Noodles in Japanese cookery / WED 11-27-13 / Lisa with 1997 hit I Do / Brand from Holland / Old ragtime dance / Many aria singer informally
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Constructor: Jules P. Markey
Relative difficulty: Easy
- 17A: Source of easy money (GRAVY TRAIN)
- 24A: One of a pair in a court (SQUASH RACKET)
- 51A: Locale for a big mirror (DRESSING ROOM)
- 64A: Old ragtime dance (TURKEY TROT)
Word of the Day: SOBA (58A: Noodles in Japanese cookery) —
Soba (そば or 蕎麦) is the Japanese name for buckwheat. It is synonymous with a type of thin noodle made from buckwheatflour, and in Japan can refer to any thin noodle (unlike thick wheat noodles, known as udon). Soba noodles are served either chilled with a dipping sauce, or in hot broth as a noodle soup. It takes three months for buckwheat to be ready for harvest, so it can be harvested four times a year, mainly in spring, summer, and autumn. In Japan, buckwheat is produced mainly inHokkaido. Soba that is made with newly harvested buckwheat is called "shin-soba". It is sweeter and more flavorful than regular soba. (wikipedia)
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THANKSGIVING DAY. Minor consideration, perhaps, but I'm gonna start there anyway. Not the puzzle's fault it got placed on a Wednesday. Only … no, wait it *is* the puzzle's fault. Since THANKSGIVING DAY is always on Thursday, you need to develop a Thursday-worthy theme if you want to do a THANKSGIVING DAY puzzle. This is a Monday theme at best. This puzzle should've been rejected on the basis of non-Thursdayness alone, but let's move on. Whose THANKSGIVING DAY meal consists of only turkey (w/ gravy and dressing) and squash? Squash? I've literally never had squash at a THANKSGIVING DAY meal. I am sure someone has. I recognize that it is a food associated with autumn. But a. it's not iconic enough to be part of a THANKSGIVING DAY meal, and b. Where Are The Other, Actually Iconic THANKSGIVING DAY Foods? Mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce … I don't know, something! This is a rather incomplete meal I'm being offered here. Then there's the fact that this theme ("first words") is old as the hills and needs to Really snap in order not to feel musty. Then there's the fill, which is dire, and you know that. I'm not making up reasons to complain here. These are all obvious problems. No pro puts ETTE EROS and ESE all in the same damn small corner. I guarantee you this grid was created without constructing software. It's a very small investment to keep help you keep your fill from looking like dated crap. Don't be afraid of databases. You can over-rely on them—they are no substitute for good judgment—but they do help keep things clean. Gah! NEOS BIOTA OTOS ISH OVI AGA ALA ACRO ASHY ENERO ESL etc. … this is Not a hard grid to fill. 76 words. And you needed 2 cheater squares*? Man alive.
Did this faster than I did yesterday's. Would've been very close to 3 minutes flat had I not gotten royally turned around in the NE, where BUICK SEDAN (really? are we just accepting [any make] SEDAN now?) just would not come (10D: LaCrosse, for one). Needed almost every cross before I saw it. Also just blanked on 16A: Word before income or exhaust (DUAL), even after I had D-AL. Got mildly slippery in the LOOIES section of the grid, but otherwise it was mostly fill-in-the-blank-and-try-not-to-wince. SE corner is borderline if not out-and-out Scrabble-f***ing. MEZZO is not that great a "word" in the first place, and if it forces us to endure YMA and ALOOP, just for the sake of two "Z"s, I have to question its value.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
*black squares that do not add to word count but make puzzle (often much) easier to fill (here, the black square next to the "8" square and before the "70" square)