Saxophonist Al / THU 12-12-13 / Town in England Nevada / Boomer born in 1961 / Band parodied by Weird Al Yankovic's Dare to Be Stupid / Certain bullet train rider / Samson Delilah director / Energy-filled chargers / Munchies from Mars / Borg contemporary
Thursday, December 12, 2013
Constructor: David Steinberg
Relative difficulty: Challenging
Note: "After this puzzle was created, the constructor did something to 11 squares - as suggested by a two-word reading of 63-Across before alteration."
Certain squares are blank. Solvers are given no initial clue as to which squares these are, or that blank squares are even in play. It's not until you get to 63A: Moderates (E-ASE-S) that, using the "Note" provided, you can infer that the "two-word reading of 63-Across before alteration" is ERASE Rs. So: a hypothetical original grid has its Rs erased, giving us an R-less grid, which is clued (without any indication that the grid is going to have holes where the Rs were). The real feat here is that the "original" grid and the R-less one both make sense, i.e. with or without Rs, there are coherent words/phrases in the grid.
Word of the Day: Al COHN (47A: Saxophonist Al) —
Al Cohn (November 24, 1925 – February 15, 1988) was an American jazz saxophonist, arranger and composer. He came to prominence in the band of clarinetist Woody Herman and was known for his longtime musical partnership with fellow saxophonist Zoot Sims. (wikipeidia)
• • •[DEAR SYNDICATED SOLVERS. Please listen to the following pitch. Also, feel free to write me with any comments or concerns. You're well over half my total audience, and yet I hardly ever hear from you. Thanks!]
THE PITCH — [You can scroll down if you've already read it]
℅ Michael Sharp
54 Matthews St
Binghamton NY 13905
Maybe I'll stick a PayPal button in here for the mobile users. Let's see...
For people who send me actual honest-to-god (i.e. "snail") mail, I have this great new set of thank-you postcards that I'm hoping to burn through: "the iconic Pantone color chip design in 100 brilliant colors." Who will be the lucky person who gets … let's see … Pantone 19-2025: Red Plum? Ooooh, elegant. It could be you. Or give via PayPal and get a thank-you email. That's cool too. Anyway, whatever you choose to do, I remain most grateful for your readership. Now on to the puzzle …
Update: I got my first snail-mail donation —look at the cuteness:
• • •
ERASE R'S gimmick makes it a perilous adventure. Quality of fill still matters—and the fill here is definitely solid—but the enjoyment here is in the find-the-blanks challenge, not in the "wow" of the fill or the revelation of clever theme answers. The puzzle produces a very delayed gratification—you have to imagine a grid that's not actually (all) in order to appreciate what was done to it. In fact, you have to infer the revealer, ERASE R'S, from a. the empty squares in your grid and b. the note, which tells you that there is a "two-word reading of 63-Across before alteration." This means you have to look at E-ASE-S and figure out how the pre-altered version looked. Blank squares throughout the grid should put the concept of erasure in your head, so I don't think it's that hard to get to "ERASERS" from E-ASE-S. Still, even knowing the gimmick helps you only slightly, since none of the pre-altered (R-containing) words are clued as such. Only the altered (R-less) versions are clued, so you have to get those answers and then determine where the blanks are based on where an "R" *could* go to make a plausible word / phrase. But you can use that "R" logic only after you've picked up the ERASE Rs gimmick. Before that, god help you. There's no real way to know where blanks are going to go except by feel.
I first began to pick up on the missing letter thing with A T-EST. I had the -EST part and knew it had to be H- or A-TEST but … too many squares. Same thing for SAGE. I didn't fully get the missing letter thing, though, until I had inferred enough of [Kind of ray] to know that it *had* to be GAMMA (or G-AMMA-). That let me put in SA-GE, and then … well then at least I sort of knew what was up. Blank squares. Randomly placed. Not until much later did I get the revealer and see that if you filled those blanks with Rs, they made plausible answers (to the imagined, "original," not-clued-here grid).
Just talking about this puzzle is making my head hurt. Easy to grasp through experience than through description. I am most grateful that the fill was totally inoffensive. I don't love "I AM A" (54D: "___Rock"), but it's an outlier, badness-wise, and it also helped me change ANEMONE to ABALONE (one of my bigger post-getting-the-theme hold-ups) (58A: Awabi, at a sushi bar). I finished in the NW and was, briefly, afraid I wasn't actually going to get into that corner. Finally grokked CEDILLA from -ILLA (had wanted MANILLA…) (1A: Letter attachment?) and that was that. Ended with the "Y" in EYEBOLT (24D: Fastener with a ring-shaped head). Now I have to go rest my eye pits.