Wednesday, October 14, 2015
Constructor: Joel Fagliano
Relative difficulty: Challenging
THEME: HANGMAN — theme answers are HANGMAN letter guesses, and the answers to the guesses (which are, ironically, in the clues ... not the answers) enable you to guess the HANGMAN answer, which is HANGMAN (see unchecked letters at bottom of the grid)
- "DOES IT HAVE AN 'N'?" (24A: Q: ___ / A: There are two, in the third and seventh squares below)
- "IS THERE A 'G'?" (26A: Q: ___ / A: Indeed, in the fourth square)
- "I GUESS 'M'" (36A: Q: ___ / A: There's one in the fifth square)
- "HOW ABOUT 'H'?" (47A: Q: ___ / A: Correct! In the first square)
- "ANY 'A'S?" (54A: Q: ___ / A: Yes, two, in the second and sixth squares)
- the principles or policies associated with a welfare state. (google)
• • •
HANGMAN player) were so contrived, with a whole bunch of ways of asking said "questions," thus essentially imagining a HANGMAN game as no one would actually play it. Worst of all, for me, one of the "questions" was Not A Question At All. You can't put "Q: ___" in your puzzle, and then have the answer Not Be A Q. "I GUESS 'M'" is not not not not not a "Q." It's not. I do admire the concept, in the abstract, and yes, you get to play a little bonus game of HANGMAN with your crossword. But figuring out the phrasing on all the "Q"s was mostly irksome.
Biggest stall for me was confidently writing in ON THE QT at 20A: Hush-hush (ON THE DL). My obsession with mid-century noir, or at least my fandom of "L.A. Confidential," led me astray here. That stupid "QT" kept me from moving easily through that whole upper section. I had trouble in a few other sections. Went with IDES instead of DDAY (57D: Make-or-break date). Baffled by clue for AREA (28D: Science or humanities, in college requirements), largely because there is almost nothing "college"-y about AREAs. "What AREA are you in?" Not a question I can imagine. I get that a general field is called an AREA, fine, but why is there this long "college"-related clue when it isn't even particularly apt? Strange. I think I thought SCHUSS was a general word for "ski" and not a particular word for "ski straight and fast as opposed to slalom, moguls, etc" (38D: Go downhill fast). So SCHUSS and speed were not associated in my head before now. Despite MCENROE's being my second-favorite tennis player growing up, I could hear only Dick Vitale's voice when I read 43A: Sporting great with the book "You Cannot Be Serious!" Weird.
Lastly, I really wish the NYT crossword would stop trafficking in "homies" (33D: Place with homies). There's something so tin-eared and condescending about it. The word you're cluing is HOOD. There are a jillion ways to clue that. Since the NYT crossword has generally demonstrated little to no awareness of black lives, it's weird to have "homies" keep coming up—it means that black people are visible in the puzzle, for the most part, only via some street slang that white people picked up 20+ years ago. Maybe if the puzzle were more inclusive, generally, this stuff wouldn't bug me. But it's not, so it does.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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