THEME: In the Dirt — three theme answers end with phrase "IN THE DUST," "IN THE EARTH," and "IN THE MUD," respectively
I want to be kind, but I have to be honest: I think this is one of the most poorly constructed puzzles I've done all year. The answers FNMA (47A: Low-cost home loan org.) and INNYC (41D: Where MoMA is) are virtually unforgivable in any puzzle, let alone an early-week puzzle. The fact that they intersect is just mud icing on the dirt cake. You can see what happened. The grid is screwed from the get-go, as theme answers immediately force you into an "I---C" situation, and all the decent answers that will fit there give you a terminal "I" or "A" for your 52A answer. Just because you can find an answer in the cruciverb database (INNYC, 2 examples) doesn't mean you should use it. And if you somehow *have* to use a poor bit of fill like that, dear god don't cross it with something nearly equally terrible. FNMA has just 7 examples in the cruciverb database, and the NYT has never used it. Why? Because everyone knows that the abbreviated form of the Federal National Mortgage Association is (wait for it) ... FANNIE MAE. FNMA spells FAIL in this instance. More FAIL — year in Latin is "ANNUS." "ANNUM" is the objective case (32D: Year in old Rome). You need something in the clue to cue that "M," especially when your cross is a terrible abbr. (FNMA) no one uses ever never. The middle of this puzzle is such a disaster that the quality of the rest of the puzzle (middling at best) is almost irrelevant.
- 21A: Overtaken and easily surpassed (LEFT IN THE DUST)
- 38A: Classic novel by Ole Rolvaag ("GIANTS IN THE EARTH") — I'm sorry ... what? You said "classic?" By ... whom? This is a Monday theme answer? Really? On what planet?
- 56A: Old fogy (STICK IN THE MUD)
Crosswordese 101: IMHO (15A: Chat room "I'm just saying ...") — stands for "In My Humble Opinion," and (in my experience) rarely signifies genuine humility. I was promoting "IMOO" ("In My Obnoxious Opinion") for a while as a more accurate substitute. Do people go to "chat rooms" any more? Where? Seems like such a 90s concept. Abbreviations of this sort are more commonly associated with text messaging and all forms of e-communication. LOL is perhaps the most famous "chat room" abbrev. Look for IMO, OMG, WTF, and ROTFL, all of which have decent currency. Actually, you will likely never see WTF in a mainstream publication. That "F" pretty much kills it.
- 16A: "It depends" ("I MAY") — OK, I guess that's one of the many, many things "It depends" might, sort of, mean.
- 25A: Like a tinkerer's kit, briefly (DIY) — as in "Do It Yourself," but ... what? Is the kit really called a DIY kit? Do you mean a tool set? A tool box? This clue/answer pairing is just a mess.
- 4D: Country singer Axton (HOYT) — barely there, somewhere, on the margins of my brain. Why?
- 7D: Sodium hydroxide, to chemists (NAOH) — if it's not NACL, I don't want to see it 'til later in the week.
- 11D: Volcanic output (MOLTEN LAVA) — this, and its symmetrical counterpart DON'T RUSH ME, I do indeed like. There. I feel better.
Taylor Dayne - Don't Rush Me (Official Music Video)
See you Friday, for better times, I hope.
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]
Everything Else — 1A: Relaxing soak (BATH); 5A: Confined, with "up" (PENT); 9A: Send back, as into custody (REMAND); 15A: Chat room "I'm just saying ..." (IMHO); 16A: "It depends" ("I MAY"); 17A: Fled to wed (ELOPED); 18A: Follow orders (OBEY); 19A: Each (A POP); 20A: __ mignons: steaks (FILETS); 21A: Overtaken and easily surpassed (LEFT IN THE DUST); 24A: Wall St. trader (ARB); 25A: Like a tinkerer's kit, briefly (DIY); 26A: Try (ATTEMPT); 30A: Flips of hits (B-SIDES); 32A: Farmland measure (ACRE); 34A: Frosty's button, e.g. (NOSE); 35A: Granola bit (OAT); 36A: "__ if I can help it!" (NOT); 37A: Dental thread (FLOSS); 38A: Classic 1924 novel by Ole Rolvaag (GIANTS IN THE EARTH); 43A: Caffé with hot milk (LATTE); 44A: Cashew, for one (NUT); 45A: "Total Request Live" airer (MTV); 46A: Arabian chief (EMIR); 47A: Low-cost home loan org. (FNMA); 48A: Prejudiced (BIASED); 52A: River mouth area (ESTUARY); 54A: Bro's sib (SIS); 55A: Atmospheric pollution meas. (AQI); 56A: Old fogy (STICK IN THE MUD); 60A: Four pecks (BUSHEL); 63A: Exude (EMIT); 64A: Caesar's 53 (LIII); 65A: Orwell's "__ Farm" (ANIMAL); 66A: Au naturel (NUDE); 67A: José's hand (MANO); 68A: Web surfing tools (MODEMS); 69A: Letters on a phone's "0" button (OPER); 70A: Red sky, to sailors (OMEN); 1D: H.S. class with slides (BIO LAB); 2D: Yellowish-brown colors (AMBERS); 3D: J. Edgar Hoover's org. (THE FBI); 4D: Country singer Axton (HOYT); 5D: Keyboard players (PIANISTS); 6D: Like a useless gas tank (EMPTY); 7D: Sodium hydroxide, to chemists (NAOH); 8D: Work at a keyboard (TYPE); 9D: Disprove (REFUTE); 10D: Online mailing tool (ELIST); 11D: Volcanic output (MOLTEN LAVA); 12D: Swinger in the zoo (APE); 13D: Take-home pay (NET); 14D: Cavity filler's deg. (DDS); 22D: Imagine (IDEATE); 23D: Evil Vader (DARTH); 27D: Heath-covered wasteland (MOOR); 28D: Hissed "Hey!" ("PSST!"); 29D: Pianist John (TESH); 31D: "I'll finish it when I finish it!" ("DON' T RUSH ME!"); 32D: Year in old Rome (ANNUM); 33D: Terra __ (COTTA); 37D: Magical object (FETISH); 38D: Cloud-nine feeling (GLEE); 39D: Pet food brand (IAMS); 40D: Going __: squabbling (AT IT); 41D: Where MoMA is (IN NYC); 42D: Rankle (EMBITTER); 47D: Bells and whistles (FRILLS); 49D: Green eggs and ham promoter (SAM I AM); 50D: Horse (EQUINE); 51D: "Play It As It Lays" author Joan (DIDION); 53D: Top-notch unit (A-TEAM); 54D: Nastily derogatory (SNIDE); 57D: Number-picker's game (KENO); 58D: "Still in bed?" response (I'M UP); 59D: Saint with a fire (ELMO); 60D: Emeril exclamation (BAM); 61D: Juan's one (UNO); 62D: Caesar of comedy (SID).