Japanese port / MON 6-4-12 / Richard Clarence Darrow defendant / 1960s-70s Ford Company model / Classic beauty who is not all there / Blue Grotto's island / River across French German border
Monday, June 4, 2012
Constructor: John R. O'Brien
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: Planets ... ? — four theme answers, each starting with a planet name
Word of the Day: OTARU (31D: Japanese port) —
Otaru (小樽市 Otaru-shi ) is a city and port in Shiribeshi, Hokkaido, Japan, northwest ofSapporo. The city faces the Ishikari Bay, and has long served as the main port of the bay. With its many historical buildings, Otaru is a popular tourist destination. Because it is a 25-minute drive from Sapporo, it has recently grown as a bedroom community.As of July 31, 2011, the city has an estimated population of 131,706 with 67,308 households and a population density of 541.71 persons per km². The total area is 243.13 km². Although it is the largest city in Shiribeshi Subprefecture, the subprefecture's capital is the more centrally-locatedKutchan). (wikipedia)
• • •SATURN ROCKET acceptable, when it's clearly named after the planet (all the others have at least arguably non-planetary contexts)? I thought at first that the second words were "space" words (see also MERCURY COMET), but then ... no. Then there's the quality of the theme answers themselves. If SATURN ROCKET is creaky, MARS CANDIES completely topples to the ground. It's just not a coherent enough phrase for a Monday puzzle (possibly for any puzzle).
Moving on: 78-worders are the Easiest grids to fill, and yet this one has multiple, utterly avoidable construction issues [correction: this puzzle actually has 80 words ... 80 ... I've literally never seen this in a 15 x 15 NYT grid ... there's no reason on god's green earth for a puzzle like this to exceed the 78 max ... I have no idea what kind of Bizarro world we're in now ... please believe that this is not just "grumpy old Rex"—this is the outlyingest outlier of a Monday, basic quality-wise, that I've ever seen]. WAUSAU? (4D: Wisconsin city) What the hell? You build a grid that requires you to put in a word that fits the --U--U pattern!?!? That's insanity. See also OTARU!?!?!? (i.e. O---U doesn't leave you with much either) These words a. don't belong in Monday puzzles and b. are not great words—not words you'd put in Any puzzle unless you had to; and c. are completely avoidable. This puzzle has cheater squares? (?!?!) [extra black squares that don't affect word count that make grid easier to fill—above 66, left of 21 OR above 30, above 66, depending on which ones you want to count]. Why ... just why? One of my friends called this puzzle a "Newsday reject," and it is. Objectively. Newsday's puzzles, day in and day out, are of a much higher caliber than this. I have no idea what happened here. This should've been rejected, or, maybe, most generously, accepted pending an entire grid rewrite. WAUSAU and OTARU and LOEB (41D: Richard ___, Clarence Darrow defendant) and unintuitive theme answers (not to mention the preponderance of suboptimal eurojunk like SAAR and CAEN) (73A: River across the French/German border + 50D: Battle of Normandy city) and poor grid design etc. etc. etc. mean this puzzle never should've seen the light of day. It is not rare that I dislike a puzzle, but it is rare that I say with this kind of confidence that this simply doesn't meet basic NYT standards.
- 17A: A classic beauty who is not all there (VENUS DE MILO)
- 27A: Booster of the Apollo space program (SATURN ROCKET)
- 48A: 1960s-'70s Ford Company model (MERCURY COMET)
- 65A: Milky Way bars and others (MARS CANDIES)
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld