Monday, March 10, 2014
Constructor: Kelly Clark
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (*for a Monday*)
THEME: TOOL BOX (40A: Handyman's tote) — last words of four theme answers might be found in a TOOL BOX
- SINGLE FILE (17A: One-by-one formation, as in walking)
- MIKE HAMMER (11D: Spillane detective)
- ON THE LEVEL (29D: Honest)
- FINGERNAIL (64A: Manicurist's target)
Gage was born in the village of Lia in Filiates, Thesprotia, Epirus, Greece. He is most famous for two books of autobiographical memoirs, the best selling Eleni (1983) and A Place for Us (1989). Eleni describes the life of his family in Greece during the Second World War and Greek Civil War. Gage’s mother, Eleni, was executed for arranging the escape of her children from their Communist-occupied village. Decades later, as an adult, Gage sought out those responsible for her death. A Place for Us relates the Gage family’s experiences as immigrants in 1950s America in the city of Worcester, Massachusetts. In 1964, Gage earned a master's degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
• • •
ELENI? Why? That completely unnecessary bit of dated crosswordese is the poster child for everything wrong with this puzzle, and lazily filled easy puzzles. Crossing ILIE and FESS, relatively near SEAEEL and ARNE. Please, believe me, I am telling you the truth when I say I know two dozen people who could make that corner so much better, tighter, leaner, etc., Inside Of Two Minutes. And the junk continues. It's everywhere. Just stale stuff that old hands (like me) will know from decades of (over-) exposure. But it's the stuff that gives crosswords a bad name. OH OH crossing HA HAS? Plural? EKED and STEN? AMICI and TENKS? STENOS with OBIS on an ISLET? Everyone Has To Do Better than this. Constructors, editors, solvers … this lazy, hackneyed fill, in such copious, unnecessary quantities, is simply beneath the dignity of the self-professed Gold Standard of crossword publications.
The theme is off too. Three tools … and a nail. A nail is not a tool. Now, it gets out of jail free, I guess, for being, defensibly, in a TOOLBOX. But nail is out of place. Maybe FIXIT is up at 1A because it thinks it's a theme answer? But there's no symmetrical theme answers, and FIXIT seems at least partially responsible for the *terrible* NW corner, *and* it's a partial, *so* the puzzle is improved how? This clearly should've been rejected with suggestions for improvement *or* the grid should've been quietly improved by one of the in-house fixers (whose names you never hear). TOP THIS? Yeah, pretty sure I can.
I got slowed a bit at TOP THIS because the clue should've been ["Try and do better!"]. What the hell is "Yeah?" doing in there? (25A: "Yeah? Try and do better!") Was there a prior conversation? It's totally superfluous, and it threw me. Other things that threw me. TOOL KIT and TOOL BAG, both of which made appearances. This made PROXY impossible (for me) to see. Wait, I'm sorry, is that TEN in the grid? In the grid that also has TEN Ks?!? Did that really happen? OK, we're done here.
[Added note: one of the puzzles from this weekend's ACPT was made by today's constructor, Kelly Clark. I just redid that puzzle. It's solid. Perfectly good work. No idea what the hell happened with today's puzzle.]
The Puzzle of the Week for last week (which I didn't get a chance to announce yesterday) was Erik Agard's "All or Nothing" (Fireball Crosswords). I solved it, saw the trick, thought, "hmmm, that's interesting … but he's done better work, I think." Then 24 hours later realized that the trick had a dimension I Completely Missed, namely that it worked in All The Relevant Downs (as well as the three Acrossese where I'd noticed it). It's fantastic. Subscribe to Fireball to get it (and other great puzzles like it, once a week), or just read about the puzzle in detail here.
Photos from the tourney tomorrow. . . well, OK, I'll give you one today, since it makes me so happy. This is me with my friend Jen (from CT) and her service dog, Justice, the sweetest, most beautiful dog I've ever met (my own dogs excepted, of course).
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld