Sleep state for electronic device / TUE 6-24-14 / SXSW festival setting / Author of Gothic short stories, for short / Protected bird in Hawaii / Norwegian tourist attraction / Mopey donkey of children's literature / Potter's potions professor
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Constructor: Heather Valadez
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (*for a Tuesday*)
THEME: COVERT OPERATION (40A: Secret military mission … or a hint to the circled letters in this puzzle?) — circled letters in the theme answers spell ADD, SUBTRACT, MULTIPLY, and DIVIDE, respectively
- STAND-BY MODE (18A: Sleep state for an electronic device)
- SUBCONTRACT (24A: Outsource, as part of a job)
- MULTIPLAYER (50A: Like World of Warcraft and other fare for 66-Acrosses)
- DRIVER'S SIDE (62A: It's on the left in the U.S. and the right in the U.K.)
[I can't find a definition of this—is it just "something that melts ice"? If so … ??? Ah, it appears to be something they sell at Auto Zone—possibly something like rock salt, to de-ice your sidewalks and what not. I think of the term 'ICE MELT' as relating specifically to polar ice caps and what not—the phenomenon of melting ice, not the thing that does the melting]
• • •
ICE MELT making no sense to me (even now). The charm of the puzzle seems to rest largely on the revealer, which is cute, but I'm having a hard time being impressed by the "hiding" of "subtract" in SUBCONTRACT or the hiding of "add" in anything. I actually like all the theme answers just fine, on their own. If I saw any of them in a themeless I'd say "pretty good." But the theme concept here is just OK. On the plus side, the fill is pretty nice for an early-week puzzle. Light on junk (except EAPOE, yipe), heavy on interesting shorter stuff like FJORD and BOOZE and REDUX.
Several clues seemed close to gibberish to me, at first (and sometimes second) pass. First, the ICE MELT (or is it ICEMELT?) clue. Then [Sleep state for an electronic device]. I see what is meant, in retrospect, but "Sleep state" was doing nothing for me. I was imagining … some kind of alarm function … I don't know. I needed every cross before I understood the clue on MORTAR (46A: What covers many blocks?). I completely forgot KENAI — just … blanked (38D: Alaskan peninsula). Front part of DRIVER'S SIDE was hard to get, and having a cross-referenced clue in one of the answers down in that corner (66A: See 50-Across) didn't help. Seemed closer to a Wednesday puzzle over all. And again, I liked the contents of the grid fine—the theme just didn't do much for me.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld