Solving time: 25:28. Much like with yesterday’s puzzle, today’s crossword might be difficult if you’re a novice and you see a Q in a theme entry that just doesn’t seem to be in the right place. When I filled in SHAQ for 13D: N.B.A. star-turned-sports analyst, familiarly, I immediately became suspicious because the Q in SHAQ meant that the final letter of 21A: Incapacitated Chevy? would have to be a Q, and exceedingly few words end in Q. Thankfully, I kept the Q since I was fairly certain SHAQ was correct, which led me to “get” the theme pretty quickly. (The reason why “get” is in quotation marks will become evident later on.) Anyway, this was again a relative breeze if you get the theme but a tough gust of wind (yes, I’m well aware no one says that) if it just doesn’t catch on.
On a scale consisting of these TV shows in your TV “Q”:
Theme: Like the dunce I am, I didn’t get the theme even though I had completed the grid correctly, so I had to look it up on Mr. Rex Parker’s blog. In each of the theme answers, today’s constructor, Jonathan M. Kaye, turned the “O” in the name of a popular car into a “Q.” The theme revealer is BOOT (59D: Result of a parking violation … as illustrated four times in the puzzle?) Apparently, in addition to being a type of footwear, a BOOT can also be a “clamp placed by the police on the wheel of an illegally parked vehicle to make it immobile.” This “clamp” is placed on the wheel in such a way that it turns the naturally “O” shape of the tire into a “Q,” as seen in this picture:
The theme entries are all clued as “Incapacitated [x car brand]” because the boot on the tire “incapacitates” the car by rendering it unable to move.
Theme answers include:
- SILVERAD (21A: Incapacitated Chevy?)
- EXPLRER (25A: Incapacitated Ford?)
- CHERKEE (46A: Incapacitated Jeep?)
- NAVIGATR (52A: Incapacitated Lincoln?)
OK, New York Times, no.
This is an atrocious puzzle for a multitude of reasons, mostly revolving around the theme.
First of all, I get that this is a Thursday so it’s supposed to be one of the harder themed puzzles of the week, but that doesn’t mean you can just base the entire crossword on a “parking violation” that hardly anyone knows about. I’ve never seen a “wheel BOOT” in my entire life. Yes, I’m a pretty inexperienced kid who doesn’t even have a driver’s license yet, but I’d imagine that other crossword puzzlers – especially young people – will have a tough time understanding the theme. Hell, even Mr. Rex Parker didn’t understand the theme until the very end (although he approved of it, unlike me).
Second, when I google “wheel BOOT,” I see five CONSECUTIVE (CONSECUTIVE!!) images in which the BOOT is facing the left of the picture rather than the right:
Inasmuch as the BOOT looks like a Q with a reversed tail, the theme just doesn’t really work on any level.
Third, this is just an ugly puzzle. That’s not just because of the phonetically impossible placements of Q’s in the theme answers and because the theme results in a couple of words with awkward “Q”s (QEII, I’m looking straight at you); it’s also because there’s some awful crosswordese strewn across the grid. Granted, most of the puzzle actually looks fairly agreeable, but there are just very dark blotches here and there. I already mentioned QEII (55D: Longest-reigning British monarch, informally), which looks like an unborn child. NDAK and DWI are only slightly less hideous than the consecutive-voweled PRIVATEEYES and SAARINEN, as well as the unpronounceable ESTD. On top of that, I count seven entries whose last letter is “I,” which is disproportionately high considering the exceedingly low number of English words that end in “I.” Who knows, maybe I’m nitpicking. All I know is I couldn’t stand this puzzle, and I’m grateful that I only had to spend about 25 minutes on it.
Kenneth, lowly serf of Crossworld
P.S. Maddie Bender will be taking over the crossword blog for the next 11 days.