SUNDAY, Feb. 22, 2009 - B Silk + D Peterson (Hedingham Castle locale / '70s small-screen role for Robert Young / Simmons competitor)
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: "The Cruciverbalist" - theme answers are 6 steps in the construction / publication of a crossword puzzle
Word of the Day: MNEME - the persistent or recurrent effect of past experience of the individual or of the race (m-w online); also, one of the three original muses; also, a retrograde irregular moon of Jupiter.
After finishing this puzzle, my first thought was: you left out some steps - i.e. all the hard work and frustration. Where is TRY TO JUSTIFY OBVIOUSLY HORRIBLE FILL? Or, RUN IFFY ENTRIES BY YOUR CONSTRUCTOR FRIENDS? Or, BANG HEAD ON KEYBOARD (all of which I've done)? My final thought, however, was so what? The theme entries are a bland description with no payoff. No punchline. No humor. No twist. Was "SEE BYLINE IN NEWSPAPER" supposed to be funny? I don't get it. The imagined quote / recipe goes nowhere. If the step-by-step instructions had been a soup recipe, at least I'd be left with something vaguely useful. I just don't understand how this puzzle got past the "cute idea" stage. Another problem with puzzles of this type is that the theme answers have to be symmetrical, so you get phrasing issues as constructors try to make the "steps" come out to a certain length. Step 2 is particularly awkward. DEVELOP BEST ENTRIES? It's not photography, and you don't send them to training camp. Maybe you DECIDE ON the best entries. I don't know. This one left me quite cold. There's nothing clever about the theme; further, there's very little of interest in the non-theme fill. The grid is very competently put together - hardly anything feels forced, and only MNEME (104A: Memory principle) made me screw up my face even a little. But mainly the puzzle was overly easy and predominantly bland. Perhaps not LAME (107D: Unconvincing), exactly, but not exciting either.
- 26A: Cruciverbalist's Step 1 (brainstorm theme ideas)
- 39A: Step 2 (develop best entries)
- 59A: Step 3 (construct suitable grid)
- 66A: Step 4 (research and write clues)
- 85A: Step 5 (send puzzle to editor)
- 105A: Step 6 (the payoff) (see by-line in newspaper)
I think my favorite entries of the day were EARTH WORM (112A: Night crawler) and DR. WELBY (86D: '70s small-screen role for Robert Young) - from "Marcus Welby, M.D."
- 22A: "Hamlet" star, 1990 (Mel Gibson) - ooh, I also like this. I mean, the man himself appears to be a crazy anti-Semite, so boooo, but his full name looks good in the grid.
- 25A: Belgian city in W.W. I fighting (Ypres) - an important crossword word. See also Milo O'SHEA (50D: Milo of "The Verdict," 1982) and SYD (75D: Barrett of Pink Floyd).
- 35A: World's top-selling car model starting in 1997 (Corolla) - at least I get some trivia with my puzzle.
- 63A: "I Saw _____ Again" (1966 hit for the Mamas & the Papas) ("Her") - didn't sound familiar until I added the words "Last Night" to the end of the title:
- 80A: Fort Meade org. (NSA) - Hey, NSA, where were you Friday, when I wanted you?
- 96A: 2003 Afghani film that won a Golden Globe (Osama) - nothing really to do with that OSAMA.
- 110A: Product once pitched by Bill Cosby (Jell-o) - I remember the pudding pops commercials the best.
- 116A: One edition of the Wall Street Journal (Asia) - really? That's your clue for ASIA? The one nutso clue on an otherwise right-over-the-plate cluing menu.
- 4D: Twin-_____ aircraft (engined) - I winced a little here. The "D" ... it hurts.
- 27D: Alphabetical foursome (MNOP) - goes nicely ... well, it goes, at any rate, with RRR (60D: Elementary school trio).
- 28D: Desktop array (icons) - second day in a row that "array" has been in the clues. Also second day in a row for ... I won't give it away for syndicated Sunday solvers. But it's up in the NE and it's ... not the loveliest answer in the puzzle.
- 37D: Pope after John X (Leo VI) - I need a "Better Know A Pope" segment for this blog.
- 43D: "Annie" song with the lyric "Too busy / Too crazy / Too hot / Too cold / Too late / I'm sold" ("NYC") - as my wife said re: "Annie," "I know one song from 'Annie.' That song is 'Tomorrow.'" Here's a different song about NYC.
- 72D: Modern advertising medium (taxi) - I was looking for something way more "modern" than this at first.
- 90D: Setting for Melville's "Omoo" (Tahiti) - this should be a gimme. OMOO, TYPEE, South Seas, Melville. Crossword Solving 101.
- 99D: "_____ Live," longtime Food Network show ("Emeril") - I wonder if this clue was changed to promote the Food Network in advance of next weekend's American Crossword Puzzle Tournament's Awards Banquet, which is apparently going to be a Food Network event of some sort. Details unclear. Maybe others know more.
- 103D: Simmons competitor (Sealy) - had SERTA. Why not?
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
PS I got a signed 8x10 photo of "Cliff" from the old IHOP ads yesterday (actor = Cliff Bemis). Some nice reader put him up to it. That makes 3 signed 8x10 glossies for my Rex Parker Hall of Fame. Send more!