Olive to Ovid / THU 11-13-14 / Praise of Chimney Sweepers essayist / Stage name for 2012 singing sensation Park Jae-sang / Botanical opening / Between innings feature on Jumbotron / Ottawa based media inits / John who played Joshua in Ten Commandements
Thursday, November 13, 2014
Constructor: Tracy Gray
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: ON — Five clues begin "Literally, with X-Across" and the answer is missing an "ON" because the first part of the answer is "literally" ON the other one, so SEAS *ON* PASSES etc.
- SEAS(ON) PASSES (17A: Literally, with 20-Across, ski resort purchases)
- CARS(ON) CITY (16A: Literally, with 19-Across, a Western state capital)
- SURGE(ON) GENERAL (35A: Literally, with 39-Across, head doctor)
- CORD(ON) BLEU (59A: Literally, with 63-Across, distinguished chef)
- HARRIS(ON) FORD (55A: Literally, with 62-Across, longtime action star)
The Sahel is the ecoclimatic and biogeographic zone of transition in Africa between the Sahara Desert to the north and the Sudanian Savanna to the south. Having a semi-arid climate, it stretches across the southernmost extent of Northern Africa between the Atlantic Ocean and the Red Sea. The Arabic word sāḥil (ساحل) literally means "shore, coast", describing the appearance of the vegetation found in the Sahel as being akin to that of a coastline delimiting the sand of the Sahara.
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Now this puzzle is, both thematically and fill-wise, superior to yesterday's puzzle, but this is the problem. The bar is So Low. People will enjoy this at least in part because it's better by comparison with yesterday's. That, coupled with a truly interesting theme concept, means this one will probably mostly pass muster with solvers. But the fill still needs work. I enjoyed working out the ON answers, but once you grok the concept, they're all pretty easy to get. What's most distressing about the fill quality is this is not a hard grid to fill. It looks like the central theme pairing really put some strain on the grid, but the other four pairs are isolated and have mostly short answers around them. I wonder if it wouldn't have been easier to build a grid where your connecting answer isn't the one ending in -GA (here, RUTABAGA, the root (!) cause of the fill issues in that area), but perhaps one that ends -EL. You'd have to rebuild the grid some, and refill it from nearly the ground up, but more things end -EL than end -GA. Seems like you might buy yourself some freedom. At any rate, the SAHEL / TEASELS / AAHEDAT area, coupled with the OLEA and ELIA areas, really diminished my enjoyment of this one. Theme gets a B, fill gets a C-.