Danish kroner topologically speaking / THU 1-6-11 / Application letters / Genre for Spice Girls Oasis / Capital ENE of Jerusalem / Symbol above 5
Thursday, January 6, 2011
Constructor: Mike Nothnagel
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: BREAK / RANKS (9A: With 65-Across, go against the group ... or what the circled squares literally do in the answers to the starred clues) — circled letters are embedded inside a military rank, which is in turn embedded inside a larger theme answer
- PERCAPITAINCOME —> (17A: *Average national earnings)(circled "I" inside of CAPTAIN)
- AMMANJORDAN —> (26A: *Capital ENE of Jerusalem)(circled "N" inside of MAJOR)
- PERCENTSIGN —> (44A: *Symbol above a 5)(circled "T" inside of ENSIGN)
- MARSHMALLOWPEEP —> (59A: *Easter basket treat)(circled "M" inside of MARSHAL)
Britpop is a subgenre of alternative rock that originated in the United Kingdom. Britpop emerged from the British independent music scene of the early 1990s and was characterised by bands influenced by British guitar pop music of the 1960s and 1970s. The movement developed as a reaction against various musical and cultural trends in the late 1980s and early 1990s, particularly the grunge phenomenon from the United States. In the wake of the musical invasion into the United Kingdom of American grunge bands, new British groups such as Suede and Blur launched the movement by positioning themselves as opposing musical forces, referencing British guitar music of the past and writing about uniquely British topics and concerns. These bands were soon joined by others including Oasis, Pulp, Supergrass, Sleeper and Elastica. // Britpop groups brought British alternative rock into the mainstream and formed the backbone of a larger British cultural movement called Cool Britannia. Although its more popular bands were able to spread their commercial success overseas, especially to the United States, the movement largely fell apart by the end of the decade. (wikipedia) [Spice Girls??? They have almost Nothing in common with the bands in this blurb, besides being British]
I like the idea of this puzzle. I don't think I much like its actuality. It's an interesting variation on the embedded word-type theme, but ... there are several problems. First, the circled letters. When you a circle a letter, you draw the solver's eye to that letter, emphasizing its letterness. These letters, however, are meaningless *as letters*. They spell MINT, but I can't believe that's related to the theme. Is it? Maybe there's a rank at the U.S. MINT called "Marshal," because I can't find a U.S. military rank with that name—which brings me to another problem: theme consistency. "Marshal" is a military rank only in other countries, as far as I can tell. Three ranks that are native, one ... that isn't. I've been reading Patrick Berry's "Crossword Challenges for Dummies" over the past couple of days—by far the best guide to constructing puzzles I've ever seen, and particularly good for the novice / aspiring constructor. He spends a lot of time on themes and the importance of getting them Just Right. You do not want a "which of these four is not like the others?" reaction from the solver. "Marshal" sticks out badly in this lot. Next, there's the grid construction, which demonstrates very poor connectivity (another issue Berry highlights). Turn just one more square black (and its symmetrical counterpart, of course), and the two halves of the puzzle don't interconnect at all. Do that just one more time and you've got four islands. I really felt the narrowness of those passageways in the middle of the grid. Ended up feeling as if I'd solved two puzzles. Got the whole top half and had to reboot in the SW. Not ideal. Lastly, MARSHMALLOW PEEP, in the singular, seems weird. And are there non-marshmallow Peeps??? Fill in this puzzle is very smooth, without an obscurity in sight, and only MISDO (32A: Screw up) makes me want a do-over, so thumbs up in that regard. But themewise, this felt ragged around the edges.
Puzzle felt very easy overall, with only the poor connectivity and the supervague clue on NMI (related problems) holding me back at all (29D: Application letters). Somehow remembered the gymnasts' names today (HAMM=>30A: Olympic gymnast Paul or Morgan), and despite having no idea what the TORI clue was getting at (TORI are roughly the shape of donuts) (48A: Danish kroner, topologically speaking), the crosses were pretty kind. Lots of "?" clues today, but they didn't provide much in the way of vexation. Intersecting ones up top proved a little tricky (JINX (5A: Hurl curse words at?) / X-RAYED (8D: Saw right through?)), but only a little. Wanted ADAGE or MAXIM for MORAL (41A: "Slow and steady wins the race," e.g.). Hate A CAT, but like that A CAT is intersecting TAMER (48D: Circus chairperson?).
- 22A: "Hooked on Classics" record company (K-TEL) — their pop compilations were a staple of TV advertising when I was growing up. I think I own a K-TEL record, the lead song of which is "Him" by Rupert Holmes (of "Piña Colada Song" fame)
- 37A: Organ donation site (EYE BANK) — Had EYEBALL ... that lost me precious seconds for sure.
- 67A: Ciudad del ___ (second-largest city in Paraguay) (ESTE) — luckily the word was easy to get, because that's some nearly pointless trivia right there. The parenthetical part is like a parody of the kind of esoteric clues non-solvers believe (mostly erroneously) are the crossword's bread and butter.
- 3D: Medieval close-combat weapon (WAR HAMMER) — I don't remember this from either my Dungeons&Dragons days or my medieval studies grad school days, but it's a simple description that seems right enough. I was looking for something more technical, like a halberd or pollaxe or falchion or something else only nerds would know.
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