Monday, March 20, 2017
Constructor: Neil deGrasse Tyson and Andrea Carla Michaels
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (on the easy side for a Monday, slightly)
THEME: astronowordplay — familiar astronomical terms clued as if they were not astronomical terms, i.e. clued wackily, i.e. "?"-style:
- LITTLE DIPPER (20A: Toe testing the waters?)
- GAS GIANT (24A: ExxonMobil?)
- STAR CLUSTER (37A: Oscar nominees' gathering?)
- RED DWARF (52A: Bashful?)
- HEAVENLY BODY (57A: Total hottie?)
A red dwarf is a small and relatively cool star on the main sequence, of either K or M spectral type. Red dwarfs range in mass from a low of 0.075 to about 0.50 solar mass and have a surface temperature of less than 4,000 K. // Red dwarfs are by far the most common type of star in the Milky Way, at least in the neighborhood of the Sun, but because of their low luminosity, individual red dwarfs cannot be easily observed. From Earth, not one is visible to the naked eye. Proxima Centauri, the nearest star to the Sun, is a red dwarf (Type M5, apparent magnitude 11.05), as are fifty of the sixty nearest stars. According to some estimates, red dwarfs make up three-quarters of the stars in the Milky Way. (wikipedia)
• • •
LITTLE DIPPER right off the bat; even with LITTLE in place, I wasn't sure what was going on, and ended up spilling down into the middle part of the grid and then circling back up to get DIPPER. But despite the tricksiness of the themers and the awkward solving path, I finished in 2:46, which is actually a good 10 seconds or so *under* my Monday average. The non-theme answers were *very* straightforward, and much of the fill was quite short, which tends to make a grid easy to blow through. It's a black-square-heavy grid, too (44 squares), so there were simply fewer squares to fill in than normal. Overall, a breezy, pleasing experience. Classic Monday fare.
My only issue with the theme involved the last answer: HEAVENLY BODY. It's too general, I think. All the others are very specific phenomenon, and then you get this general term for ... what? *Any* planet or star or other celestial body? Not the greatest way to end the theme answer sequence. Also, the clue was kind of icky in its slangy ogliness (57A: Total hottie?). To give you a sense of how cheesy the clue struck me, here: please watch this trailer for the 1985 movie "Heavenly Bodies." All will be clear.
Today's constructors, Dr. Tyson and Ms. Michaels, went to college together back in the day (HAH-vard, I believe, circa the 20th century). My knowing Andrea and Andrea's knowing Neil led to one of the greatest moments of my science-loving daughter's young life 5 years ago, when she got to meet Dr. Tyson following a lecture he gave in Binghamton. Hard to overestimate how important "NOVA ScienceNow" was to her early education. She brought her autographed copy of "The Pluto Files" in to show her 6th-grade science teacher the next day and kind of blew his mind.
[April, 2012—my daughter is the one on the left]
See you tomorrow.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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