Oenone's peak — FRIDAY, Sep. 25 2009 — Birthplace of Parmenides / Musical featuring Nubians / Tent erector's tool
Friday, September 25, 2009
Constuctor: Robert A. Doll
Relative difficulty: Easy/Medium
Word of the Day: ALBAS (52A: Serenades for lovers parting at dawn) — noun a Provençal troubadour poem or love song, typically about the parting of lovers at dawn.
The lacklusterness continues. Loved "IT'S A ZOO OUT THERE" (16A: Frazzled commuter's comment) and "I BEEN HAD!" (34D: Gull's cry), but most of the rest feels like it was written with a heavy assist from Autofill. Why am I looking at so much crap short fill on a Friday? A couple of the following would be OK, but more than a couple just looks lazy:
ELEA (27D: Birthplace of Parmenides)
ENNA (51A: Province between Palermo and Catania)
Few things say "I just don't care" like that set of words — and in a themeless? Maybe in a grid with an intricate theme ... maybe. But not in a themeless, where you are duty-bound to keep crap to a minimum (since you aren't restricted by anything but your own sensibilities). Even longish stuff like DEAD SPOT and OPEN AREA and NO, DEAR (60A: Domestic denial) and EASE INTO (59A: Take on gingerly) feels limp, like not much care or thought went into fill choices. And "DON'T TASE ME BRO" (14D: Memorable catchphrase of 2007) might have been great if it had appeared in a puzzle in 2007 ... or even 2008. The phrase appeared in an Onion puzzle almost two years ago, where it was a theme answer about rivers ("Don't tase m EBRO!"). *That* was genius. *This* just feels belated (as internet-driven "catchphrases" go). All in all, the puzzle looks like four somewhat interesting long answers (and "I BEEN HAD!") held together with wads of old duct tape. Honestly, it feels like (for the most part) the wheels have come off the NYT puzzle over the past month or so (even excluding the controversial "Half-Century" stunt week). I'm hoping autumn sees it back on track.
- 10A: Chances, briefly (ops) — for "opportunities?" Really? Who says that? [oh, right, "Photo OPS" — thanks, Sandy]
- 25A: Tent erector's tool (maul) — wanted it right away, off the "M," but couldn't remember if it was MAUL or MAWL. To my credit, I knew it wasn't MALL.
- 4D: Oenone's peak (Ida) — Mt. IDA = crosswordese, but it's nicely hidden here. I know "Oenone" only as the nymph that Paris abandoned when he went off with Helen.
- 29A: _____ ammoniac (mineral found around volcanic vents) (sal) — guessed it off the "S"; not likely to remember it.
- 30A: Musical featuring Nubians ("Aida") — I learned the word "nubian" from rap music of the early 90s.
- 5D: Part of a French face (nez) — part of a twofer with OEIL. We get a somewhat more interesting twofer in the AFC matchup of CHIEFS (1D: A.F.C. team that has won one Super Bowl) and STEELERS (12D: A.F.C. team that has won six Super Bowls).
- 3D: "The Little Mermaid" villain (Ursula) — commonest clue for URSULA, in my experience.
- 7D: Prozac might treat it (neurosis) — seems ... off.
- 11D: Ancient Lusitania, now (Portugal) — did not know that. I know "Lusitania" only as the ship.
- 15D: Big name in aquatic tricks (Shamu) — took me longer than it should have. I think I was looking for a brand of jet-ski.
- 37D: Grp. famous for its send-ups? (NASA) — cute.
- 47D: Playground troublemakers (darers) — icky -ER plural. Don't blame the DARER. The DOER actually "makes" the trouble.
Happy third birthday to this blog, and thanks to all its loyal (and traitorous, and fairweather) readers. Despite the recent spate of negative reviews, it's still my pleasure to write this thing every day.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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