Sunday, July 20, 2014
Constructor: Eric Berlin (whose amusing blog is here)
Relative difficulty: a little tougher than average for a Sunday
THEME: "A LITTLE GIVE AND TAKE" -- bigrams spelling that central theme entry are given to certain grid entries and taken from others
Word of the Day: ST. LUCIA (105D: One of the Windward Islands) —
The island, with its fine natural harbor at Castries, was contested between England and France throughout the 17th and early 18th centuries (changing possession 14 times); it was finally ceded to the UK in 1814. Even after the abolition of slavery on its plantations in 1834, Saint Lucia remained an agricultural island, dedicated to producing tropical commodity crops. Self-government was granted in 1967 and independence in 1979. -- CIA World Factbook
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Matt Gaffney here, filling in for Rex until his triumphant return on Saturday. I write a weekly crossword contest here and a daily themed mini-crossword here. I also write a weekly current events crossword for The Week which you can find here, a bi-weekly contest crossword for New York which you can find here, and a monthly 21x21 for Washingtonian which isn't online. I've been a professional crossword writer for 17 years, during which my puzzles have appeared in Slate, Billboard, The Daily Beast, Wine Spectator, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal -- and even, on 57 occasions, in The New York Times. My next book comes out in October.
This is intricate: the 18-letter central entry A LITTLE GIVE AND TAKE is divided (in the .pdf, apparently not in the .puz) into nine bigrams. Each of these is added to an entry somewhere in the grid (indicated by circles) and removed from another (indicated by an asterisked clue).
Rex doesn't pay enough for me to type them all out, but here are a few so you get the idea: the AL at the beginning of 72-A is added to 51-A (Openly defy), where correct answer "flout" has the AL inserted to make FALLOUT. This same AL is also removed from 53-A (Royal messenger), where grid entry HERD was "herald" before the theme trick.
Let's do another one, from the other end of 72-A: the KE that ends that entry has been added to 138-A (Asparagus unit), which was "spear" but in the grid becomes SPEAKER. That same KE has been removed from 8-D, where (Upbraids) clues not grid entry REBUS but rather "rebukes."
The other seven work just the same. If you can't figure them all out then I'm sure someone will help in comments below.
Do we judge a crossword as art or as entertainment? Let's do both.
Artistically this one is quite nice. First the constructor had to come up with eighteen words that successfully gain/lose these nine bigrams, then he had to fit them into the grid around that long central theme entry. This is probably what necessitated the odd 20x23 grid size; the columns across had to be an even number to keep symmetry while accommodating the (necessarily, because bigrams) even-numbered central revealer, and I'm betting the reason he did 23 rows instead of 21 is because 18 theme words to fit in. So let's call it an A on artistry. I should also mention that the idea of swapping certain letters between two entries is already known (as in this puzzle), but not on such a large scale as it's done here. And having the taken/given letters spell out an appropriate message is also novel to my knowledge.
As entertainment, it was good but not great. Once the central revealer falls and you figure out the trick it's a bit of a slog to finish; I just ignored asterisked clues as long as I could. It's not really a rush to figure out the remaining bigram added/lost pairs. So on the entertainment scale I'd give this one a B, and we'll average the puzzle out to an A-. Which is good.
- Many good entries in the 6-, 7- and 8-letter range: ROUNDUP, BABYSAT, BURRITO, SIT ON IT!, HAVANA, THE MAGI, SMORES, Don KNOTTS, AIRPARK, SPAMALOT, UP TO IT, and the always amusing OWN GOAL.
- Best clue: (97D: Shortening in recipes?) which wasn't OLEO but rather TSPS.
So that's a very good start to the week. I'll see you back here tomorrow night for a look at Monday's puzzle.
Signed, Matt Gaffney, Regent of CrossWorld for five more days