Puppeteer Tony / TUE 12-23-14 / Former FBI chief Louis / Fireside chat prez / Bake in dish / Rapper with 1991 hit Rico Suave / British rule in old india
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Constructor: Bruce Haight
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: "JACK and the BEANSTALK" — puzzle visually represents the fairy tale with JACK (in circles) at the bottom of the BEANSTALK, GIANT (in circles) at the top, and then the FEE-FI-FO-FUM chant represented in descending and *aaaaaalmost* (but not) symmetrical places in the grid.
Word of the Day: ESCALLOP (39D: Bake in a sauce) —
• • •BEANSTALK, you've basically gotta stack sevens in all the corners (hence the cheater squares in the SW/NE corners—those are like release valves). Stacked sevens aren't hard to pull off, but here they are burdened by thematic constraints, and so we get the fallout: EZINE made me wince and ILLE made me check out entirely. Also, circling 5/6 of GIANTS … I mean, you can't really *hide* GIANT in another answer, but still, when you're hiding everything else, it stands out. It's not hard to "hide" FEE or FI or FO or FUM. They don't add much here. They're not symmetrical, as they really should be. and they don't have the right sounds inside their own answers, e.g. it's ELFIN, not ELFINE, and PERFUME, not PERFUM. Mainly it just feels anemic, weak, kind of pointless, not worth it.
[I'm posting this only because I sang it at the top of my lungs with my sister last night as she was driving us around town, with the mystified/horrified kids in the back seat…]
Best news I heard today, puzzle-wise, is that in the new year, at least one daily crossword is going to start offering crossword constructors more money than the NYT currently does. And they probably won't be alone. I expect yet another daily to do the same in the near future. This means the NYT will (at a minimum) keep pace, or else watch its talent brain-drain (already well underway) speed up alarmingly.