Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Constructor: Howard Barkin
Relative difficulty: pretty easy for a Wednesday
THEME: "___ check" — Each of the six words used in the theme entries precedes "check" in a phrase
Word of the Day: TOCCATA (38A: Bach work) — (from Italian toccare, "to touch") is a virtuoso piece of music typically for a keyboard or plucked string instrument featuring fast-moving, lightly fingered or otherwise virtuosic passages or sections, with or without imitative or fugal interludes, generally emphasizing the dexterity of the performer's fingers. Less frequently, the name is applied to works for multiple instruments (the opening of Claudio Monteverdi's opera L'Orfeo being a notable example). -- Wikipedia
• • •This is one of those "both words can precede (or follow) word X" themes, which we've seen a lot of in recent years. They're not terribly exciting since the reveal is always a slight letdown; you'd hoped there was something mysterious and intriguing going on with those starred clues, but then not really.
OK, so accepting the limitations of the theme type, let's see if super-solver (three-time finalist at the ACPT) and super-nice guy Howard Barkin can jazz things up a little for us. The three theme entries themselves are a good start, with nice phrases BODY DOUBLE, BACKGROUND SOUND ("background noise" Googles rather better, but this phrase is also legit and has the cool -ound/-ound echo) and the excellent PERSONAL BAGGAGE. How Howard must've delighted at seeing both PERSONAL and BAGGAGE on his list of check-preceding words, and then hitting a 15-letter phrase with them to boot. Euphoric boost for a constructor when you score a nice 15.
The revealer is a cut above as well: BLANK CHECK is the answer, and the clue is (Complete freedom ... and a hint to each half of the answer to each starred clue). So you fill in that blank with the six theme words.
The solve was just under five minutes for me and the grid was a mixed bag. Liked seeing those wide-open NW and SE corners, though my Scowl-o-Meter went off some with ARTE, REOS and the contrived RESEEKS right off the bat in that NW. But BARTAB/OREIDA/ATOMIC was a nice stack up there, with good crossers like TIME-OUT and ADIEU. OUGHT TO/TOCCATA/RUN COLD/SWAGGER are elegantly connected sevens in the middle, and ASKANCE, AGA KHAN and EQUATOR are good sevens elsewhere. It gets ragged/crosswordy in the tight parts (ANS - ATRA - MYNA - AKEY - DCIV - ASAN - AMB - STE), but maybe those sevens are worth it.
|Americans are everywhere!|
- (19A: Got away from one's roots?) = DYED — That's a good one.
- (52A: Love letters letters) = SWAK — sealed with a kiss. And hopefully some other kind of adhesive.
- (35A: Palindromic girl's name) = AVA — lots of girls named Ava these days. How long before one of them becomes famous so we can give Ms. Gardner a well-earned break?
- Speaking of OUGHT TO: I dig this entry in part because of its trippy (and solver-vexing) vowel/consonant pattern of VVCCCCV. Wordplay trivia: can you think of a common, 7-letter word that uses the same pattern? I can only think of one. Put it in comments if you've got it (or a different one).
Signed, Matt Gaffney, Regent for two more days of CrossWorld