Greek township / FRI 3-27-15 / Temple square group founded in 1847 / Quite ill in Lille / Biao Mao Zedong confederate / Title religious school in classic Crosby/Bergman film / Prairie transport / First wife of Julius Caesar / Theater reproof / Big source of blueberries
Friday, March 27, 2015
Constructor: David Kwong
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: UTAH (STATE) (31A: University suggested by this puzzle's black squares) — all the grid's black square blocks form, roughly, the shape of Utah. Two other theme answers relate to Utah:
- TABERNACLE CHOIR (19A: Temple Square group founded in 1847) [shouldn't this have "MORMON" in front of it?]
- LATTER DAY SAINTS (47A: Young followers) [this clue is probably my favorite thing about the puzzle]
[Wait, ray guns are real now? Cool.]
• • •
GRIM before I made it out of the NW, with its absurd non-phrase IN LATIN and its absurd recherché Frenchism A LA MORT (16A: How zombies like their apple pie?). I was pretty well checked out by the time I got to the NEBO ITES shortly thereafter. Just … done. There's no delight, no play, no craft. There's just fill. The theme, when I got it, felt like an afterthought. I couldn't appreciate it on any level because ISS ISA ATMS SHH OAS HOI IPODS GRIM ASP etc. Worse, though, was the fact that the longer stuff (mostly) had no pop. Short junk can be overlooked when the longer answers pop. Popless, I say, was this. Not to mention the fact that the clues on this puzzle were a huge downer. All the joy of being held HOSTAGE in an ASSISTED living facility. ENCAGEd.
Remember: If you aren't up to filling a low word-count puzzle cleanly, then just don't do it. Please. The bar is just too high today. I mean … Only 62 words, *And* it's themed? No. No way. Unless you are Patrick Berry, stop. Please. I'd say "add black squares to make filling the grid easier," but I see that would ruin your whole (mysterious) Utah vibe. The theme answers aren't interesting enough to hold the puzzle together, and the theme has no topicality, and too much of the fill just doesn't work. It's either bad or dull. Editors have to help shape this stuff. Too often a good idea is DEMEd to be all that's important, and clunky execution is just given a pass. [Is that how you pronounce "DEME"? I have no idea] (49D: Greek township)
I'll give you HIPSTER and SHANKAR and HOSTAGE and PEACH PIT and BEATS ME. Maybe even CONESTOGA and TABITHA. But I will not give you TWEEDLE (one of the least "enticing" words I know) (55A: Entice with music) and I most certainly won't give you the ridiculous, enormous partial, END HOUSE (10D: Agatha Christie's "Peril at ___"). That answer is neck and neck with IN LATIN for Biggest Head-Shaker. Again, there's a clever state pride angle here, but in order for that cleverness to shine, the non-theme fill (which, today, is an enormous part of the grid) has to be, at a minimum, clean. It wasn't.