Wednesday, May 11, 2016
Constructor: Pawel Fludzinski
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: dos and bes and please don't make me explain it —
- TO BE OR NOT TO BE (20A: Words from Shakespeare)
- TO BE IS TO DO (28A: Words from Socrates)
- TO DO IS TO BE (41A: Words from Sartre)
- DOOBY DOOBY DOO (52A: Words from Sinatra)
Agrostis gigantea, known by its common names black bent and redtop, is a perennial grass of the Agrostis genus. // It is native to Europe, but in the cooler areas of North America was widely used as a pasture grass until the 1940s. Although it has largely been replaced by soybeans and more palatable grasses, it still gets some use in poor soils. It was one of the grasses planted in areas disturbed by the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. It generally does well in response to fires, due to survival of rhizomes and seeds.
It can be found in open woodland, rough grassland, hedgerows, roadsides and waste ground, and as a weed on arable land. (wikipedia)
• • •This is unacceptable on many levels. First, this is a tired, pre-existing, non-original bit of wordplay, i.e. NOT a product of constructor cleverness, wit, thoughtfulness, etc. If anything, the whole gag is botched by the constructor's addition of TO BE OR NOT TO BE, which is some which-of-these-four-is-not-like-the-others nonsense. Leaving that answer aside, the others are part of a sequence that you can find on plaques and mugs and, I don't know, cross-stitches or whatever, at any of your finest novelty gift shops. Here look:
And so forth. Not sure how "Nietzsche" and "Kant" came to be "Sartre" and "Socrates" in today's gag, but I'm guessing the creation of an all-S cast was thought to a choice bit of cleverness.
And if that's not bad enough (and it is), the fill, hoo boy. Unless you are literally Merl Reagle and you are literally in the movie "Wordplay,"* REDTOP = no. No no. ENTR' crossing a single ARREAR? ON LATE crossing ONE ONE? ... note that I haven't even left the NW yet. STLO ABED! It's ruff. Not bottom-of-the-barrel rough, but down there. After two nice puzzles to open the week ... this. AGEE? GEES-us H! I want to fault this one for being way too easy as well (nearly broke the 3 min. mark???), but considering how little I liked it, I'm actually pretty grateful it took no effort. OSSO STET! SSTS and REOS in my OLEO! If you tore absolutely everything out of this puzzle except the longer Downs, you'd have ... not much, but you'd be sort of on your way to a decent themeless (seriously, this thing has only 72 words, which is themeless territory). I don't know what's going on here. I'll see you back here tomorrow, where hopefully I'll get a puzzle that at least *aspires* to be NYT-worthy.
["...shot down in May ... back on top in June"]
*Merl put REDTOP in a puzzle he constructed on camera in "Wordplay." Worth nothing—it bugged him so much that by the time that puzzle actually appeared in finished form, he had replaced REDTOP with PILEUP (the movie doesn't bother to tell you that :). This is all to say that constructors are supposed to agonize over their weak fill—not make it the leader of a bad fill parade.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
PS here's an article by my student, Clare Gilroy, about the Independent Study she did with me this semester re: crosswords.
PPS of course the attributions in today's theme clues are all b.s.—here's more than you'd ever want to know about the actual origins of this dooby-do gag, which dates to 1968 (h/t Ben Zimmer).
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