Metrosexual satchel / FRI 6-5-15 / Up or down 12 semitones in musical notation / Popular series of 1990s compilation albums / King in Elgar title / Eternally nameless thing / Louisville-based restaurant chain
Friday, June 5, 2015
Constructor: James Mulhern
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
Word of the Day: OTTAVA (48D: Up or down 12 semitones in musical notation) —
at an octave higher or lower than written —used as a direction in music. (merriam-webster.com)
• • •
OH GOD NO and FAKE PUNT and SNARKY—but there's also a certain forced hipness. I lived through the '90s and paid attention to music/pop culture and JOCK JAMS rings only the faintest of bells. MONSTER BALLADS and NOW THAT'S WHAT I CALL MUSIC! were all I could think of. I can't see JOCK JAMS bringing a lot of joy to or having much currency with NYT solvers, but I'm not mad at it. Double-J-ness alone makes it respectable. MURSE, however, is absurd in the extreme. It's a non-word. No one but no one uses that word, would claim to own one, etc. Maybe some TV episode or pop culture joke somewhere made the term briefly, unfortunately viable, but please. No. Terrible. MURSE is better as a portmanteau of "male nurse," and it's not good there, either, as male nurses are just nurses.
[even sites that sell "MURSEs" don't actually sell them]
Basically you have a super-common Friday grid design today—black X (roughly) through the center with 3-wide L-corners all around (that is, 3 longer Acrosses crossing 3 longer Downs in every corner), and the results are mixed. I'd say the fill is mostly good, rarely terrible, but too often mediocre. Entire NE is entirely forgettable. With exception of JACKASS (which is at least unusual), SW isn't much better—lots of AREAARREARSIERRAERR, which is to say it's mostly the same three letters over and over and over. It's an entirely acceptable puzzle, but I wish there were more stand-out answers, and I wish the fill were somewhat smoother. REJIGGER is not and will never be a thing. Also, TEENTSY does not and will never contain that second "T." It hurts just to look at. POO, also, never acceptable.
Look how terribly I started out. I got so frustrated that I just plowed ahead, bull-in-china-shop style, refusing to stop until I'd traversed the entire grid from NW to SE. As you can see, horrific start suddenly gives way to impressive grid-spanning streak:
First four answers in the grid were wrong. Yeesh. I still don't really get how [Give a turn] makes sense for JOLT, but I'm sure that some idiom somewhere can be stretched to make that meaning work, somehow. After ARABS, though, I cut right through this thing. Doesn't mean it got Easy all of a sudden—just means it got doable. At this point, I actually wasn't at all sure about JOE or PILLS. Got screwed up by writing in NO NO NO for OH GOD NO, which made ELDEST impossible to see, which made me doubt both JOE and PILLS. Again, the elephant in the grid is REJIGGER, which is still not a thing. But once I got the NE settled, I came down and realized that all my first instincts (shown above) had been right. I made a few more mistakes along the way—GULE (?) for ORLE (53A: Edge on a shield), DIRE for DARK (55D: Forbidding), WAIT A SEC for JUST A SEC (38A: "Hold on")—but except for the WTF-ery of OTTAVA (48D: Up or down 12 semitones, in musical notation), nothing else held me up much. Puzzle took some work, but no more than you might expect on a Friday.
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