Florida city between Tampa Fort Myers / MON 2-3-14 / Texter's if you ask me / Essays of 1823 volume / Zadora of Santa Claus Conquers Martians
Monday, February 3, 2014
Constructor: Sean Dobbin
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: CANDY (33D: Checkout counter staple … or, when read as three words, what 20-, 31-, 47- and 55-Across have in common)— theme answers follow "C and Y" pattern, i.e. they're two-word phrases where first word starts w/ "C" and second word starts with "Y"
- 20A: January 1 to December 31 (CALENDAR YEAR)
- 31A: First pilot to travel faster than the speed of sound (CHUCK YEAGER)
- 47A: Area around a henhouse (CHICKEN YARD) [probably shouldn't have had "Area" in the clue, given the presence of SKI AREA elsewhere in the grid]
- 55A: Bright color (CANARY YELLOW)
Oscar Isaac (born Óscar Isaac Hernández; March 9, 1980) is a Latin American actor and singer. […] In 2013, Isaac starred in the film Inside Llewyn Davis, written and directed by the Coen Brothers. Isaac played a talented yet unsuccessful folk singer in a drama set in Greenwich Village in 1961, and sang all his own numbers. The film won the Grand Prix at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival. (wikipedia)
• • •CANDY as the central Down would've been impossible. So—trade-offs. Anyway, this certainly isn't terrible, but it's forgettable, and ELIA, SYD, ERS, DINO, EDY, IMO, EKED, MDSE, PIA etc etc is really too much gunk for such a basic Monday theme. "Easy" puzzles should be doable by newcomers, and stuff like ELIA and SYD aren't really "easy." They're crossword-easy (i.e. easy for constant solvers). Short fill can be done cleanly. Just see virtually any Newsday puzzle. We've just grown accustomed to seeing gunk as "normal"—doesn't have to be that way. Again, this puzzle feels very average, in terms of NYT fill quality. But average here is below what average really should be, and can be.
I see the puzzle is trying to decrease its musty feel by having somewhat more contemporary clues. Or clue, anyway, as today we have an "Inside Llewyn Davis" clue on ISAACS. While I'm grateful any time the puzzle feels contemporary, I thought that clue was actually pretty hard for a Monday. I certainly didn't know the guy's name. I'm not by any means calling the clue unfair—I did this puzzle in 2:42, so his name was pretty easy to figure out. But he definitely felt like a 21st-century outlier shoved in there with your ALECs and DIORs and PIAs. "Inside Llewyn Davis" hasn't played where I live and isn't likely to any time soon. Gotta go to Ithaca to see most decent stuff, though I did manage to see "American Hustle" (which I keep wanting to call "Boogie Nights") and "Nebraska" (which we saw just this afternoon, actually). I really hope June Squibb wins for "Nebraska," both because she was Amazing and because her name would be a real boon to crosswords.
A million thanks to my friend Matt Gaffney for filling in for me this past week. I didn't really *need* a break, but he wanted to see what it would be like to blog a week at a shot, and since it was my first week back teaching, I was happy for the respite. But now I'm back for good—probably until July, excluding any sick days or crossword tournament days I might take. Speaking of the ACPT, you can register here. Also, if you are an upstater, the Finger Lakes Crossword Competition is coming up on Saturday, Mar. 1, in Ithaca, NY. Information here. I will be there in a non-competitive capacity before heading to Brooklyn the following weekend for the ACPT.
Oh, and lastly, since I wasn't around to announce it yesterday, I'll mention briefly that my Crossword of the Week last week was Neville Fogarty's "Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!"—think of it as a Super Bowl puzzle for people who don't really care about the Super Bowl. It violates a cardinal rule of crosswords, but … that's kind of the idea. Enjoy it here! Enjoy it here! Enjoy it here!
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld