WREST too, as shorter fill goes; lively, active, vivid, real words.
- 22D: German-made car since 1899 (Opel) — OPEL : OPAL :: OREL : ORAL
- 57D: "Do Ya" group, for short (ELO) — let's round things off with a "Do Ya" / "Hey Ya" double feature:
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
Today's LAT puzzle write-up is here.