Jersey Shore housemate's music-biz name / SAT 1-4-14 / Tuareg rebellion locale of 2012 / Constituent of molding sand / Monty Python theme composer / One of 64 in genetic table / Like cute nerds in slang / Like cork trees flying lizards / Where some believe Cain Abel are buried / Paw Oscar-winning Disney short
Saturday, January 4, 2014
Constructor: Kyle Dolan
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (or Challenging, depending on your grasp of supremely trivial pop culture)
Word of the Day: CODON (48D: One of 64 in a genetic table) —
A sequence of three adjacent nucleotides constituting the genetic code that determines the insertion of a specific amino acid in a polypeptide chain during protein synthesis or the signal to stop protein synthesis. (thefreedictionary.com)
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DJ PAULY D (6A: "Jersey Shore" housemate's music-biz name), and it certainly looks cool in the grid, but as pop culture goes, I think it's a bridge too far, even for me. It's one thing to expect people to know the names of the cast of the "Jersey Shore." I once put SNOOKI in a puzzle, so I can't throw stones too hard here. But something about the "music biz name" part of the clue made me balk. Seriously? Why would one know that? Now, it's inferable. I somehow remembered (eventually) that PAULY D was … someone, and with the "J" from JETSET (the only thing I had in the NE for a while), the DJ part was gettable. It was all gettable (at least for me). But I slightly resented the sheer … sheerness, the thinness of that answer. I don't know how long this puzzle sat around—turnaround time can range from months to years. But "Jersey Shore" as a concept already feels dated. And that answer, with its expectation that we'll know not only names but stage names, is going to rankle some. And for once, I'm kind of sympathetic to those folks. I know it's a judgment call when it comes to contemporary pop culture. Unless you can get your stuff into print right away (the way independents can), you are risking something every time you grab for The New. I think it's often a risk worth taking, but the thing about risk is: it's risk. Things can go wrong.
OK, so the rest of the puzzle seems pretty good. I struggled everywhere there were answers I'd never seen before—that is, in and around CODON, SEA COAL (??) (37D: Constituent of molding sand) and DJPAULYD. Big thumbs up for ADORKABLE (a roll of the "contemporary" dice that paid off, IMO) (4D: Like cute nerds, in slang). Cluing was tough all over. Very Saturday, this one. The way they're supposed to be. The way I like 'em. My time would've improved considerably if I'd simply remembered Oswald's connection to MINSK, but no (19A: Where Lee Harvey Oswald was a lathe operator): I was stuck in … nowhere really. MENSA? Do they have lathes?
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld