Italian port on Adriatic — MONDAY, Aug. 31 2009 — Features of yawls or ketches / Fabrics with wavy patterns / Predecessor bridge / Visitor District 9
Monday, August 31, 2009
Constructor: Fred Piscop
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
THEME: FOUR/FOR/FORE — first words of three theme answers are homophones of one another
Word of the Day: BARI (32D: Italian port on the Adriatic) — Seaport city (pop., 2001 prelim.: 332,143), capital of Puglia, southeastern Italy. Evidence shows that the site may have been inhabited since 1500 BC. Under the Romans it became an important port. In the 9th century AD it was a Moorish stronghold, but it was taken by the Byzantines in 885. Peter the Hermit preached the First Crusade there in 1096. Razed by the Sicilians in 1156, it acquired new greatness in the 13th century under Frederick II. It became an independent duchy in the 14th century, passed to the Kingdom of Naples in 1558, and became part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861. (Brit. Concise Encyc.)
This was pretty bad all around. The theme is not just tired (again with the homophones), but poorly expressed. FORE AND AFT SAILS is particularly wobbly as a theme answer, and FOUR MINUTE MILER ... well, when I Google it, Google wants to know if I meant FOUR MINUTE MILE. I wish. FOR OLD TIMES' SAKE is nice, but it hardly matters. The rest of the fill in this puzzle is dull and lazy. There is no way you should have MOIRES (19D: Fabrics with wavy patterns), BARI (32D: Italian port on the Adriatic), and LAMINA (36D: Thin layer) in your Monday puzzle. Those are all dusty, high-end crosswordese words that you should pull out only if you have no other options. On a Monday, with such an easy grid to fill (your "long" answers are six letters, for god's sake), maybe you get one of those words, but not three. And EENS? (61A: Poetic nights). Ugh. The very best part of this puzzle is WAMPUM (5D: Indian beads used as money). The rest, you can have back. No idea why this passes muster in the NYT. Last time I saw LAMINA ... well, I didn't like that puzzle either, but at least it had some kind of ambition.
- 17A: Roger Bannister was the first (FOUR-minute miler)
- 35A: How something may be done, nostalgically (FOR old times' sake) — [Nostalgically] works fine just by itself.
- 54A: Features of yawls or ketches (FORE and aft sails)
- 39A: Old competitor of PanAm (TWA) — do we need "old?" "PanAm" already conveys old (as in bygone, as in no more).
- 42A: Mensa-eligible (smart) — this is just inaccurate. You have to get a certain score on a test to qualify for Mensa, don't you? So simply being SMART is irrelevant. This clue assumes the Mensa test is an accurate measure of SMARTness. I have never understood the desire to be in Mensa. At all.
- 43A: Area west of the Mississippi (plains) — true enough, but weirdly hard for me to see coming at it backwards, ---INS.
- 49A: Visitor in "District 9" (alien) — nice, timely clue.
- 60A: Fabric introduced by DuPont (Orlon) — would make a good ALIEN name.
- 11D: Politico Sarah (Palin) — get used to it. She's never going away.
- 29D: Predecessor of bridge (whist) — don't play bridge, wasn't aware it had a lineage. Know WHIST from 18c. novels, I think.
- 55D: 40 winks (nap) — I had NOD at first.
See you tomorrow,
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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