Sunday, January 15, 2012

Flower shrub common in South / MON 1-16-12 / Letter before ar / Hamlet's reply to What do you read my lord / Northern constellation

Constructor: Andrea Carla Michaels

Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: 3x5 — each theme answer = 3 x 5-letter word

Word of the Day: LANTANA (16A: Flowering shrub common in the South) —
Any of various aromatic, chiefly tropical shrubs of the genus Lantana, having dense spikes or heads and small colorful flowers.

[New Latin Lantana, genus name, from Italian dialectal lantana, wayfaring tree, viburnum, perhaps from Vulgar Latin *lentāgō, *lentāgin-, from Latin lentus, light, flexible.]
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[It's pledge week here at the Rex Parker site (thru Sat.) —read my pitch for donations in the opening paragraphs of Sunday's write-up, here ... and thanks for your faithful readership (and the many kind messages I've received so far)]

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Very weird Monday. Started out tough (cross-referenced clue at 1-Across?? LANTANA?????), and then got so easy it was laughable. Did not know "WORDS WORDS WORDS" was a famous quote, but once I hit PICKY PICKY PICKY and saw what was happening, the other theme answers took no effort at all and if I hadn't written in GOADING for GOOSING (68A: Prodding into action) (clue fits GOADING better), I would've set a personal NYT record. Because theme answers are just a 5-letter word twice-repeated, I didn't find it terribly cute or charming, and it's slightly less clean than most of Ms. Michaels's early-week grids (she's set a high standard ... I mean, KUE (35D: Letter before ar)? ESTEES?). I do like that every theme answer is the same grid-spanning length. JASMINE over EMPEROR is very elegant, and TACTILE STOOGES is kind of funny, and it's only a Monday after all, so lighten up, Rex. But the thing is—it's Ms. Michaels herself who taught me that "it's only Monday" is a diminishing and unfair assessment of Monday puzzles. Just because they're all easy doesn't mean that it doesn't matter how artfully constructed they are. And the well-constructed Monday puzzle is a beautiful, if ephemeral, thing. This one was just OK.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Hamlet's reply to "What do you read, my lord?" ("WORDS, WORDS, WORDS")
  • 32A: "You're too hard to please!" ("PICKY PICKY PICKY!")
  • 42A: 1976 Abba hit ("MONEY, MONEY, MONEY")
  • 63A: How the trolley went in a 1944 song ("CLANG CLANG CLANG!")

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. The only DRACO I know is a Malfoy (51D: Northern constellation).

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