Villainous noble of classic French tale / MON 6-16-14 / Physical attribute of Homer Simpsons / Normandy city where William Conqueror is buried / Hungarian composer / Rum-soaked cakes
Monday, June 16, 2014
Constructor: Bruce Haight
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (*for a Monday*)
THEME: B-TEAM (11D: Subs … or a feature of the answers to the 17 asterisked clues?) — all asterisked clues start with "B" and have a total of two "B"s in them (I guess the pair of "B"s form a "team")
Word of the Day: CAEN (38D: Normandy city where William the Conqueror is buried) —
Caen (//; French pronunciation: [kɑ̃]; Norman: Kaem) is a commune in northwestern France. It is theprefecture of the Calvados department and the capital of the Basse-Normandie region. The city proper has 113,249 inhabitants (as of 2006), while its urban area has 420,000, making Caen the largest city in Lower Normandy. It is also the second largest municipality in all of Normandy after Le Havre and the third largest city proper in Normandy, after Rouen and Le Havre. The metropolitan area of Caen, in turn, is the second largest in Normandy after that of Rouen, the 21st largest in France. (wikipedia)
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ALER and ABRIM and ESSES and CAEN and MNO, *especially* in an early-week/"easy" puzzle with such a high word count. Then there was the cluing, which seemed pitched a little harder than usual—not a construction fault, but a day-placement fault. It took me many crosses to get both BUGBEAR (9D: *Bogeyman) and BUSBOYS (44D: *Restaurant staffers), the first because I would never use those two words as synonyms (though I'm sure it's DD, i.e. dictionary-defensible), and the second because of super vague cluing. The revealer clue—also super vague ([Subs] goes many directions). Yes, the "B" thing helps, and it's not like I struggled mightily, but I'm not sure Mondays were meant to take *this* much "theme." This one kind of creaks under the weight of it all. And since the theme is not … anything, really (not clever, not amusing … just "B"s), the creakiness did not feel at all worth it.
I found several of the double-B word phrases charming—BÉLA BARTÓK is one of my favorite composers, and BEER BELLY had me at "Homer Simpson" (66A: *Physical attribute of Homer Simpson). But you just can't make up for theme mediocrity with a tidal wave of theme answers. More is not better. It's just more, and when All the non-B stuff suffers, we all suffer. Or I do, anyway.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld