Jules Massenet opéra comique / THU 7-10-14 / Fangorn denizens / Cousin of cor anglais / Hit 2006 horror film based on a video game series / Seminal 1962 book on environment / Poe title character / Spacecraft designer Musk
Thursday, July 10, 2014
Constructor: John Guzzetta
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: SILENT — "Silent" must be imagined as a preceding word in six answers. First letters of all six theme answers are themselves "silent" in their crossings. [There are also a lot of other silent letters in the grid, which surely must be intentional, but how they complement the more obvious thematic answers or add *any* enjoyment to the solving experience, I have no idea]
- [Silent] PARTNER / COUP (silent P)
- [Silent] HILL / HONEST WOMAN (silent H)
- [Silent] NIGHT / DAMNS (silent N)
- [Silent] SPRING / ELLIS ISLAND (silent S)
- [Silent] MOVIE / MNEMONIC (silent M)
- [Silent] TREATMENT / LISTEN (silent T)
• • •
DEMESNE (43D: Lord's estate), for example, not to mention all the mediocre-to-bad fill generally? But man, I didn't see that angle at all, and at least a few other people I know didn't either. The silent letter angle gives us a completely different take on "silent" … but … again, the placement and frequency of the theme elements seem utterly arbitrary. That is, yes, every first letter is silent, but then … is DEMESNE part of the theme? It feels abusively intentional, but it's extra-thematic, as far as I can tell. CZAR? LIGHTS? KOHL? AESTHETES? This is just a conceptual mess. Most people are never going to pick up on the silent letter thing, and are thus going to wonder why the Thursday puzzle skimped so badly on theme content. I don't know if discovering the silent letter angle is going to lead to more "ahas" or "ughs." I only know how I felt. I mainly feel confused. I wasn't even sure I had all the theme answers counted correctly at first. "Silent COUP … that's a thing, right? Is that a theme answer …?"
My friend Finn suggested that people might've appreciated this theme more if A. the "silent" letters in the theme answers had been circled, and B. there weren't these extra silent letters all over the place, making one wonder if they're part of the theme or not. I think he's basically right on both counts.
The fill is passable on this one, but far from scintillating. Not a big UKASE fan (3D: Decree), as I've only ever seen it in crosswords, usually as crutch-fill, but it's a real word, so I can't get too upset. DPT I didn't remember at all (9D: Vaccine combo). Seems unnecessary to have an initialism up there, especially (!!) in an easy-to-till little section like that. Even MANON (11D: Jules Massenet opera comique) and STYLO (13D: Pen, in Paris) are bugging me up there. It's just a wee 5x5 section—there just shouldn't be such reliance on initialisms and foreign words/names. I like HONEST WOMAN fine (5D: What a girl becomes after marriage, in an old expression)—it's dated and semi-sexist, but it's clued as an "old expression," so I don't have a problem with it. What I do have a slight problem with is the word "girl" in the clue. "Girls" are under 18. You wouldn't use "boy" to talk about a male person getting married, so … no. Do Better, NYT!!!
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld