1993 Economics co-Nobelist Robert / WED 9-30-15 / US women's soccer star Kelley / Trucker's toll factor / Online game annoyance / Libidinous god / Workout attire that became 1980s fad / Cafe specification
Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Constructor: Freddie Cheng
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: BREAKABLES (62A: Extra-care items for movers ... or a hint to the starts of 17-, 24-, 28-, 44- and 49-Across) — first words of themers are things that can you can break...
- FEVER PITCH (17A: High excitement)
- RECORD DEAL (24A: Desire of one submitting a demo CD)
- LEG WARMERS (28A: Workout attire that became a 1980s fad)
- SWEAT PANTS (44A: Bottom of a gym?)
- FALL SEASON (49A: Debut time for many TV shows)
The Noctuidae or owlet moths are a family of robustly built moths that includes more than 35,000 known species out of possibly 100,000 total, in more than 4,200 genera. They constitute the largest family in the Lepidoptera. (wikipedia)
BREAKABLES. You can break a DEAL as sure as you can break a RECORD. You can also breakDANCE—true FIRE DANCE is not a themer, but it's sure as hell photo-bombing the themers, so since I can't help but notice it, I'm talking about it. I mean, yesterday's puzzle had ICEBREAKERS *in it*. Where's ICE today? Well, nowhere, just like a seemingly endless number of "BREAKABLES" because "break" creates a rubric so vast that it's virtually meaningless. I thought maybe the category was supposed to be narrower—that perhaps the first word of the theme answers had to be able to complete the phrase "break a ___"; even so, if that were the case, then you'd probably put PROMISE and DATE and other things in there before FEVER and FALL. The category simply isn't tight enough, and cramming lots of answers (6 today) into the grid doesn't make it any tighter.
Also, BREAKABLES is limp as revealers go. The more I think about it, it makes sense only if there is supposed be a kind of wordplay where the "BREAK A" part of BREAKABLES is the thing you put in front of the first words of themers to get phrases. That seems awfully iffy, conceptually. Further, those fake-themers (FIRE DANCE and OWLET MOTH) are annoyingly distracting. Grid seems like it could've used a redesign, if only to help iron out some (occasionally) very rough fill. I wish I could unsee virtually every Down in the northern section. RARES is an abomination (24D: Hardest-to-find items for a collector) (I say this as a serious collector of at least one thing). Ditto EMBAR. Not a huge fan of ARECA. The clue (12D: Betel nut-yielding tree) just reeks of the kind of musty ar(e)cana that crosswords have been and should continue to be drifting away from.
I was gonna rag on OWLET MOTH, which seemed like a real Hail Mary answer to me while I was solving (esp. crossing FOGEL) (?). But finding out that they're the largest family of lepidoptera, with 35K known species, forces me to grudgingly accept the thingness of OWLET MOTHs. Speaking of grudgingly accepting thingness. I railed against ECIG recently and several of my friends called me out on it, claiming that it was very much a real thing. Not EMAIL real, but definitely more real than, say, ECASH. Somehow someone ended up sending me google image search proof from some ECIG place in Temecula, CA, and then my friend and ECIG defender, crossword constructor Finn Vigeland, said he was going to be in Temecula for work, and I told him that if he sent me ocular proof (in the form of a selfie) that he had visited these Temecula ECIG establishments, I would publicly apologize to both him and ECIG for every maligning ECIG. And so of course ...
Sadly, even before I'd received the pics, I knew I would have to concede. We took this pic just a few blocks from where we were staying this past weekend in Minneapolis:
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
PS if you want to see a crossword with a similar theme type, but executed with a much greater degree of technical skill, check on the Livengood/Chen production in today's WSJ ("Au Pair").
PPS The Observer's profile of Buzzfeed Crossword editor Caleb Madison just came out. Read it here. The BZFXword starts verrrry soon...
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