Croatian head / FRI 11-20-15 / Kind of butter used in lip gloss / Canoodle in Canterbury / Rapper with 2006 #1 album Press Play / Accessory for Che / Player of new girl on sitcom New Girl / Exuberant Mexican exclamation / Congresswoman in 2011 news / Joe of Eagles
Friday, November 20, 2015
Constructor: Mary Lou Guizzo
Relative difficulty: Medium
Word of the Day: EROS (13D: Destination of NASA's NEAR) —
433 Eros is an S-type near-Earth asteroid approximately 34.4×11.2×11.2 kilometres (21.4×7.0×7.0 mi) in size, the second-largest near-Earth asteroid after 1036 Ganymed. It was discovered in 1898 and was the first near-Earth asteroid discovered. It was the first asteroid orbited by an Earth probe (in 2000). It belongs to the Amor group. // Eros is a Mars-crosser asteroid, the first known to come within the orbit of Mars. Objects in such an orbit can remain there for only a few hundred million years before the orbit is perturbed by gravitational interactions. Dynamical integrations suggest that Eros may evolve into an Earth-crosser within as short an interval as two million years, and has a roughly 50% chance of doing so over a time scale of 108–109 years. It is a potential Earth impactor, comparable in size to the impactor that created Chicxulub crater and led to the extinction of the dinosaurs. // The NEAR Shoemaker probe visited Eros twice, first with a 1998 flyby, and then by orbiting it in 2000 when it extensively photographed its surface. On February 12, 2001, at the end of its mission, it landed on the asteroid's surface using its maneuvering jets. (wikipedia)
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GABRIELLE / GIFFORDS is a great, current, important name that I don't think I've seen in the grid before—certainly not in full-name form. It's a *little* weird to have her name broken up so oddly (last name "first," i.e. farthest left, and then with the two name parts in totally different areas of the grid); normally you'd handle a marquee name like that a little more ... elegantly? I did enjoy seeing it, though. I also loved the nose-thumbing at [Fossils] (OLD FOGIES)—it would be simplistic to see that answer as ageist, since it describes a type of older person (with a certain stodgy "In my day..." mindset) rather than older people in general. The same way that BRAT or IMP is not anti-child. I would never have thought of NEWS as an ACROSTIC (11D: NEWS for the four directions, and others => ACROSTICS). I would've said "acronym." Are all acronyms ACROSTICS? If "An acrostic is a poem or other form of writing in which the first letter, syllable or word of each line, paragraph or other recurring feature in the text spells out a word or a message" (wikipedia), then ... it would seem so. I think of ACROSTICS as puzzles or poems, not just ... a group of letters like we have in NEWS. But it seems I'm wrong. OK.
There's some not-great stuff in here, notably the double-improbably RE-words (RELAP, REICE), and the truly abominable LAICS (6D: Flock members). Wow. "'Twere profanation of our joys / To tell the LAICS our love"??? No. It's LAITY. The word is LAITY. The word will never not be LAITY. LAIC is a decent adjective, but it's an abysmal noun. Beyond that, though, I don't have many fill complaints. I'm not in love with P-TRAP (the "P" seems to have migrated from DIDDY to TRAP...), but it's crossed fairly enough by PELOSI. And MUS is gross and we've had ILE two days in a row now, but these are tiny things compared the overall solidity of the puzzle.
IT'S A SHAME (27D: "So sad") that the puzzle ended on such a sour note for me, though. If you'd just cold asked me what a prefix for "Croatian" was, I'd've said "SERBO" (18A: Croatian head?). However ... because of the cluing on 13D: Destination of NASA's NEAR, I had no choice but to write in ERIS, since until just now I did not know that EROS (actually "433 EROS") was a celestial object of any sort. I knew very well, however, that, like CERES (20D: Destination of Dawn), ERIS is a dwarf planet. So I couldn't very well go with EROS, despite SERBO-'s sounding *so* much better than SERBI-. The NASA-related CERES clue made me virtually certain that the the other NASA clue had to have another dwarf planet as its answer. But no. It's some asteroid I didn't know existed. Irksome, as a. the only reason for this anomalous clue on EROS is that someone wanted to get cute with the parallel clues, and b. SERBO- is manifestly bad fill—always hurts to crash and burn on the grid's ugliest part. Well, second-ugliest. I mean LAICS, come on ...
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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