Constructor: Joel Fagliano
Relative Difficulty: Easy
Word of the Day: CRABS
The crab louse (Pthirus pubis, also pubic louse) is an insect that is an obligate ectoparasite of humans, feeding exclusively on blood. The crab louse usually is found in the person's pubic hair. Although the louse cannot jump, it can also live in other areas of the body that are covered with coarse hair, such as the eyelashes. Humans are the only known hosts of the crab louse, although a closely related species, Pthirus gorillae, infects gorilla populations. The human parasite diverged from Pthirus gorillae approximately 3.3 million years ago. (Wikipedia)
Tore through this thing like a hot knife through an aborted fetus. It comes as somewhat of a surprise that this puzzle even *had* and down clues, and I'm not sure that any of them were necessary.
Most notably, ARYA [5D: _____ Stark, "Game of Thrones" girl]. I've managed to remain blissfully ignorant when it comes to this whole "Game of Thrones" business, so I think if I had bothered to look at what was going on with the down answers during the solve this one would have actually caused my solve to be slower. I mean, what kind of a name is ARYA? What a strange order for that combination of letters to appear in! But even so, that show is pretty popular, so I'm not complaining. I can't even complain about the sexism I initially assumed to be embodied in the use of the term 'girl' because it looks like she actually is just a girl in the book/show. Phooey.
COD [1A: Fish-and-chips fish] and HARRY [4A: Brother of Prince William] were both gimmes. I kind of wish the 'Prince' had been left off that clue, insofar as it would have provided at least a tiny amount of resistance. Moreover, if you're going to include the title for William in your clue then it follows that HARRY should also have his title included, so this is a problem from a semantic as standpoint as well. TRACE [6A: Draw an outline of] was also a gimme, in that that clue is just a definition of the word, which as we all know by now (I hope) is lazy, feckless cluing. And I can't really say anything nice about LAS [8A: ___ Vegas], hard as I might try. Not that I'm inclined to try!
The rest of the answers, as I mentioned previously when I was talking about how awesomely fast I completed this puzzle, became relevant only in the post-solve examination, so my analysis of them is necessarily subjunctive. I see that CRABS [1D: Sea creatures with claws] could have been given a great subversive clue but it looks like the NYT wimped out again in that regard. Honestly, does anybody actually solve the puzzle while eating breakfast anymore? And is our collective constitution so fucking delicate we can't endure a printed reference to a cute, colloquial term for an STI without spewing chunks of l’œuf à coque everywhere? I think not. End the tyranny of the so-called Breakfast Test, I say!
DYED [3D: Changed the locks?] presents a slight problem. Nobody ever used the verb 'dye' in reference to hair without including the object. You would never say "I'm going to dye" without adding the object that is going to be dyed, lest obvious confusion ensue.. So while this is a funny ?-style clue, it misses the mark a little bit. Would work if they had added parentheses around 'the locks', although that would also make it less satisfying from a comedic standpoint.
Signed, Jonathan Gibson, l’œuf sur plat of CrossWorld