Cloud Shepherd artist / SUN 12-22-13 / House committee chairman Darrell / Vintage wedding gown fabrics / Spanish cession in Spanish-American war / Majority owner of Chrysler / Rao Serpent Rope novelist / 1997 PGA champ who captained 2012 US Ryder Cup team
Sunday, December 22, 2013
Constructor: Elizabeth C. Gorski
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: "Good One!" — Clue to all theme answers is [See blurb]. Blurb reads: "When this puzzle is done, draw a line connecting the 21 circled letters from A to U in alphabetical order. The resulting shape will provide a clue to 6-, 8-, 14-, 53- and 70-Down." So it turns out the clue for all theme answers is ANGEL, which is the picture you get when you do all that connect-the-dotting.
- SHOW BACKER
- MICHELANGELO SCULPTURE
- AEROSMITH SONG
- GOLFER CABRERA
- TREE TOPPER
Word of the Day: Angel Cabrera (53D: [See blurb] => GOLFER CABRERA) —
Ángel Cabrera (pronounced: [ˈaŋxel kaˈβɾeɾa]; born 12 September 1969) is an Argentine professional golfer who plays on both the European Tour and PGA Tour. He is known affectionately as "El Pato" in Spanish or in English as "The Duck" for his waddling gait. He is a two-time major champion, having won the 2007 U.S. Open and the 2009 Masters, in each becoming the first Argentine to win either tournament. He also lost in a sudden death playoff at the 2013 Masters. (wikipedia)
• • •Should've been harder than it was. Once I had most of SHOW BACKER filled in, I knew what the theme was. Done and done. Only theme problem I had was remembering what sport Angel CABRERA played (I had baseball, but no: golf). If I hadn't hit SHOW BACKER first, it might've taken me Much Longer to figure out the theme. But as it was—fastest recorded Sunday time since early September. I'm not the biggest fan of post-solve drawing—in this case, it was Highly anti-climactic—but I like the thought here. It's seasonal, and cleverly executed, and the fill doesn't suffer terribly under the burden of a reasonably demanding theme. So thumbs up.
I was surprised to see my time be so low, as I felt like there were a number of times I came to a dead stop or at least floundered a bit. I had some trouble getting into the NE, as I had the bottom but not the top of the theme answer, and then needed to look at all the clues up there before finally getting QUEEG (total lifesaver, as I never would've gotten QBS or GEES or FAR or (especially) RENVOI without that QUEEG kickstart). I love NOEL, NOEL crossing the heart of this grid. Bonus theme answer! "IF I FELL" is another fine-looking answer. Also love HUGUENOT, as it reminds me of my favorite Christmas film, "The Ref." The main family is the Chausseurs, and they repeatedly correct people's pronunciation of the name and then tell them "it's 18th-century French HUGUENOT." Here's the opening marriage counseling scene with Judy Davis and Kevin Spacey (warning: profanity).
Is it weird or bad or apt or what that "ANGEL" is embedded inside MICHELANGELO? Seems intended, so … apt?
A few other puzzles to point you to today—for your holiday enjoyment. The first is risqué, so if you are easily offended, please don't bother. However, if you enjoyed last week's Sunday puzzle, and can handle a little … playful bawdiness, I think you'll get a kick out of this one: "Box Set" (constructed by Anonymous, aka "A Cunning Linguist") (PDF / .PUZ).
The second puzzle is "Seasonal Staff" by Francis Heaney, this week's American Values Club Crossword puzzle. Get it here for a dollar (though you really should be a yearly subscriber by now). I swear you won't be disappointed. It is hard as all get out, but if you make it to the end, the reveal is spectacular (Note: I'd print it out and solve it on paper, if I were you).
Lastly, if you are a fan of Ms. Gorski (today's puzzle constructor) and you are jonesing for more high-quality, relatively easy puzzles to do, consider her weekly puzzle from Crossword Nation. Yearly subscriptions are cheap. They'd make nice last-minute Christmas gifts for pro and novice solvers alike. Information here.
better than $2 million / year *in online puzzle subscriptions alone*, to say nothing of how valuable the puzzle is to the NYT's dead-tree circulation—do you have any idea what would happen to dead-tree subscriptions if the crossword suddenly disappeared? If you think "not much," then after I stop laughing I'll tell you that that's what you're supposed to think. You're supposed to think "not much." You're supposed to think of the crossword as a cute little diversion, tucked away over there in the Arts section. You're supposed to see it as a quaint, ancillary thing. Nothing to do with news. Just a game. A lark. Don't ask questions about money—that's just … not done. Rude, really. Déclassé. But the NYT knows that the New York Times Crossword Puzzle is a cash cow. How big of one? I don't know. I'd love to know. Can someone answer this question accurately: How Much Is The Crossword Puzzle Worth, In Dollars and Cents, to the NYT? It's an important question to ask—I don't think you can begin to determine what "fair" pay is until you've answered it.
Because labor costs involved in producing crosswords are (at this point) very small, and because crosswords are a kind of ritual practice (i.e. they keep tens of thousands of people attached to their papers on a daily basis), the crossword is probably one of the few reliably profitable things about the paper. I stopped submitting puzzles to the NYT in large part because they don't pay constructors anything close to what their product is worth. Many good constructors I know don't submit to the NYT much if at all any more, for this reason as well as other, non-financial reasons (about which … some other time). I don't know why the absurd financial realities of crosswords aren't better known. The pay system is insanely out of whack. But it's What The Market Will Bear (a common defense from apologists) and Pay Has Actually Gone Up Under the Current Editor (another common defense from apologists). So… whaddya gonna do? The NYT crossword puzzles, while no longer the freshest or most cutting-edge, are still decent—occasionally brilliant—and maybe both overall puzzle quality and constructor compensation will improve in the future. In the meantime, independent puzzles are thriving. Their generally high quality and increasing popularity are eventually going to force the NYT to up its game (and—if there is any justice in the world, which of course there isn't—its pay).
I'm told the editor is going to be seeking a constructor pay raise soon. Very curious to see how that goes.
P.S. Patrick Merrell has a free 15x15 puzzle for you — "Up, Up and (when I catch my breath) Away!" ("If you like it, consider it a Christmas or belated Hanukkah gift, even though the theme has nothing to do with either holiday. If you don’t like it, demand a refund!"). Get it here.