Rex Parker Does the NYT Crossword Puzzle: Waxy biochemical compound / TUE 8-30-22 / Subtle signal that might accompany a wink / Major let-downs for Rapunzel / Club-wielding bogeywoman / Beginner's dow

Constructor: Emily Carroll

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME:

BUNNY / SLOPE (17A: With 69-Across, beginner's downhill challenge … or a hint to this puzzle's circled letters)

 — four different "slopes" (downward diagonal answers formed by circled squares) contain types of "bunnies":

The Bunnies:

  • ENERGIZER

  • EASTER

  • DUST

  • BUGS

STEROL 

(9D: Waxy biochemical compound) —

Sterol is an organic compound with formula C
17H
28O, whose molecule is derived from that of gonane by replacement of a hydrogen atom in position 3 by a hydroxyl group. It is therefore an alcohol of gonane. More generally, any compounds that contain the gonane structure, additional functional groups, and/or modified ring systems derived from gonane are called steroids. Therefore, sterols are a subgroup of the steroids. They occur naturally in most eukaryotes, including plants, animals, and fungi, and can also be produced by some bacteria (however likely with different functions). The most familiar type of animal sterol is cholesterol, which is vital to cell membrane structure, and functions as a precursor to fat-soluble vitamins and steroid hormones. 

While technically alcohols, sterols are classified by biochemists as lipids (fats in the broader sense of the term). (wikipedia)

• • •

SLOPEs

said. So at the level of actual solving, for me, it was almost as if there were no theme; the revealer is the only proper theme answer. No Bunny Content! But the concept works well. There's something aesthetically pleasing about the arrangement of the

SLOPEs

in the grid. They're not symmetrical, exactly, and yet there is  a symmetry of sorts, with the NE and SW

SLOPEs

both extending from edge to edge, and the middle two

SLOPEs

both touching the edge on one side and then extending into the middle of the grid. I don't mind asymmetry in zany theme features like this (see also: rebus squares). I mind it more, however, in traditional theme answer alignment. That is, if you want / need to break symmetry, OK, but there had better be good reason. Which brings me to the one odd and somewhat ungainly feature of this theme: the placement of

BUNNY

. Or the placement of

SLOPE

, I guess. One of them really should move, so that they can be in sync with one another. Looks like there was no way to move

SLOPE

in this particular circled-square arrangement, so all I can guess is that the constructor just couldn't make

BUNNY

work in the 1-Across position, or else could make it work, but got a much cleaner result dropping

BUNNY

to the third row. There are no circled squares to make grid-filling difficult in that NW corner, so I don't know why

BUNNY

should've been so hard to put at 1-Across, but I'm also not going to tear down the NW corner and find out right now. Anyway, weird

BUNNY

placement, but it only detracted slightly from my overall enjoyment.

The fill was a bit rough at times, and this stood out more than it might've on other early-week themed puzzles because there were no proper theme answers or any notable longer answers to speak of at all. Nothing in the grid is longer than 8 letters, and there are only two of those, and they're solid, but neither one is terribly scintillating (

ISRAELIS, BOASTFUL

).  I think

SLY NOD

is my favorite thing in the grid (5D: Subtle signal that might accompany a wink). That and

SPLURGE

, which is remarkably ugly-sounding word that I somehow feel affection for (39A: Spend indulgently). There's something almost grotesque about it. It's great. The toughest bits for me were

STEROL

(just didn't know it–wanted STERNO) (9D: Waxy biochemical compound); 

OWNED IT

(I wanted OWNED UP …) (4D: Took responsibility for something); and

RUST

(with the "T" in place, the only "red" color I could think of was BEET) (31A: Reddish hue).

GELID

is familiar to me but absolutely exclusively from crosswords (it's crosswordese for "cold") (40D: Freezing). The semi-staleness of some of the fill extended to the clues on occasion as well. Two of the "?" clues are ultra-recycled (6A: Puts away, as the groceries? =

EATS

and 36D: A couple of bucks? =

DEER

). The other two are pretty good, though (53D: Ones not inclined to make sweeping gestures? =

SLOBS

and 43D: Major let-downs for Rapunzel? =

TRESSES

). I can forgive staler-than usual fill in a puzzle like this–it's incredibly hard to fill a grid with diagonal answers cleanly. I've tried. Those diagonals really really restrict you and gum things up. But that's no reason for your clues, esp. your "?" clues, to be out of a box. Still, overall, I was pretty happy with this (fittingly) easy early-week puzzle.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld 

P.S. Forgot to mention that I definitely cocked my head and looked quizzically at [Norwegian pie crust ingredient] … only to realize (much later) that the clue actually read "Nonvegan…" (the answer is of course

LARD

) (thanks to Loren Muse Smith for making the same mistake and commenting on it and thus jogging my memory)

*E*LANTRA / ADRI*E*N

crossing is annihilating some significant subset of solvers today. I know my Hyundai models reasonably well, but there's no reason everyone should. My condolences to those shipwrecked on the shoals of Natick today.

[Follow Rex Parker on

P.P.S. I am being told that thecrossing is annihilating some significant subset of solvers today. I know my Hyundai models reasonably well, but there's no reason everyone should. My condolences to those shipwrecked on the shoals of Natick today.[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook

— four different "slopes" (downward diagonal answers formed by circled squares) contain types of "bunnies":) —No PLAYBOY Bunny today, but that's probably for the best. As Tuesday theme ideas go, I think this one's pretty cute. Hard to be mad at bunnies—cuteness is their greatest defense. I might've enjoyed the puzzle more if I hadn't been a fast solver—I never saw the bunnies. At all. The puzzle is so easy that I just zipped through it and then looked back to see what thesaid. So at the level of actual solving, for me, it was almost as if there were no theme; the revealer is the only proper theme answer. No Bunny Content! But the concept works well. There's something aesthetically pleasing about the arrangement of thein the grid. They're not symmetrical, exactly, and yet there is a symmetry of sorts, with the NE and SWboth extending from edge to edge, and the middle twoboth touching the edge on one side and then extending into the middle of the grid. I don't mind asymmetry in zany theme features like this (see also: rebus squares). I mind it more, however, in traditional theme answer alignment. That is, if you want / need to break symmetry, OK, but there had better be good reason. Which brings me to the one odd and somewhat ungainly feature of this theme: the placement of. Or the placement of, I guess. One of them really should move, so that they can be in sync with one another. Looks like there was no way to movein this particular circled-square arrangement, so all I can guess is that the constructor just couldn't makework in the 1-Across position, or else could make it work, but got a much cleaner result droppingto the third row. There are no circled squares to make grid-filling difficult in that NW corner, so I don't know whyshould've been so hard to put at 1-Across, but I'm also not going to tear down the NW corner and find out right now. Anyway, weirdplacement, but it only detracted slightly from my overall enjoyment.