Monday, August 1, 2016: “To-Do List”

Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 5.14.38 PM

Note: As I think I noted in an earlier blogpost, the NYTimes online web app sometimes deletes squares in my grid. That blank space that you see at the start of 31A should be filled with an “R.” So, 31A: Genetic carrier is RNA and 11D: Masthead title is EDITOR.

Solving time: 7:41. Solid easy-ish/medium-ish.

Puzzle quality: 

To-Do List for a Monday:

  • Essential:
    • Shut the alarm clock
    • Be at the office
    • Compliment wife’s cooking
    • Ask children “how their day was”
    • Solve the daily crossword
  • Unessential:
    • Get up as soon as the alarm clock rings
    • Work at the office
    • Enjoy wife’s cooking
    • Pay attention to your children’s answer
    • Be amused by the crossword’s theme

Theme: To do or not to do, that is not Hamlet’s original question. Each of the theme answers is a two-word phrase with the letters “TO” at the start of the first word and “DO” at the start of a the second word. This forms a TO-DO LIST, hence the revealer. Theme answers are as follows:

imgres-1 (17A)

plane-landing  (25A)

tommy-dorsey  (36A)

stock-photo-stack-of-one-dollar-bills-2636336 (49A)

Theme revealer: TO-DO LIST (59A: Planner’s aid … or what 17-, 25-, 36-, and 49-Across are?)

Standard Monday fare. ARIOSO (47D: Melodic) was the only answer that struck me as unfamiliar; it hasn’t appeared on a Monday NYTimes crossword since May 2004. My only error was to write TEPON instead of TETON for 22A: Wyoming’s Grand __ mountain (shouldn’t the M in “mountain” be capitalized in that clue?).

Today’s theme was unoriginal but perfectly normal for a Monday puzzle. It recycles a theme pattern that the New York Times hasn’t deviated from for ages: the same set of words or letters appears at the start of every theme entry. Today’s set of words just happen to be “TO” and “DO.” Nothing extraordinary. Nothing disappointingly awful. Just average.

Today’s fill was also unoriginal but perfectly normal for a Monday puzzle (pun intended). It ranged from OH MY GOD THIS IS SUCH LITERAL CROSSWORDESE WHEN HAS ANYONE EVER ACTUALLY USED THIS PHRASE IN REAL LIFE (I’m looking at you, ATTAR [53A: Rose oil]) to corners filled only with 3-letter phrases (like the UR and LR), from adjacent pairs of synonymous phrases (ASAP [63A: “Immediately!”] and NOW [64A: “I mean … this instant!]) to nice attempts at longer phrases (for instance, COME TO REST [28D: Stop moving]). The one type of clue that this puzzle is missing is a pun; in fact, looking over the grid, I realize that there’s not a single answer that is clued with a question mark. I suppose Kurt Mengel and Jan-Michele Gianette, today’s constructors, just weren’t in the mood.

Perhaps the only exceptional part of this puzzle is the dual appearances of the same word. Often times will you see the same clue repeated twice in a grid, but almost never will you see the same answer or even variation of an answer repeated twice in a crossword. Admittedly, ATE (47A: Chowed down) and NOT EAT (44D: Skip dinner, say) are not the same word(s), but they both feature different conjugations of the same verb. Odd in a puzzle where almost everything else isn’t.

King Kenny, lowly serf of Crossworld

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