Astronomer who coined word nova / TUE 5-7-13 / BBC sci-fi show / Crossroads 1996 Grammy-winning rap song / Fortune 500 company founded in 1995 / West Coast engineering institution / Note accompanying F maybe
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Constructor: Jeff Chen
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
THEME: "The Rime of the ANCIENT MARINER" (40A: With 42-Across, subject of the poem that contains the line 17-/65-Across) — the line is "WATER WATER / EVERYWHERE...," an idea visually represented throughout the grid by seven approximations of a water molecule, i.e. groupings of one O and two Hs.
Word of the Day: HARPY (1A: Scolding, nagging sort) —
n., pl., -pies.
- Greek Mythology. One of several loathsome, voracious monsters with the head and trunk of a woman and the tail, wings, and talons of a bird.
- harpy A predatory person.
- harpy A shrewish woman.
• • •
Very clever. Serendipitous symmetry coupled with a pervasive visual element, all accomplished with a remarkably clean grid. Well done. It wasn't terribly thrilling to solve—the theme answers went in rather easily, and the rest of the puzzle was easy enough that I never even noticed what was happening in the circled squares. Fill is rock solid, but not scintillating. So this is one that was moderately enjoyable—unremarkable during the solve, but impressive in retrospective.
Only had two real sticking points. First was in a stupid little partial, where I didn't read the clue well enough. Wrote in AT A for 6D: "___ Crossroads" (1996 Grammy-winning rap song) ("THA"). (Sidenote: man, that song is old.) This slowed me down by, I dunno, however long it takes me to try and fail to get some crosses and then pull the original answer. Maybe 10-15 seconds. And then I fumbled a bit in the SE, where I think I wrote in OH NO! at 61D: "Ain't gonna happen!" (UH UH). And -EROO for -AROO, but that always happens, which is one of the reasons those suffixes are seriously the worst thing since unsliced bread. But, again, maybe 20 seconds of struggling there. Doesn't sound like a lot, but on a Tuesday, it adds up fast. I was roughly 4:20 on this one. A bit high for a Tuesday, for me. Not sure where the difficulty lay (beyond the small dumb stuff I just detailed). But lay it did.
There's not much of interest to point to in the fill beyond the full-named TYCHO BRAHE (29D: Astronomer who coined the word "nova") (uh ... it's a Latin word that predates him by forever, but I'm guessing we're talking about the specific star-related meaning of the word here, so fine). Everything else is right over the plate, just doing its job—holding things together so that the theme can shine.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld