City south of Kyiv / FRI 6-26-15 / Metadata collector for short / Patronizingly point out in modern lingo / Famous stutterer / Patron saint of chastity / Cherry plum relatives
Friday, June 26, 2015
Constructor: Erin Rhode
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
Word of the Day: ODESA (46A: City south of Kyiv) —
Odessa or Odesa (Ukrainian: Оде́са, [oˈdɛsɐ]; Russian: Оде́сса; IPA: [ɐˈdʲesə]) is the third largest city in Ukraine with a population of 1,003,705. The city is a major seaport and transportation hub located on the northwestern shore of the Black Sea. Odessa is also an administrative center of the Odessa Oblast and a multiethnic major cultural center. [So … just ODESSA … in Russianish … like Kyiv is "Kiev" in Russianish? … ugh]
• • •
NASAL CONSONANTS is fine—not exciting, but certainly a real thing. "IS IT GOING TO RAIN?", on the other hand, is a question one might ask, but so is "DID YOU LEAVE THE STOVE ON?" or "WHEN IS DINNER?" and I don't think either of those (or most random questions) fly as crossword answers. It's a "green paint" question—i.e. it's something an English-speaking human might say, but it's Not A Thing. Then there's SORRY I'M NOT SORRY, which struck me as the Worst thing in the grid. Just derailed the puzzle for me. The expression … everyone who knows the expression (a fairly recent meme, in fact) knows it thusly: SORRYNOTSORRY. It's a damned hashtag. The formal "I'M" there just makes things ridiculous and odd and strange and weird. When something is so common in the real world as one thing, and then the NYT tries to get in on the act (belatedly) and steps all over it, man, that's irksome. Maybe most NYT solvers live in a world where ubiquitous memes never reach, and where all expressions must be grammatical or else. But the expression is "sorry not sorry." #sorrynotsorry. I ain't even the first sorry for pointing this out.
[WARNING: Profane as f***!]
Then there's the fill, which goes to hell in places. Seriously, constructors, take ALER(S) out of your damned databases. NLER(S) too, while you're at it. And one-S ODESA too. Just … delete it. I'll wait here. . . . OK, good. OYER, painful. ALTE, not much better. Most of the rest of it is tolerable. Certainly adequate. This is promising work, but you can't whiff on two out of three 15s. And your gutter fill, esp. in a themeless, has got to be RARE to non-existent.
[I apologize for party rocking]
Loved MANSPLAIN, and the LUSITANIA / UBOAT cross-reference was pretty cool, if a bit morbid. But I faceplanted pretty badly right out of the gate when, presented with IM-T- at 15A: "You got me" ("I'M AT A LOSS") I went with I'M STUMPED. It fit. It was apt. It was wrong. Luckily I fixed it quick because NASAL CONSONANTS are my jam. First real hold-up came in the SW, where I couldn't make any sense of the divisible leap year clue (icky and forced way to get to the rather non-specific RARE—if we leap year every four years … wait, when do we *not* leap every fourth year? I can't remember ever not leaping on a divisible-by-four year … anyway, RARE seems like an understatement here). Real problems, though, were a. OLSON or OLSEN, and b. TACOS—which was the answer I knew had to be right for 48A: Food items in shells (TARTS). That is a deliberate and Not Very Apt trick clue. Don't TARTS have crusts? Do you ever call them "shells" w/o "pie" preceding? Blech. This was the issue I was having with the puzzle—it was just queasily off in places, both fill-wise and cluing-wise, so that many answers don't *land*. They just kind of … shuffle in and shrug at you.
As you can see in that screen grab, my brain could not accept ALERS (as all healthy brains cannot), so I had TEAMS in there. You can also see where I had AMID at 45A: About before PROTEAN forced the change. After I pushed through there, though, it was pretty much just a diagonal shot across the grid from SW to NE…
And then ran the terrible SORRY *I'M* [ugh] NOT SORRY down into the SE for the big finish.
The takeaway: know your memes, and get the phrasing right. Also, ALER and NLER got TO GO. Far away. To ODESA if need be.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld