Monday, January 27, 2014
Constructor: James Tuttle
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: It's about TIME! Theme entries are comprised of two words that can precede or follow "time" in a phrase.
Word of the Day: FIBONACCI — [Eponym of a number series that begins 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, ...]
Leonardo Fibonacci – was an Italian mathematician, considered by some "the most talented western mathematician of the Middle Ages." (wikipedia)
• • •
Matt Gaffney here, filling in for Rex this week while he's doing who-knows-what in historic Binghamton (probably just grading papers, but let's pretend he's parasailing days and drinking absinthe evenings).
Quick graf to establish my sterling bona fides: I've been a professional crossword puzzle writer for the past 15 years. I write a daily mini-puzzle here (easy), a weekly current events puzzle for The Week here (medium), and a weekly crossword contest here (difficult) . I also write a crossword blog here. And I do other crossword stuff which is easily Googleable. Or Bingable, since Rex lives in Binghamton.
On to the Monday NYX:
- 17-A [*Flying] = AIR TRAVEL
- 24-A [*One placed between warring parties] = PEACEKEEPER
- 32-A [*Contestant's help on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire"] = LIFELINE
- 45-A [*King, queen or jack] = FACE CARD
- 52-A [*Piece of furniture that might be under a chandelier] = DINNER TABLE
- 63-A [Vacation lodging purchase ... or an arrangement between the two halves of the answer to each starred clue?] = TIME SHARE
This kind of "word that follows ...." theme is well-known, but I applaud the wrinkle here that the two phrases "share" the word TIME, as given in the TIME SHARE revealer. I'm told that real-life timeshares can be a huge pain in the ass, but this one was quite pleasant. So thumbs-up on the theme.
- Star fill: the aforementioned FIBONACCI, plus CLEOPATRA, I DUNNO, BLEND IN, and a FACE CARD which is always welcome in my beloved weekly Texas HOLD 'EM game. You want all of these in your crossword.
- But: Rex and other smart critics have repeatedly highlighted the Achilles' heel of the New York Times puzzle, which is early-week suboptimal fill, and as a crossword demon I can't let it pass without comment. OLEIC [Kind of acid in soapmaking], EMEER [Mideast bigwig: Var.], and OATEN [Like some cereals] don't belong in crossword puzzles period, and on a Monday I'll ding those three a full .75 on the 5-star scale used at the blog Diary of a Crossword Fiend. The "Var." tag should be used about three times a year in a daily crossword, and never on Mondays. Ne[Var.]. There's some other less-than-Monday stuff in here, too (EWERS, NICAD, IRANI) that you don't see in other top-level crosswords.
- I dig the amusing linked clues at 2-Down and 14-Across, TRIED and TRUE. Good decision to go unconventional on the cluing there.
- General un-dig: this crossword doesn't have a single clue that couldn't have been written ten years ago. How about a "Book of Mormon" reference for LDS, or a "Blue Jasmine" reference for ALLEN for Woody instead of Ethan, or a David SPADE reference instead of [Digging tool]? Would that've killed anyone? I'm not saying the NYX has to become one of the hipster crosswords, but every single clue in this puzzle could've been from pre-2004. [First number dialed when calling long distance] for ONE doesn't help the musty overall vibe, either.
- Not that there's anything wrong with classical: AENEID, DOLCE, AHAB and PENN are all solid items in the Western canon.
Signed, Matt Gaffney, Regent for one week of CrossWorld