Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: Trick or Treat - rebus puzzle where six different squares function as both "TRICK" and "TREAT" - one way on the Across, the other way on the Down
This puzzle is genius. It's a bit on the easy side for a Wednesday - far easier than yesterday's puzzle - and there's a couple of minor structural weaknesses, which I'll get to, but overall, I was blown away by this puzzle's theme. Seems an incredibly difficult feat to pull off, especially considering that the rest of the grid was not compromised at all by the strictures of the theme. Very nice work.
Only annoyances, and they probably couldn't be helped:
1. Near symmetry - I like symmetrical, and I like asymmetrical, but there's this phenomenon of near symmetry that bugs me the way a slightly tilted picture hanging on a wall bugs me. Here, the theme squares are symmetrical in the middle, symmetrical in the NW and SE, and then ... not, in the NE and SW. There's some attempt made at balance, with both theme squares being three columns in, and at the bottom of their respective answers. But that's not quite the same as perfect rotational symmetry. Again, I can't complain much - I'm just sayin'...
2. I prefer when the theme words - here, TRICK and TREAT - are integrated into theme answers in ways that are not literal, i.e. non-TRICK and non-TREAT contexts, i.e. PEACE [TREAT]Y has nothing to do with a TREAT. This appears to be hard to do with TRICK, as both CARD [TRICK] and [TRICK]S OF THE TRADE pretty much take trick literally. I don't mind literalness in the central theme answer, [TRICK] OR [TREAT], but elsewhere, I would have preferred that the literal meaning of those words be lost / buried in the theme answers. Again, this criticism couldn't be more minor if it tried. I'm just sayin'...
- 20A: Professional secrets ([trick]s of the trade)
- 4D: Stain looseners on washday (pre-[treat]ments)
- 11D: Mid-March honoree (St Pa[trick])
- 27A: Off-site meetings, mabe (re[treat]s) - this threw me because ST PAT is frequently the complete answer for [Mid-March honoree], so until I got the theme, I had to wonder what the hell kind of crap business lingo RETS was.
- 33A: Formal discourse ([treat]ise)
- 33D: Something said while holding a bag ([trick] or [treat])
- 44A: Hockey feat (hat [trick])
- 53A: U.N. ambassador under Reagan (Jeane Kirkpa[trick])
- 39D: War enders (peace [treat]ies])
- 49D: Entertainment from a magician (card [trick])
- 65A: Plea (en[treat]y)
Quickly, the things I liked:
- 6A: Johnny Fever's workplace, in 1970s-'80s TV (WKRP) - you could have stopped at "workplace"; that show was great.
- 28A: Promoted, as a pawn (queened) - haven't played chess in earnest since I won the 6th grade championship in ... 1981, beating out the South African Graham Gitlin for the title (if memory serves). My other memory of that year is that lots of boys liked KISS. Not me. I was more of a Neil Diamond kind of boy (no, shockingly, I didn't get beat up every day of my life)
- 42A: Large, at Starbucks (Venti) - so pretentious. Oh, and their coffee Su-ucks. Well, their regular coffee does, anyway. It's always burnt. Yuck.
- 24D: Hawaiian dress (muu muu) - so many "U"s. One of my favorite "Simpsons" episodes of all time involves Homer's wearing a muu muu. He makes himself clinically obese so he can declare himself "disabled" and then work from home. His muu muu is floral. I have a toy of King-Sized Homer on a shelf in my bedroom. Inherently comical.
- 38D: Like The Onion (satirical) - I get daily emails from them. Unfailingly funny, especially about sports. Ben Tausig edits The Onion's xword puzzle, which you should be doing, as I've said many times.
- 46D: "Sexual Behavior in the Human Male" author (Kinsey) - I have a subset of my paperback collection dedicated to books that use "Kinsey" in their cover copy as a way to lend scientific legitimacy to their efforts to peddle softcore. You'd be surprised how large this subsection of my collection is.
- 54D: "Get Smart" org. (KAOS) - mmm, Klassic TV acronyms. Steve Carell will be playing Maxwell Smart in the movie adaptation, due out next year some time, I think.
- 25D: Organism needing oxygen (aerobe) - here's something spooky: this word appears in the Sun puzzle today, too (it's a Patrick Blindauer puzzle, btw, and it's quite good).
Gotta go teach.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld