Pioneering urbanologist Jane / SUN 1-4-15 / Rocker Weymouth of Talking Heads / Hipster beer for short / Drug also known as Ecstasy / Literary genre of David Copperfield Ender's Game / Stark Oona Chaplin's Game of Thrones role
Sunday, January 4, 2015
Constructor: Finn Vigeland
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
THEME: "The Descent of Man" — some Across answers descend (i.e. turn south / go Down) when they reach the final "-MAN" part
- I'M ONLY HU(MAN)
- "DO YOU WANT TO BUILD A SNOW(MAN)?"
- MORGAN FREE(MAN)
- WONDER WO(MAN)
n.1.(Zool.) Any species of ear-shaped shells of the genus Haliotis. See Abalone.
• • •
JACOBS). We didn't all take a post-graduation trip to Brazil last year (AMAZONAS. -AS? Not -IA? Gah!). We don't all watch "Game of Thrones" and we don't all do "X" (or, as the kids are maybe calling it, MDMA). (This is the kind of stuff I would say to Finn's face over drinks; he would, in turn, mock me for being ignorant and old, or so I assume). So those first two (JACOBS and AMAZONAS) … yes, they're practically autobiographical, but I think they're legit. But MDMA and TALISA are bad fill masquerading as hip fill. And here's my main point—Fresh is good, youth-oriented is just fine, but hip pop culture clue can't rescue bad / crutch fill. And drowning your puzzle in millennial internetty stuff doesn't make it good; also, it can alienate a huge chunk of readers. Balance is important. Balance. Smoothness. This puzzle didn't have enough of either for my taste.
What's weird is that I totally forgot about the theme. Fill was so hard for me (in many places), and the theme was so basic (seen it, in different incarnations, before), that I don't think it leaves a lasting impression at all. And just five theme answers? Am I counting that right? Wow. That's … thin. Some of the long Downs are much lovelier and more memorable than any of the -MAN-ending themers. DARE I ASK?, IN THE BAG, ASYMMETRY, BREW PUB, SCHUMANN, RICE WINE, all nice. But the only thing I'm actually going to remember about this puzzle is struggling to turn up stuff like TALISA and MDMA (which I swear I have written out "BDMA" now at least three times…). I guarantee you that MDMA section is gonna break a few (older) backs, esp. with ATWO (argh, not ANDA!?) and the unexpected XWORD up there, yikes. In the end, the puzzle was, for me, EVERSO NOT SO SO HOT, despite having some entertaining moments.
- 51A: What a hippie lives in? (THE NOW) — a hippie? Really? A puzzle this hip/ young / GenerationEmoticon and your referent for this concept is "hippie"? Way more new-agey. Do hippies even exist?
- 6D: "Delaware Water Gap" painter George (INNESS) — this answer would be vastly improved if you stuck a GU- on the front. Just a bunch of common letters. See also LEONIA (!?!?) (105D: New Jersey town next to Fort Lee). "Oh, next to Fort *Lee*, oh, I see, of course," said no one.
- 18D: Is a mixologist (TENDS BAR) — it's a very drinky puzzle too; 'cause that's what the Young do, man. They're all up in the BREW PUBs with their ALE GLASSes, drinking RICE WINE and PBR (actually, that last one's mostly a sad middle-aged guy thing).
PS The clue on LEO is practically a constructor signature (9D: Enthusiastic, sociable, confident type, it's said). As I told my wife last week, I will not be surprised to find myself saying the words "President Vigeland" at some point in my life.
PPS and now a message from reader Ralph Bunker: There is a metapuzzle related to the Imitation Game movie that has some serious prizes including a registration to the 2015 ACPT. It is available at http://www.chem.umn.edu/groups/baranygp/puzzles/enigma/