Dreaded mosquito / TUE 1-18-11 / Dream Lohengrin aria / Simpleton in Archie comics / Public diplomacy broadcast org until 1999 / Ophthalmic swelling
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Constructor: Gary J. Whitehead
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
THEME: "AMEN to THAT!" — Word ladder going from AMEN to THAT, a literal representation of the colloquial phase "AMEN to THAT," which is referred to in the central answers: "I HEAR YA!" (36A: "1-Across [AMEN] to 63-Across [THAT]")
Word of the Day: AEDES (33D: Dreaded mosquito) —
Aedes is a genus of mosquito originally found in tropical and subtropical zones, but has spread by human activity to all continents excluding Antarctica. Several of the species transmit important human diseases and one species, Aedes albopictus, is the most invasive mosquito in the world. The name comes from the Ancient Greek aēdēs, meaning "unpleasant" or "odious", so called because of the diseases this type of mosquito transmits, including dengue fever and yellow fever. In Polynesia, the species Aedes polynesiensis is responsible for the transmission of human lymphatic filariasis including species of Brugia as well as others. Some species of Aedes (e.g. the Asian tiger mosquito) have only recently been introduced to the US. (wikipedia)
So a word ladder is a chain of words where each successive word has one letter changed until the original word arrives at a completely different, but somehow related, word. I've seen "From SOUP to NUTS" illustrated this way in a word ladder puzzle. Today, we go AMEN to THAT (with the nice tie-it-all-together answer in the middle). The problem ... well, the first, minor problem is my own—I think word ladders are dull, and kind of played out. Old hat. As theme answers, the individual steps on the ladder are hard to get excited about ("Oh look ... DEES! That's ... something!"). So, though there are many steps on this ladder, and the concept of the ladder is interesting, we start off in dullsville, at least for me.
The much bigger problem for me, today, is how patently subpar the fill is. As my wife can tell you, I was audibly groaning from the outset. From the variant APPAL at 1D (1D: Horrify: Var.) to nearby ELSA'S (crosswordese of a very high order) (3D: "___ Dream" ("Lohengrin" aria)) to the quintessential crosswordese ERSE (7D: Gaelic tongue) — all within two inches of each other — the grid is just rough. Rough. Awkward plurals right next to each other (ENES, NONS), a crosswordese convention in the western section, and then ... whatever is happening in the east (train wreck). SODDY? Come on. And crossing AEDES!?!? What the hell? No idea what USIA is (60A: Public diplomacy broadcast org. until 1999) (looking up ... United States Information Agency). Then there's just the general dullness of stuff like ASSESS and ENROLLEE and PAYER. No idea who says SOCKEROO, but at least that answer is kind of lively. POSTSEASON and ULTRASOUND (56A: Ob/gyn's image) are admirably solid (and POSTSEASON is timely, footballwise). But overall, the pervasive weakness of the fill made the experience much less than enjoyable.
- DYES (41A: Does some batiking)
- 49D: Ephesus' region (IONIA) — very crossword common because of its voweliness.
- 52D: "Our Gang" pooch (PETE) — I thought it was PETEY—and it was; just not formally, I guess.
- 2D: Simpleton in "Archie" comics (MOOSE) — ashamed I didn't get this straight off. Daughter reads nearly every "Archie" comic there is. And yet with the "M" in place, I could think only of MIDGE (MOOSE's girlfriend).
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]