Solving time: 5:04, which a) might have been my fastest solving time ever and b) finally lowered my Monday average to 10 minutes! A milestone moment in the brief crosswording career of our lowly serf of Crossworld. What lands shall he conquer next on his heroic odyssey? Nothing can bound his limitless potential! So this puzzle was easy-peasy lemon-squeezy.
Puzzle quality: On a scale from 1 to 5, with
1: having your leg strangled by a RABID COBRA
2: getting a CAST for the bone that the RABID COBRA broke
3: finding out that an AGAVE ritual can break the BAD LUCK OMEN that the RABID COBRA snake bite gave you
4: having a MEDIC heal your RABID COBRA wounds
5: slaying the RABID COBRA and a puff ADDER while you’re at it, with some epic ACDC playing in the background
this puzzle was a 3.
Theme: HEY JOE. All four theme answers start with a word that can be combined with “Joe” to form a well-known phrase, brand, or name. Theme answers include:
- BOXER REBELLION (24A: 1899-1901 uprising in China) – if you stick JOE in front of BOXER, you get “JOE BOXER,” which is a brand of underwear.
- CAMELCASE (28A: Style of “iPhone” or “eBay,” typographically). JOE CAMEL was the mascot for Camel cigarettes.
Forget the surgeon general’s warning on the bottom left. Just admire my sunglasses and tan biceps.
- COOL BEANS (45A: “Great!”). JOE COOL is an alter ego for Snoopy, the Peanuts character.
Forget the fact that I’m a cartoon dog. Just admire my sunglasses and my sweater, which just emanates cool, literally.
- BLOW HOT AND COLD (50A: Vacillate). JOE BLOW means average or ordinary guy.
I smote this puzzle like a Viking would smite a dragon. This might have been the first time ever that I started a puzzle on the first clue in the UL (upper-left) corner and ended on the last clue in the LR (lower-right) corner, without having to go back to other parts of the grid and fix errors. But enough of the ego flexing. Rex Parker’s probably laughing at me right now like:
In spite of the low difficulty level for today’s puzzle, the theme answers would be hard to get from their respective clues alone. I don’t think most people have ever heard of the typing style CAMELCASE (28A: Style of “iPhone” or “eBay,” typographically), which Mr. Wikipedia tells me refers to “the practice of writing compound words or phrases such that each word or abbreviation begins with a capital letter (and omits hyphens).” COOL BEANS is definitely a popular phrase, but it wouldn’t be anyone’s first guess for a vague clue like 45A: “Great!” I’ve never heard of the idiom BLOW HOT AND COLD (50A), which means “to vacillate.” A brief consultation with Mr. Google reveals that it’s mostly used in English English and not American English, so maybe that’s why.
But the rest of the grid was incredibly standard Monday fill. Aside from some of the theme answers, there were no other new words or phrases that I learned today. Oh, there is one exception, and that’s ATOM Ant (16A: __ Ant (cartoon superhero)), but I was able to fill in that clue from the surrounding downs alone. OP ART (15A: Dizzying illusions), ALAR (35A: Banned apple spray), URAL (42A: __ Mountains (range east of Moscow)), ETUI (11D: Sewing case), and TARA (53D: Scarlett O’Hara’s plantation) are not only conventional crosswordese but are also clued in the most conventional way possible. Kevin Christian, today’s constructor, made no efforts to integrate any puns, head-scratchers, or even tidbits of arcane knowledge into these clues. Instead, most of the grid just turns into read-and-fill, almost as though Christian were trying to maximize solving speed.
Even our mighty superhero Atom Ant is rendered powerless when there’s an error in the grid and he has no idea where it is. o_O
One rather unordinary clue that added some spice to the grid: DUE NORTH (38D: 0 degrees, on a compass). I’ve never seen that before in a crossword (although that’s not saying much, since I haven’t been solving the NYT’s puzzles for very long), unlike BAD LUCK (10D: What the number 13 brings, supposedly), which was literally the theme of last week’s Thursday.
See you tomorrow,
Kenneth, lowly serf of Crossworld