Constructor: Joel Fagliano
Relative Difficulty: Challenging
Word of the Day: OUTRE
unusual and startling.
"in 1975 the suggestion was considered outré—today it is orthodox"
synonyms: weird, queer, outlandish, far out, freakish, quirky, zany, eccentric, off-center, unconventional, unorthodox, funny, bizarre, fantastic, unusual, singular, extraordinary, strange, unfamiliar, peculiar, odd, out of the way; informal way-out, wacky, freaky, kooky, oddball, off the wall, offbeat, (out) in left field
"I don't mind clothes that are a bit out of the ordinary, but that dress is positively outré"
French, literally ‘exceeded,’ past participle of outrer (see outrage).
This played fiendishly difficult for me, in large part because I have literally never seen the word OUTRE before [6A: Highly unconventional]. At one point I had OUT__ in place and kept thinking, "Well, it has to be OUT THERE, right??" Tried to figure out where the rebus was supposed to go, yet was pretty certain of MERCI [3D: Parisian "Thanks"] so knew it didn't make any sense.
I will say that PRE-K was incredibly difficult to suss out [4D: President Obama has advocated for this to be universal]. I like to consider myself as generally fairly abreast of what's going on in politics but the only thing I could think of being discussed as "universal" in the political realm was health care. Looking back over this clue now I'm noticing a huge problem with it that I have decided to blame for me not getting to the answer: There is absolutely no indication that the answer is an abbreviation, and that's a flat-out mistake. It's especially egregious given that the clue is of the entire-standalone-sentence variety rather than the more terse could-stand-in-for-the-answer-in-one kind. The clue really ought to have been written as "Pres. Obama..."
Had trouble with DOPER [5A: Steroids taker] — I had DOSER for most of the solve. Didn't get much help from JOULE [1D: Unit of energy], which felt like could have been numerous other things, and got even less help from UP TOP [2D: "Give me a high five!"]. The latter is a legitimate clue/answer, but was strangely opaque to me. I thought of UP HIGH and then DOWN LOW, and even briefly considered UP LOW (don't ask) before finally getting it. right. Ugh.
DOCK [5D: Bottom row of icons on a computer] has problems. I really think it needs to say "Mac", rather than computer. It's specifically Macs that have DOCKS, while PCs have taskbars, while Linux has [nobody has any idea]. Sure, they're basically the same thing, and they seem to become more alike with each of their respective OSs' iterations but they do have different names. This clue is basically like borrowing an Android user's phone and pissing them off by asking where the home button is.
Quite like CLOCK [7A: Word after biological or atomic]. Bravo. Never heard of a KEPI before [8A: French military cap]. French soldiers don't wear berets??? Baffling.
Hey, this puzzle taught me two new words! MERCI!!!
Signed, Jonathan Gibson, biological fireball of CrossWorld