CS 6:18 (J―paper)/2:56 (A—Across Lite)
Peter A. Collins and Joe Krozel's New York Times crossword
Oh, these constructor-showing-off puzzles are so polarizing. Maybe three quarters of the people say "Wow, that's so cool! What a feat of crossword engineering!" while the remainder are off grumbling in the corner, "What's the point? It wasn't even fun." Yesterday, I was in the camp that responded to Samuel Donaldson's NYT with a "wow," while questioned why the theme was made at all. And today, we have a constructing tour de force, from a structural standpoint, that leaves me cool. In the middle is PETE / ROSE, the [one who has done the circled things, combined, more often than any other major-league player]. Pete Rose? Who gambled on his own sport? That's strike one, devoting a puzzle to him. The circled answers on the diagonals spell out, along the basepath, SINGLED, DOUBLED, TRIPLED, and HOMERED. Obviously it's tremendously challenging to make that many answers work with three-way checking of squares (across, down, and diagonal answers intermesh). Is it customary to talk about Pete Rose's RECORD number of hits as the number of times he singled, doubled, tripled, and homered? I'm no baseball nut, but I'm thinking no. Maybe that's ball one—it's not a hit. That thematic RECORD isn't part of the symmetry—strike two. (Are TRIS Speaker, LUIS Tiant, HITS AT, or LEGEND thematic? They need to tie in more strongly and symmetrically or get out.) Then the fill necessitated by the diagonals includes too many clunkers—strike three, you're out. Heck, I think we can get three outs with nine strikes of answers that made me scowl:
So those ones grated on me, and that's an awful lot of grating in one 15x15 puzzle. If I loved baseball stats or Pete Rose, maybe this puzzle would've knocked my socks off.
There absolutely were things I liked a lot, though. Such as these: [Whence Elaine, in Arthurian lore] is ASTOLAT. That's just a cool word to look at. ROBOTICS and TEMPURA are good—though I wish Japanese restaurants would batter and fry up the foods I want in TEMPURA. Nice clue echo, with that being [Japanese restaurant offering] and then a MENU being a plain ol' [Restaurant offering]. [Bank controller] is a terrific clue for AILERON, controlling the banking of a plane. DREADS the noun, [Rastafarian's do, for short], is far superior to the verb. [Pythagoras' square] sounds like something from geometry, but it's just an ancient Greek town square/marketplace, an AGORA. And GIL, the [Apt name for an ichthyologist?], is cute—it reminds me of two-L Gill, Willem Dafoe's badass fish character in Finding Nemo.
I predict that about three fourths of you will think I'm nuts to gripe about this puzzle and will acclaim it as one of the year's most memorable, and the rest of you will see it my way. What say you?
Updated Thursday morning:
Patrick Blindauer's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Lessons at ELON University"—Janie's review
Poor, maligned ELON—relegated as it so often is to the category of crosswordese, second-rate or strictly utilitarian fill—takes center stage at last and shines as the basis of the five anagrammed "lessons" that make up today's theme fill. And they are:
Nice, too―really nice―is so much of the non-theme fill:
With the inclusion today of ["Smooth move, EXLAX !"], I feel quite comfortable in asserting that as a constructor, Mr. Blindauer is not someone who PLAYS IT SAFE! And yes, this is yet another CS first.
Fill that raised a flag: RETOSS, or [Mix over, as a salad whose walnuts have sunk to the bottom]. A vivid clue—but a long way to go to get to that less than felicitous fill. (Part of me wanted the clue to relate to anagrams and the requirement today to RETOSS the letters. [Or not.....]) I was also less than thrilled with MNO, but we do see it quite a bit and if not the most exciting fill, those alphabet-strings have to be the constructor's friend. The clues for these do tend to be the lively component. What with Tuesday's "Broken Records" theme, the use of [L-P filler] today was a timely one.
And on the subject of clues, there are a slew of other terrific ones:
Two more points and then I am out of here. Number one, the two clues that made me stop and think: 48A. [One-fourth of this clue's number] for TWELVE (eek! arithmetic!); and [Digit in the center of all three zip codes in Beverly Hills]. There are three?! Thank goodness I knew one: nine-oh-TWO-one-oh.
Point number two, the cookware combo: TINS for [Pie pans] and STEWPOT for [Dutch oven]. Knowing that our constructor holds a place in his heart for all things theatrical, I kept imagining that he'd really wanted to clue the latter as "Comic relief in South Pacific."
Dan Naddor's Los Angeles Times crossword
You know how on rare occasions, Tiger Woods doesn't make the cut at a golf tournament and is sent home at the halfway point? I feel like Dan Naddor didn't bring his "A game" today, as the theme wasn't as deft as I expect from him and the fill had a few clunkers. The theme answers are phrases that end with slangy synonyms for "failure":
The fill isn't up to the usual Naddorian heights. The abbreviation CMD crosses the Roman numeral MLV. The hardcore crosswordese ISTLES, clued as [Agave fibers], is seldom seen in contemporary crosswords. ESSENE is another old-school answer that lends little oomph. Then there's [Antipoverty agcy.] OEO, plural ROTES and YEAS. I do like ISOLDE, GYPSUM, DAMASCUS, WRITES UP, and ZOOM OUT, though.
More LAT puzzle talk with PuzzleGirl today at L.A. Crossword Confidential. Dan N., I look forward to your next crossword, which I am sure to appreciate more than today's. You're still batting about .900.
Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, "In Circulation"
I didn't test-solve this one, so I did it for the first time this morning without needing to make note of anything. Those black squares that set off the three longest theme answers bump up the black square count to 44, but I didn't notice that at all while solving. Each of the seven (!) themers is a familiar phrase (or word) clued as if the first word (or part thereof) refers to the magazine with that one-word title:
In the fill, I'm not wild about E-LEARNING ([Digital pedagogy]), but I am enthused about KVELL ([Burst with pride, as a Yiddish grandparent]—though can anyone be said to be Yiddish?), the wedding of MARRIES UP ([Takes a classy mate]) and SPOUSE ([Union member?]), [Chocolate lady] GODIVA, the double V in REVVED ([Gunned]), and the colloquial "OH, HI" (["Didn't see you there..."]—I prefer the LOLcats spelling, "o hai").
June 03, 2009