Gershwin biographer David / SUN 1-26-14 / Merry Drinker painter / Back to Future villains / Li'l Abner's surname / Funeral delivery of old / Movie director who was himself subject of 1994 movie / Title girl Chuck Berry hit / Pop singer Del Rey / Cynic Bierce
Sunday, January 26, 2014
Constructor: Daniel A. Finan
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
THUS … :
- 51D: 3-Down, relatively (BEWITCHED) … which is (literally) [under] A SPELL (3D)
- 6D: 73-Down, relatively (NO WAY, JOSÉ) … which is (literally) [over] MY DEAD BODY (73D)
- 52D: 8-Down, relatively (FEELING THE HEAT) … which is (literally) [under] THE GUN (8D)
- 12D: 93-Down, relatively ("TALK TO YOU LATER") … which is (literally) [over] AND OUT (93D)
- 82D: 14-Down, relatively (SHELTERED) … which is (literally) [under] LOCK AND KEY (14D)
- 42D: 95-Down, relatively (EXCESSIVE) … which is (literally) [over] THE TOP (95D)
Word of the Day: ELOGE (99D: Funeral delivery of old) —
n. a virtual theater seat (I assume)
• • •
LAICAL just hurts (more than LAIC, even), as did PIS, ONAN, and esp. KAS. But that's not exactly unusual in its mediocrity. Certainly not sub-NYT at this point. But then I hit TREELET and the wheels came off (55A: Sapling). That answer made me laugh so hard I almost didn't see ODI (!?). TREELET appeared once in a puzzle 13 years ago. Lord knows what *that* guy's excuse was. Hee hee. TREELET. Rich.
And here's the thing—it's a shame. Because as Annoying as I find extensive use of cross-referencing in clues (esp. theme clues), in the end, this theme was imaginative, and air tight. Nice symmetrical alteration between "under" and "over" phrases. Good. But this should've been sent back for refilling. The south is probably the worst part—the part that best exemplifies how shoddy the fill is. EWEN is bad, in that it's an obscure proper noun, but let's say any given section can have a clunker like that. But Right Next to ELOGE? What kind of antiquated nonsense is that. Again, database says some guy used it once (7 years ago), so … fair game! Better care and craft could minimize this arcane / bygone / anything-goes nonsense. But somebody, Somebody, has got to overrule the computer. SLIGO? SEHR? Again, it's not that any one of these answers shouldn't be permissible. It's the constant onslaught of foreign or antiquated or partial stuff that significantly detracts from the pleasure one should be having piecing together this more-than-decent theme. My friend recently made the following chart, and it is crude and unfair, but it gets at a certain general truth:
Puzzle of the Week this week was a tough call, with a cute "Monster Under the BED" puzzle by Matt Jones (Jonesin' Crosswords) and a genuinely astonishing, NSFW themeless by independent constructor Peter Broda (The Cross Nerd). But the winner by a nose was Doug Peterson for his Newsday "Saturday Stumper" (themeless). Sunday through Friday, Newsday produces a solid, easy themed puzzle, but on Saturday, woooo look out! Fill gets much more ambitious and the clue difficulty goes to 11. The great thing about Doug's puzzle was how *clever* the hard clues were. [It might cover your elbows] is PASTA SAUCE, [Something found around a tree] is SHOE, [Grades above 86, typically] is OCTANES. Over and over again, the clues fake right and go left. The fill is smooth as hell. I mean "Put Most Themelesses To Shame" smooth, while sacrificing nothing in the way of interesting longer answers (HAD KITTENS, "MARIO PARTY," VOODOO DOLL, etc.). I just love solving Doug's puzzles generally. Always smart, funny, clever—*enjoyable*. No cheapness anywhere. Pick up his book of Easy puzzles here ("Easy as ABC Crosswords"), and check out the Newsday "Saturday Stumper" every Saturday (available, like so many puzzles, via Amy's "Today's Puzzles" page).
In case you missed it, here's my review of Ben Tausig's recent book "The Curious History of the Crossword," which appeared in yesterday's Wall Street Journal. Read it here.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld