Frequent Wyeth model / FRI 11-14-14 / Pat Patriot Billy Buffalo / b'av annual Jewish fast day / Alternative to Avia / Discoverer of Amazon's mouth / Basis of Nintendo Wii's processor / Store debut of 2008
Friday, November 14, 2014
Constructor: Joe Krozel
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
THEME: That's not a theme
Word of the Day: ETONIC (37D: Alternative to Avia) —
• • •
LETTER. Twice in the same grid. That's a precedent I hope no one finds "instructive." If the justification is somehow related to the "B" business, then "B" is for baloney.
FOOTBALL MASCOTS in particular is unexpected and delightful. I have no idea what the "B" clues in the middle are supposed to be doing. That is somebody's idea of cleverness, I suspect. Just not mine. B, Bb, Bb6 ... I don't know how that is anything but an arbitrary progression. I've seen some of these half-ass non-themes on Fridays before, and I continue to not understand. There's no harm done, of course, and the central Acrosses are all solid answers that cohere nicely and don't do too much damage in the crosses (TISHA, ENOL, and Too Many LOLAS being the only weak spots). But the cluing is just shrug-inducing. Hey, why not do an A, AB, ABA, ABAB, ABABA version? Consider it a challenge.
My solve started out rough, both in terms of my inability to get much and in terms of the puzzle's coughing up some of its less savor clues right from the jump. I hit five fill-in-the-blank clues within the first thirty seconds and at that point was Really worried about what kind of theme I was headed into. But that was apparently just bad luck, since there are only … eight? Eight seems like a lot. Is that a lot? I haven't made a habit of counting fill-ins. Anyway, when the first two Acrosses (1 and 12) and the first Down (1) you look at are all fill-in-the-blanks, that's what's called an unpromising start. But things picked up eventually. Cluing seemed tougher than normal, but not dramatically so. Short stuff gets gunky in parts, but there's nothing gut-wrenching, and the longer, cleaner answers are generally the ones that shine through. I have no idea what that "B" stuff is about, but at worst it's harmless.
Ooh, almost forgot. This puzzle sets a record for Longest Pope LEO, so congrats on that. LEO VIII! (19A: 10th-century pope). Not sure I've ever seen a pope where the Roman Numeral part was longer than the name part. Impressive. Wait, sorry, I'm getting word that this puzzle merely ties the record, set in 2003 by Bob Peoples in an LAT puzzle (LEOXIII). Ah well, this was a valiant effort nonetheless. Since we are unlike to see a Pope LEO XVIII in our lifetimes (there have been only 13 so far), you should consider this record unbreakable. It's been done, man. Try the Piuses.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld