September 29, 2009


crossword 8:50 (paper, with one ??)
puzzle n/a

matt's got something a little different for us this week: a themeless with no meta. did you guys come up with any good suggestions for a more positive name for a crossword with no theme? i didn't. my best attempt was "fillfull." i figure: zippy fill is what's great about a themeless, so the name should specify what the puzzle has rather than what it doesn't. plus, it's fun to connect two forms of the same word in the name.

anyway, about matt's crossword: i liked it, but ultimately couldn't finish it. my downfall: [Italian pop artist Enrico] BA_ crossing ["As Good As It Gets" director ___ Brooks] _AMESL. now, _AMESL makes no sense to me, and the last letter of the italian artist could be anything except J, right? (no way matt would do that to us again...) what i didn't realize, but should have based on the weird ending, is that i was looking for a six-letter partial, JAMES L. brooks. as soon as brendan pointed it out to me, i slapped myself on the forehead. i know james l. brooks! he's a producer of the simpsons. and i even knew, buried somewhere in the long-unused recesses of my brain, that he directed that movie (which i've seen, and even almost liked). sigh. and yes, the pop artist is enrico BAJ. is that a made-up name or what? it certainly doesn't look like a plausible italian name, although ... we've been over this ground before, haven't we? apparently i'm not qualified to guess these things.

other entries of note:

  • the grid's got five interlocking 15s, of which the craziest has got to be the [Maritime monopoly] of the 13th-17th centuries, the HANSEATIC LEAGUE. did you all know this? i picked it up with a couple of crossings, but wow, that's knowledge i haven't used since my quizbowl days.
  • the other 15s have some tie-in with maritime something-or-other, as we've got the maritime ALEUTIAN ISLANDS, the maritime NAVAL AIR STATION, the [Pocket pooch] MINIATURE BEAGLE... okay, maybe not, although the hms beagle is the famous ship that carried darwin to the galapagos. as for EXECUTIVE BRANCH, clued cutely as [All the President's men (and women)], there's nothing maritime about it, although the military is a part of that branch.
  • but what about the president's girls? MALIA OBAMA is clued as [Sasha's sister]. she's got that funky IAO vowel cluster in the middle.
  • RUG is clued as [Poor headwear], and sam DONALDSON is clued as [Newsman with an obvious 18-down]. i'm sure our sam donaldson has a full head of hair, even though i've never met him.
  • cursory knowledge of ancient history would serve you in good stead where DARIUS I of persia crosses the SABINES of ancient italy.
  • long clue for a short answer: [Gabriel Garcia Marquez classic "El amor en ___ tiempos del colera"] for LOS. but i liked it, because i've read love in the time of cholera (in english), and it was an excellent book. it's too bad GABRIEL GARCIA MARQUEZ is so long; i've always wanted to put his name in a crossword.
  • speaking of living authors whose names are in crosswords, umberto ECO is clued snarkily as ["The thinking man's Dan Brown"]. whose quip is that, matt himself or somebody else?
  • favorite misleading clue: [Laws change over them] at 1-across. nothing to do with precedent-breaking cases; the answer is just STATE LINES.

overall, the grid had perhaps a few too many entries of the sorts that i try to eschew for my liking: obscurity BAJ crossing six-letter partial JAMES L.; roman numeral MMII; alphabetic run MNOP; unusual foreign word AAL (german for eel?); weird partial AN M (clued as ["Gimme ___!" (cheer start in Ann Arbor, maybe)]); many abbreviations (SDI, UTEP, IDS, HRS, APO, RTES, INC, MR. D, TUE); inexplicable [Word in some ship names] that i still don't understand MARU ... oh god, is this a reference to star trek? because "kobayashi maru" is ringing a bell, though i've never seen the original series. on the whole, the negatives outweighed the positives of the nice long fill, making this not one of my favorite recent themelesses, though it certainly had its moments. how did it sit with you?