Monday, May 12, 2008
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: FOUR H CLUBS (58A: Youth groups ... with a hint to 17-, 28- and 44-Across) - four H's can be found in each of three theme answers
Second-fastest Monday (thus, second-fastest NYT puzzle of all time) for me. The only thing that even slightly slowed my progress was the TOUPEE region of the puzzle (a testament to the greatness of that word / clue - 48A: Top secret?). I had to work hard to get TOUPEE to come into view, and in that same region I had HURRAH for 45D: Fanfare (hoopla). Other than that - non-stop typing to a 2:58 finish. I feel as if I have seen this theme before, or some version of it, but frankly I'm astonished that kind of thing doesn't happen much more often. My main problem with this puzzle is that the non-theme fill - almost everything five letters and under - is tepid to boring. It's all the kind of thing that an expert constructor (which Mr. Hartman is) can fill in in a few minutes. I like Monday and Tuesday puzzles where attention has been given to All parts of the puzzle. You will inevitably have ordinary words and crosswordese in your early-week puzzle, but some effort should be given to livening things up somewhere. INGOT (3D: Gold brick) and CARNE (63A: Chili con _____) are nice-ish, but all around the perimeter of this puzzle I see yawn-inducing fill that likely could have been freshened up at least a little. To its credit, this puzzle has a deliciously creamy center - a lop-sided column of CHAISE (29D: _____ longue), SHEATHE (25D: Put away, as a sword), and PINATA (26D: Something beaten at a party in Mexico) - and the long Downs in the NE and SW are no slouches either. SAPPHIRES (11D: September birth stones) is (fittingly) beautiful, and ROAST BEEF (34D: Entree carved by a chef) has that surprising, solid -STB- center that makes it a real winner. No surprise that that's where most of the action (and most of my trouble) was in this puzzle.
- 17A: Anglican body (High Church)
- 28A: Question when you can't tell two things apart (Which is which?)
- 44A: Jewish high holy day (Rosh Hashanah)
Assorted other stuff:
- 18D: Sign of prestige (cachet) - one of those words I have trouble spelling. Somehow it's mixed up with SACHET and SASHAY and CACHE and the French CACHÉ ("hidden") etc. CACHET goes nicely today with NICHES (47D: Specialized markets)
- 38A: Duracell size (AAA) - OK. Stuff like this should always be a last resort - and considering that it's anchoring that lovely middle of the puzzle, I give this a pass.
- 39A: Like a score of 10 of a possible 10 (ideal) - I have blogged about this very clue / answer pair before. I don't like it. You score a PERFECT 10, not an IDEAL 10.
- 49A: The "I" of Canada's P.E.I. (Island) - Prince Edward Island. My first draft of the puzzle I'm working on had a lot of great Canadian stuff, but ... it just didn't work out. Sorry, Canada. I'll let you see that puzzle, someday.
- 5D: South Seas getaway (Tahiti) - yay. Gorgeous. And we get a "South Seas" clue that doesn't result in OMOO. Huzzah.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld