Light for Aladdin / THU 12-19-13 / 1960s British PM Douglas-Home / Rio Amazon feeder / Longtime Red Sox nickname / Seattle Center Coliseum since 1995 / L'chaim literally / Falstaff's quaff
Thursday, December 19, 2013
Constructor: George Barany and Michael Shteyman
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: LIKE WATER AND OIL (36A: Incompatible)— rebus puzzle with three OIL squares up top, three WATER squares below, and the upper and lower halves of the grid separated not by full black squares but just the slim black lines between the squares.
[The grid in AcrossLite (pictured) is nuts, as the circles sometimes represent rebus squares (not marked at all in the low-fi version), and sometimes represent where a new Down answer begins. In the PDF / newspaper, you have to discover rebus squares for yourself and the dividing lines between top and bottom halves of the grid are represented merely by extra-dark black lines between boxes]
Word of the Day: ALEC Douglas-Home (62A: 1960s British P.M. ___ Douglas-Home) —
Alexander Frederick Douglas-Home, Baron Home of the Hirsel (// hyoom), KT, PC (2 July 1903 – 9 October 1995) was a British Conservative politician who served as Prime Minister from October 1963 to October 1964. He is notable for being the last Prime Minister to hold office while being a member of the House of Lords, prior to renouncing his peerage and taking up a seat in the House of Commons for the remainder of his premiership. His reputation, however, rests more on his two spells as the UK's foreign minister than on his brief premiership. (wikipedia)
• • •one of the greatest puzzles of the year earlier in the day, so my standards for this kind of tricky-grid stuff may be unreasonably high at the moment. Still, there's an oddness to the way this concept is represented. First, the OIL and WATER *do* mix, so the visual is all thrown off. We'd need a solid line across the grid to get it right, but instead we've got this alternating jagged thingie which is visually wrong. Whole point of the puzzle is that OIL and WATER don't mix. But here they do, in the weird central Across answer. Then there's the rebus squares. There are three (why?) and they are oddly symmetricalish (why???). The mirror symmetry with the rebuses was a let down. Once I'd noticed it up top, I tried it down below, and sure enough, the WATER square was in the perfect mirror symmetry position. What is the point of this? To make puzzle easier? It's already easy enough. The number and position of the rebus squares seem odd and arbitrary. The black squares are oddly placed, and (necessarily) not the same below as they are up top. None of these features are fatal flaws, they're just … compromises and accommodations that took me out of the puzzle, dampening the effect the puzzle seemed to be going for. It's like a decent balance beam routine with a decidedly unstuck landing. Interesting, nice in parts, but not great. Puzzle gets points for unusualness, but its high concept is somewhat rough in reality.
There were an odd lot of terminal-I answers in the long Downs, and those things are just too easy to uncover. Got ARTICLE I and CLEMENT I with virtually no problem. Ditto LIBRETTI. I like how TOILET WATER gets in on the upper- and lower-half rebus (31D: Lightly scented perfume). I have never encountered a HOT WATER BAG (52A: Soother of an aching joint). It's a bottle, where I'm from, even if it is vaguely bag-shaped. ET VOILA was a very clever way of picking up a rebus square. Both KEY ARENA (37D: Seattle Center Coliseum, since 1995) and LAST PASS feel quite original, which is nice. I had a lot of the puzzle done before I hit TINF- and realized that rebus squares were involved. I thought the 34A: Chicken for dinner (BROILER) was a FRIER — it fit so nicely — so that held me up for a bit there in the center. But nothing else about this puzzle was that tough. Probably took a little longer to solve than normal, but that's pretty typical on a puzzle where you have to pick up some tricky concept. Once you lock on to the concept, the puzzle's pretty easy.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld