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Monday, May 9, 2016
Constructor: Dan Schoenholz
Relative difficulty: Medium (normal Monday)
THEME: In a state —first words of themers can precede "state" in state slogans—relevant states have their postal codes hidden (in circles) in the latter parts of the answers.
- ALOHA SHIRT (17A: Article of tropical apparel ... whose start is a state nickname for the state indicated by the circled squares)
- "SHOW ME THE MONEY" (27A: Catchphrase shouted in "Jerry Maguire" ...)
- BAY MARE (37A: Secretariat's mother, for one ...)
- FIRST RESPONDER (45A: Emergency worker ...)
- GOLDEN CALF (60A: Biblical idol ...)
Bay is a hair coat color of horses, characterized by a reddish-brown body color with a black mane, tail, ear edges, and lower legs. Bay is one of the most common coat colors in many horse breeds. (wikipedia)
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ALOHA SHIRT, abbr. for the Show Me State is embedded in "SHOW ME THE MONEY," etc. Nice. I thought maybe a BAY MARE was a special kind of horse, but it's just ... red-brown horse. That makes it almost the embodiment of a "green paint" answer, except maybe BAY MARE is a more singular, coherent, stand-alone thing than I imagine. I don't know from horses. The phrases aren't all two-worders ("SHOW ME THE MONEY" is the outlier), but I don't think this mild inconsistency matters at all. The gimmick works very nicely. What I *don't* quite understand are the repetitive and highly unwieldy theme clues. Over and over again, "whose start is a state nickname for the state indicated by the circled squares." There has got to be a better way to indicate this—in a note? Or in some other way, much more concisely. This is one of those days where I really wish the NYT dailies had titles. This would be a huge advantage for constructors (who wouldn't always have to be thinking about "revealers" and whose grids could thus accommodate more theme material or be more open); and for solvers ... it adds another level of wordplay. Also, it's just nice when you name things. You name children and pets, why not puzzles? Anyway, all this repetitive (and to my mind unnecessary) clue verbiage was the only real drawback to this otherwise fine Monday.
I dropped SOYA in at 1A: Protein-rich bean with no hesitation, but that makes me feel oddly guilty. That is, I *know* it's SOYA because crossword muscle says SOYA but in real life I know only SOY beans, not SOYA beans. I have to believe that corner could do better (esp. as it has YEOW and ASEC and not-everyone-knows-it proper noun BOWEN in it). In fact, the fill really could use a strong upgrade. ISSUE TO is not exactly a sizzler, as longer answers go, and the short stuff is pretty crusty in places (SCAD ELIA! IRKED ELKO!). Strength of the theme keeps the fill from being too much of a distracting nuisance today. I fell into the TRA hole at 6D: La-la lead-in (OOH), but DON HO (of the ALOHA State) got me out (15A: "Tiny Bubbles" singer). Had SO AM I instead of SO DO I, which isn't terribly surprising (27D: "Me, too!"). Gonna go listen to the new Brian ENO now ... seriously.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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