Constructor: Joel Fagliano
Relative Difficulty: Medium-Challenging
Word of the Day: DINK
A drop shot is a shot in some racquet sports in which the ball (or birdie) is hit relatively softly, and lands just over and close to the net.
A good drop shot requires great touch. The ball should bounce low and near the net, sometimes with underspin (or backspin). Backspin slows the ball and decreases the height of its bounce. In some extreme cases, the ball will bounce back towards the net. Sidespin may also be put on the ball so it kicks sideways when it bounces. A bad drop shot is one that travels too deep into the court, or bounces too high. When this happens, the opponent can get to the ball, and make an easy play. A very soft drop shot, that just barely travels over the net, is sometimes called a dink. (A term possibly borrowed from volleyball.) (Wikipedia - article for 'Drop Shot')
So the highlight of this puzzle is an obscure sports term....that I totally kind of like. I couldn't even find a good solid academic definition online for DINK (in the sports sense) and yet I don't begrudge its existence in the slightest (1A: Softly hit ball in tennis). Perhaps this is because it's just so much fun to say: Dink! Dink dink dink! Etc.
I'm trying, but I cannot for the life of me get angry at this word being in the grid with this particular definition, even if there were several more prevalent definitions that could have been used instead. And some of those are totally racist! But that's not all; it's also a cool acronym for 'Dual Income No Kids' which I'm told by my friend Dan Savage is a trendy status for people these days, the name of this guy from Ender's Game, this bit part in the most sexist James Bond sequence I can think of, AND (best of all of course) it's a slang term for penis. Because we didn't have enough of those yet. So in light of all this I think I'm inclined to let DINK do whatever it wants.
Not that DINK didn't cause me plenty of consternation mid-solve. I had D_NK and confidently put in a "U", assuming that DUNK, being a verified sports term I was already aware of, was close enough. This made IDIOM very difficult to suss out (2D: Challenge for a foreign language learner). Particularly so given that I was already having trouble seeing OHMY (8A: "Holy cow!"), for which I wanted, at various points, both "WHOA" and "OH HEY" (which in addition to making no sense has an extra letter in it, unless you were to spell it "O HEY", like some kind of weirdly nonchalant oath).
One slight quibble, since that's what we're here for, would be the clue for NANNY (3D: Job for Mrs. Doubtfire or Mary Poppins). I would prefer a word like 'position', or maybe even 'title', as opposed to 'job.' While I realize that 'job' can be used that way, it feels cleaner to me to use one of those other words instead, while reserving'job' for the activity itself, i.e. the act of nannying. Just an aesthetic thing I guess. And yet, I don't care at all whether 'nannying' is a real word!
Wow. So many weird dink images. I'm out of my DEPTH here (1D: The third dimension). Is it kind of weird that there is apparently a cartoon character that is named after a slang term for penis?
Nah. I bet there's a long list of them.
Not much else to OPINE about with this puzzle (6A: Speak one's mind). It's definitely several steps above SO-SO (5D: Not bad, not good), but neither is it likely to cause anybody to slap their KNEE with its brilliance (4D: ____slapper (funny joke)). It's a net positive. And sometimes that is good enough.
Now let's all dink to that.
Signed, Jonathan Gibson, third dimension of CrossWorld