Celebrity cosmetician Laszlo / THU 3-27-14 / Frog's alter ego, in a fairy tale / Abba not known for singing
Thursday, March 27, 2014
Constructor: Jean O'Conor
Relative difficulty: Slightly tough for a Thursday
THEME: FULL CIRCLE — grid contains the formulas for the area and circumference of a circle, plus the FULL CIRCLE kicker
Word of the Day: TASMANIA (Southernmost state) —
Forever the butt of mainland jokes, Tasmania) has shrugged off the stigma of its isolation – the whole world seems to be discovering the physically dazzling, unique and accessible island. Suitably impressed, and a tad sheepish, the rest of Australia has finally stopped laughing and started visiting. ‘Tassie’ (as it’s affectionately known) has it all: vast, uninhabited slabs of wilderness, swimming at Seven Mile Beach, bountiful wildlife in Narawntapu National Park, gourmet food and wine in the Tamar Valley, a thriving arts scene and new-found urban cool.(www.lonelyplanet.com)
• • •
Matt Gaffney pinch-blogging for Rex for one day, and I got a very nice crossword to write about. It will probably be one of the five puzzles I nominate for Crossword of the Month at my blog next week, and that includes work published anytime in March in any medium in the country. It's a novel and interesting theme idea and, with one point of exception, very nicely executed.
The grid conceals PI R SQUARED and 2 PI R in symmetrically placed down entries, which tell you the measurements around or inside a circle. Then there's a nice-but-not-necessary FULL CIRCLE kicker clued as (10-A: With 66-Across, back to the beginning ... or a description of 21- and 48-Down?), referring back to the formulas. And here are the six entries that cross them:
LIFE OF (PI) (20-A: Best seller about shipwreck survivors)
R MONTHS (24-A: September through April, in a culinary guideline)
(SQUARED) AWAY (28-A: Settled up)
SIDE 2 (47-A: Where to find "Yesterday" on the album "Help!")
MAGNUM, (P.I). (53-A: Tom Selleck title role)
R MOVIES (58-A: "The Godfather" parts I, II and III, e.g.)
Note some fine points in the execution of this theme: 1) the two formulas are placed symmetrically in the grid; 2) PI is used as one lexical unit in both cases, not just as the letters "PI" in a longer word; 3) the R is used as the letter R itself in both cases, not as part of a word. That is really maximizing this theme's potential; if she had just used the letters PI in longer words and/or just used the R's as part of longer words no one would have complained (or if they had, they would have been plausibly accused of nitpicking), but these two elegant touches elevate the theme considerably.
Another aspect of the execution I liked was how much information was given to the solver. I knew something was up in the middle of the grid but didn't know quite what; then I thought we might be getting two PI R SQUAREDs or something? But no, two different formulas, with "full circle" describing both. So a nice little mystery to unravel.
So what's the exception to this puzzle's execution? It would have been extremely cool if it had run on Friday, March 14th, a.k.a. National Pi Day (3.14 being the date, of course). Maybe it's rare to have a Friday themed puzzle, but I'm pretty sure it's happened before and this would've been a perfect time for an exception. Would've added another nice level of "aha!" for solvers at no extra charge.
The grid was good, with not many Scowl-O-Meter triggers (WAC/DAR might be a tough cross, but not much beyond that) and some nice entries like BIKINI TOP, Word of the Day TASMANIA, ARTEMIS and SEWED UP. The whole NW corner is elegant.
That's it from me. Visit a bunch of cool crossword websites here.
Signed, Matt Gaffney, Regent of CrossWorld for today only