Rex rates this one below last Tuesday's Four Seasons 80-worder, which he wanted sent back to the shop...though he doesn't say so, that logically means he thinks this one should be sent back, too. Given the veteran constructor today, a subtext of OFL's criticism of today's puzz is that ya gotta keep Will on his toes so that he doesn't accept stuff from trusted sources like Paula G. that just wouldn't pass muster absent knowledge of the constructor's identity and track record. The implicit principle: Acceptance should be constructor neutral. I'll return shortly to that principle...first, though, a take on whether ya should accept this one if it's submitted by say MR or another non-established constructor...
I respect Gareth Bain's "from the trenches" defense of the difficulty of the theme. Damn, he's a good constructor, as is Paula G., and certainly Will is a v. good editor.
But on the "does this puzz pass muster as is if submitted by Mr. X?" question, I'm w/ OFL. It feels like it wouldna been that hard to get four-letter theme-related answers in the NW and the SE. It feels like w/ more trouble you coulda messed around and gotten HAWAII into the mix, which woulda been nice. It feels like you don't need to live w/ S corner 3s as icky as EEO and IER...how about a reboot on the SW and S that aims for NOLAN instead of NELLY, fer example?
Now maybe this is all wrong, and MR doesn't have the time today he/it did last Tuesday to mess around w/ possible fixes. But for CWers, all this put together looks bad. My take: With a constructor ya don't care about a relationship with and are evaluating purely on the basis of a single effort, ya ask for a rework and some resulting improvements in thematic density and/or fill. Or if ya think that's an exercise in futility--maybe ya think what Gareth does about the extreme difficulty of the ring theme--ya just say, "Nice try, but this just doesn't work."
Now the rub. Suppose ya do care about a relationship w/ a given constructor ya believe has done some v. good work for you. Is it ok to bend based on that? Is it ok to say to yourself something like, "Given this constructor, it's gonna weaken the quality overall of NYT puzzes if I bust her/his chops...there ain't a ton of A constructors...we're payin 'em v. little and the paper and I are makin plenta $...given all that, I just ain't gonna reject it or make him/her jump through the hoops the way I would w/ a newbie who hasn't made her bones."
My line: Yes, it's ok to say that...it may not be correct in a particular case (indeed, it might be quite wrong in a given case), but it's one acceptable policy for a manager to pursue--and a CW editor is one kind of manager. I personally don't believe there's a general moral principle that requires a manager like a CW editor to evaluate one piece of work by a worker in isolation, without regard to the identity of the worker.
All of this is kinda relevant for teachers like Rex and MetaRex who hafta do grading, for editors of academic journals, and for people selecting members for an orchestra, among other folks. MR is w/ Prof. Fish in his defense of non-blind submissions to journals in which reviewers know the identity of article writers...