Constructor: Joel Fagliano
Relative Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Word of the Day: VESPA
Vespa (Italian pronunciation: [ˈvɛspa]) is an Italian brand of scooter manufactured by Piaggio. The name means wasp in Italian.
The Vespa has evolved from a single model motor scooter manufactured in 1946 by Piaggio & Co. S.p.A. of Pontedera, Italy to a full line of scooters and one of seven companies today owned by Piaggio.
From their inception, Vespa scooters have been known for their painted, pressed steel unibody which combines a complete cowling for the engine (enclosing the engine mechanism and concealing dirt or grease), a flat floorboard (providing foot protection), and a prominent front fairing (providing wind protection) into a structural unit. (Wikipedia)
This is ok, so far as it goes, which is not really all THAT far. It's got both words and letters in it, as well as black rectangles. The rectangles are all rhombuses, as well as parallelograms, as is the overall quadrilateral formed by the amalgamation of all the squares put together.
Let's start with the good(ish) stuff. VESPA is somewhat unusual as an answer, and one I can't recall having seen before [8A: Italian scooter]. I wasn't aware it meant 'wasp' in Italian; that's cool I guess. TRUMP is topical, at the very least, though there has got to be a more interesting clue than this [7A: Name in many New York Times headlines these days]. The 'NYT' part of that clue is especially grating; it's both unnecessary and oddly self-serving. Why single out your own paper? He's in ALL the goddamn papers. Yes, it's a travesty. Can we move on now?
Ok, onto the bad stuff! HDTV [1D: Sports bar wall hanging] is obvious crap and I won't waste any time on it. I'm alarmed DINOS made it past the bouncer at the door [5A: T. rex and others]. Boy, I sure hope somebody got fired over that one! Almost as atrocious is the total snooze fest that is IN USE [3D: Occupied, as a lavatory]. As for AIRER [2D: Broadcaster], I really would like to not have to say anything about that word; can I please not have to say anything about that word?
Then there's the stuff that's simply confusing, like SPAT [6D: Went "ptui!"]. That particular rendering of the sound of a spit take just looks weird to me. I'm sure it's totally defensible; I just don't like it. But ROMPS is way more interesting [4D: Easy victories]. I have to say I wasn't aware of this definition of the word; I thought a ROMP was just a fun, meaningless thing you do.
Except for the 'fun' part, I'd say this puzzle was a romp!
Signed, Jonathan Gibson, my own best friend of CrossWorld