Eponym in frozen food aisle / FRI 8-21-15 / Paid purchaser perhaps / Most-cooked part of prime rib roast / Jerry of Dirty Dancing / Home to Sultan Qaboos University / Perfumery measure
Friday, August 21, 2015
Constructor: David Steinberg
Relative difficulty: Eeeeeeeasy
Word of the Day: QUEEN ANNE (34A: English monarch after whom a brickwork building style is named) —
Anne (6 February 1665 – 1 August 1714) became Queen of England, Scotland and Ireland on 8 March 1702. On 1 May 1707, under the Acts of Union, two of her realms, the kingdoms of England and Scotland, united as a single sovereign state known as Great Britain. She continued to reign as Queen of Great Britain and Ireland until her death. (wikipedia)
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EDY or SRO or any of the 3s in the SW, and, you know, EKES gonna eke, but everything else, I'll take, anywhere, any time. Now to be fair it is somewhat harder to manage your short stuff in a themed puzzle, where simply by virtue of grid design (i.e. higher word count) there tends to be more of it, and the theme answers put real pressure on surrounding fill (theme answers are fixed, whereas nothing in a themeless is ever fixed—you can rotate out as many different long answers as you want until you get what you like in a themeless; not so much with long theme answers, which are strictly bound by theme criteria). Still, getting a 66-worder to come off this cleanly is a real accomplishment. That center stack is something else. No compromises. This takes care and craftsmanship. David is one of a handful of regular NYT constructors where, when I see his name, I expect to see a puzzle living up to the NYT's own self-description as "the best puzzle in the world."
Now the easiness. This puzzle needed speed bumps, badly. I finished in under 6 minutes, which is fast under any circumstances for me. Today, however, that 6 minutes included not only solving the puzzle, but stopping to take screenshots three different times, and checking my email once. I am almost certain that I would've been under 5 had I been trying, which would've been down near my Friday record. I can't fault the puzzle too much for being too easy, but I'll try to explain where the easiness today comes from, because it's not just the clues. It's also the grid construction. If you get the NW corner (and I did, fairly quickly, from BASE (1A: Place to lead a private life?) and BALLADE (1D: Verse with an envoi) as openers), then the longer Acrosses drop right in and you can just drill the short Downs in order. But the real source of overall easiness is that transition to the middle. You've got APPLE already in place, so dropping CIDER is a no-brainer (5D: Drink sometimes served hot). Then, though perhaps TOM/TSHIRTS might give you some attitude (11A: Daisy's husband in "The Great Gatsby" + 11D: Some cannon projectiles), once you handle that NE corner, you've got the front and back of what turns out (pretty obviously at that point) to be CLAM BROTH (25A: New England stock). And *then* you've got the first letters (i.e. the most crucial letters) of all those Downs in the middle of the grid. And bam bam bam bam everything just falls.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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