Online provider of study guides / WED 3-9-16 / Capable jocularly / Abrupt realignment of policy priorities / Translucent sea creature that drifts with current / Longtime Vermont senator
Wednesday, March 9, 2016
Constructor: John Guzzetta
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
THEME: spreads — last words of themers are all fruit spreads you might put on toast or whatever...
- NATURE PRESERVES (16A: Wildlife refuges)
- MOON JELLY (25A: Translucent sea creature that drifts with the current)
- SLOW JAM (42A: R&B/soul ballad)
- LADY MARMALADE (55A: #1 hit of 1975 and 2001)
Aurelia aurita (also called the moon jelly, moon jellyfish, common jellyfish, or saucer jelly) is a widely studied species of the genus Aurelia. All species in the genus are closely related, and it is difficult to identify Aurelia medusae without genetic sampling; most of what follows applies equally to all species of the genus. // The jellyfish is translucent, usually about 25–40 cm (10–16 in) in diameter, and can be recognized by its four horseshoe-shaped gonads, easily seen through the top of the bell. It feeds by collecting medusae, plankton, and mollusks with its tentacles, and bringing them into its body for digestion. It is capable of only limited motion, and drifts with the current, even when swimming. (wikipedia)
• • •
MOON JELLY? I think your theme is dead if that's the best answer you can come up with. What you call a [Translucent sea creature that drifts with the current] is a JELLYFISH. Full stop. End of story. MOON JELLY? I mean, really. Come on. That answer took me forEver, and (with BERYLLIUM (15D: Fourth element on the periodic table), which I could not find the handle on) is the primary reason my time was a minute north of normal. But even if MOON JELLY were a great answer, the theme is thin, slightly weak, and very weirdly laid out. It's just "Last Things Similar," one of the oldest (and least seen, nowadays) types of themes. There are only four answers, totaling only 44 squares. I couldn't even find the theme at first—certainly didn't see it while I was solving, and needed a good number of seconds of staring to finally figure out what was going on. I don't like that SLOW JAM is so short, and that there are other, non-theme Across answers of equal length—four of them, in fact. The whole thing, thematically, just feels shaggy. Speaking of shaggy, my first thought upon finishing the puzzle, before I'd figured out the theme, was that the grid was shaped like a dog's face. Two eyes and nose are pretty easy to see there in the center. There's a grin there. And even a tongue at the bottom. I honestly thought the grid shape *must* be involved in the theme. But no.
The grid is interesting *looking*, and those longer Downs in the SW and SE are cool. Is LADY MARMALADE not named after the spread? PRESERVES and JELLY and JAM are all repurposed in their respective answers, but I'm not sure you can say the same for MARMALADE. There is no alternative meaning of MARMALADE. Putting LADY in front of it doesn't really change that fact. IRATER makes me IRATER than I was before I started the puzzle. And EPT, jeez. Yikes. No. ECOLAW continues to feel made-up. The NW of this grid was weirdly hard—all this "becomes this when you do that" and "sounds like two of these," yeesh. Just give me a clue. Also, would've been nice to have Patrick LEAHY's first name in that clue (2D: Longtime Vermont senator). Rough going, early on. I actually think the grid overall is pretty solid. But the theme is thin and wobbly, so in the end it ends up playing like an interestingly shaped themeless. But seriously, MOON JELLY? Is that a regionalism? Do people know what that is? Baffling.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]