Biblical name for Syria / MON 1-28-13 / Big name in art glass / Against property to judge / Countryside Sp / Deathtrap playwright Ira /
Monday, January 28, 2013
Constructor: Jaime Hutchison and Victor Fleming
Relative difficulty: Challenging (3:58)
THEME: "WHAT A TOOL!" — last words of two-word phrases are tools (used in non-tool contexts)
- FUEL LEVEL (17A: Info on a dashboard gauge)
- MIKE HAMMER (21A: "I, the Jury" detective)
- MODEL PLANE (53A: Flier made from a do-it-yourself kit)
- FIRE DRILL (58A: Safety exercise prompted by an alarm)
Word of the Day: ARAM (10D: Biblical name for Syria) —
Aram is a region mentioned in the Bible located in central Syria, including where the city of Aleppo (aka Halab) now stands. Aram stretched from the Lebanon mountains eastward across the Euphrates, including the Khabur River valley in northwestern Mesopotamia on the border of Assyria. (wikipedia)
• • •
72 words!? On a Monday?! That is ... unusual. That is a very low word count for an "Easy" puzzle. It's a low word count for *any* themed puzzle (it's the max number of clues for a themeless). Unsurprisingly, my time was a full minute higher than I'm used to on a Monday, which is to say 33% higher. Lots of white space, answers are harder to get ahold of. Fill is also not nearly as clean as it is usually is in early-week puzzles (terrible stuff like OB-LA and IN REM and ENTO- and EZEK. and REBOXES as well as unwelcome crosswordese like NOL. I can't remember the last time I saw anything like the ARAM / CAMPO crossing in an early-week puzzle. Nuts. I totally approve of the theme concept and the revealer, which is startling, actually. I think of "TOOL" as being, roughly, a synonym for DICK. It has anatomical implications, is what I'm saying. But FUEL LEVEL isn't exactly snappy (however legitimate it is) and "model airplane" is a far more familiar phrase than MODEL PLANE (however legitimate it is). So there's this great answer in the center, and mostly just adequate theme answers, all drowning in a grid that isn't really appropriate to this theme type. It's a Monday kind of theme in a Thursday / Friday-style grid. The net effect is just odd. Awkward. Weird. I actually didn't mind the added challenge (in fact, it didn't *feel* that hard—I was stunned when I looked at the clock and saw how long it took me). And big corners at least tend to get more interesting non-theme answers than one typically finds in an early-week puzzle. But despite my affection for stuff like LOU RAWLS and ROLL OVER and DUMMY UP (11D: Produce, as page layouts for a printer), this one felt clunky overall. Cute idea, inexpertly executed.
- 23A: Big name in art glass (STEUBEN) — the *only* reason this answer was easy for me was because I watch "Archer." Otherwise, I'd've had real trouble there.
- 6D: "Deathtrap" playwright Ira (LEVIN) — I know that Ira LEVIN is a writer's name, but I'm far more familiar with MI Senator Carl.
- 24D: Top 10 Kiss hit with backing by the New York Philharmonic ("BETH") — love this clue, but again, it is comical how un-Monday this is. Outlier city, this puzzle.