Friday, June 21, 2013
Constructor: Michael Sharp, a.k.a. Rex Parker
Relative difficulty: EASY
THEME: Freestyle Friday, no theme
Word of the Day: EARL MONROE (N.B.A. Hall-of-Famer who, with Walt Frazier, formed the Knicks' "Rolls Royce Backcourt") —
Vernon Earl Monroe (born November 21, 1944, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) is an American former professional basketball player known for his flamboyant dribbling, passing, and play-making. He was nicknamed both "Earl the Pearl" and "Jesus".
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Matt Gaffney here filling in for the vacationing Rex Parker, who wrote today's Times crossword under his pseudonym "Michael Sharp," which doesn't even sound like a real name.
Quick solve for me -- 5:56 in Across Lite and I'm no speedster. Didn't start off too well since nothing in the NW corner would fall (knew 2-d was either AIME or AMIE but couldn't remember which, so didn't chance it). But then the RENAL/SENEGALESE crossing fell (my wife did Peace Corps in Senegal and speaks fluent Pulaar) and it was off to the races. PORTLANDIA was a gimme (TV sketch comedy set in the "city where young people go to retire") and then, marching counterclockwise, the SW, NE, and then finally that tricky NW.
Everything 8 letters or more in this grid is somewhere between fine and excellent; below that it's a mixed bag. Starting with all those nice 8+ entries; besides the ones already named we've got AMY POEHLER, MIRACLE-GRO, TYLER PERRY, READ-ONLY, SNEAK A PEEK, SMELT ROE and hip TRENDING. So it's going to be hard not to like a crossword with all that, and there's good stuff in the short entries as well; the whole SE coming together with PHD/DKNY is especially elegant.
But you sometimes pay a price for all those fancy words, and here it's a smattering of suboptimal fill: AIME, ATA, SMA, LGA, ORL, MAI, INSP, ROG, ETNAS and NEN. We'll charge the constructor with a misdemeanor fill offense (MFO) there since that smattering doesn't rise to felony level.
- 37-a Element with a low atomic number that is not found naturally on Earth -- BORON. For having a single-digit at. no., you really don't hear much about Boron , do you? Now we know why.
- 11-d Kind of request in a Robert Burns poem -- SMA. Seems like there should be a way to get rid of SMA. SPA/PARS and SEA/EARS don't work because of SPA elsewhere and ASEA, but MMA/MEGA looks better to me than SMA/SEGA.
- 10-d "Ye gods!" — HORRORS. Had the ??RRORS but could've been either an HO or a TE there. "Ye gods!" is an expression worth reviving.
- 50-a Jelly Belly flavor— PEAR. The pear-flavored Jelly Bellies are too sweet. The best ones are buttered popcorn and blueberry and root beer. The worst are licorice and the dark-green ones.
Signed, Matt Gaffney