Constructor: Joel Fagliano
Relative Difficulty: Medium-Challenging
Theme: "Nothing" - Three answers in the grid are synonyms for 'nothing' and are clued as such:
- NADA (1A: Nothing)
- NIL (1D: Nothing)
- ZERO (5D: Nothing)
Word of the Day: Andre
André Lauren Benjamin (born May 27, 1975), better known by his stage name André 3000 (formerly known as André), is an American rapper, singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer and actor, best known for being part of hip hop duo Outkast alongside fellow rapper Big Boi. As an actor, Benjamin has made appearances in a number of TV series and films, including Families, The Shield, Be Cool, Revolver, Semi-Pro, Four Brothers, and the leading role of Jimi Hendrix in All Is by My Side. In addition to music and acting, Benjamin has also been an active entrepreneur. In the spring of 2008, he launched a clothing line called Benjamin Bixby. He has also been an advocate for animal rights. He is also known for his work on the Cartoon Network animated series Class of 3000. (Wikipedia)
Theme gets a B-, rest of the puzzle gets a straight B. I would have liked more than just three answers, or for them to be arranged in a more visually appealing manner. Symmetry is probably too much to ask for, but it would have been nice.
In a 5X5 grid you obviously can't cross more than two words at their initial letter, so pairing ZERO with, say, ZIP when you've already got NADA and NIL together like that is a no-go. A full sized grid would have given the constructor a lot more freedom to add in some more synonyms, but I can't imagine anyone, myself included, would be particularly impressed with this theme stretched out to a full-sized puzzle. But at least theme works and is clearly identifiable as a theme. I'd rather the bar be set low and met than set high and not.
The non-theme material is respectable. I'M IN [2D: "Yeah, let's do it!"] serves as a nice corollary to the I PASS in yesterday's regular puzzle.. I'm going to go ahead and assume these two imaginary speakers are responding to the same invitation, because YOU CAN'T TELL ME THEY AREN'T.
Again today there is some much-welcome variety (accomplished through good cluing), especially in the case of ANDRE [8A: ____ 3000, one half of rap's Outkast] and SON [9A: George W., vis-à-vis George H. W.]. It's always interesting when one's brain is asked to produce a conservative politician in beat and a hip hop artist the next. You'll notice that ANDRE 3000 has been placed above George W. Bush. Make of that what you will. Anyway, it's nice to occasionally see an ANDRE in a crossword that ISN'T Andre the Giant. It doesn't AMAZE me, but it's nice [4A Wow].
I don't really know anything about Outkast, so I have no idea if that sketch is funny. It did convince me that ANDRE 3000 is probably a dick though.
Signed, Jonathan Gibson, outcast of Crossworld