Vocalist Flack / TUE 4-28-15 / Common gnocchi ingredient / North of border media inits / Demanding film role preparations
Tuesday, April 28, 2015
Constructor: José Chardiet
Relative difficulty: Challenging (for a Tuesday)
THEME: SQUARE ROOTS (34A: Math calculations exemplified 14 times in this puzzle) — ROOT appear in circled squares, in square-like configurations, 14 times because 14 is … is the square root of 196, which … if you had 1+9+6 you get 16, the square root of which is 4, and there are 4 letters in ROOT and also it's April (the 4th month). Or 14 is a totally arbitrary number. I guess that is also possible.
Word of the Day: STROPHE (61A: Poetic stanza) —
• • •
CBC TOA CTR, just for starters, and I think Why Lord Why? Why will you make me endure this? I want to believe in Providence, but it's hard to have faith any of this is going anywhere good. More than midway on my life's journey I walked into this dark wood and cried out, only Virgil did not come to help me out. He was busy composing posthumous STROPHEs, no doubt (what the what? I have a literature Ph.D. and I know that word solely from French). I just want to stop and note that ATOR is an actual answer that is in this puzzle. I think I lost 20 seconds just gaping at ATOR, honestly. If 14 is a meaningful number of SQUARE ROOTS, or if there is *anything* to this puzzle *at all* beyond the letters ROOT arranged into (rough) squares 14 times, I will listen. I will. Otherwise, I'm just left asking "Why?" The fill suffers so much, and there's no joy here. You Do The Same Thing Fourteen Times. Also, weirdly, the one (and only) solace of a puzzle theme like this *should* be that it makes solving easier, but it weirdly doesn't. Took me almost as long as a Thursday (Normal Tuesday: mid-3s; today: upper 5s). The whole thing is just befuddling.
Does anyone really drink SAGE TEA? And how is PEG a good name for a baseball pitcher? Because pitchers … hit batters? Really? I mean, they do, at times, but with (I'm guessing here) < 1% of pitches, which means that that's hardly characteristic, which means Not A "Good" Name. Or maybe the clue is referring to "peg" as a "throw, esp. a hard throw made in an attempt to put out a base runner" (actual def. at M-W). Let me explain what a pitcher's job is … no, on the other hand, I don't have time. Main point, a pitch is not that kind of PEG. Unless this is some "pitcher" / "catcher" sex thing, in which case … maybe PEG works, actually. But that seems unlikely.
Baby talk is always horrendous in a puzzle, and POO is pretty much peak horrendous. You already made me endure BOOBOOS and then you throw POO at me? C'mon, man. Trying to say something positive today is hard because the puzzle seems contemptuous of the solver. I wouldn't say the puzzle SPIT AT me, but it was definitely indifferent to my pleasure (selfish puzzle!). Ironically, the one answer I liked, largely because it seemed creative / inventive (POOR TAX), was one I botched at first pass. I had the thimble and dog and top hat paying a POLL TAX. I also, improbably given my years of solving experience, completely forgot how to spell Mies van der ROHE. Brain was like "well, it's ROWE or it's ROEW, and it's neither." Thanks, brain!
I asked Twitter to help me out with feedback on this puzzle. (I do this sometimes in the 10pm to 11pm hour when I'm at a loss / bored). Here are some responses I got:
- S. O'Neill writes: "Not sure I could have gotten the top middle if not for the theme answer there. So at least the theme was useful for something."
- P. Stanton writes: "WHY ARE THERE 14 SQUARE ROOTS IN THE GRID?!? THAT'S NOT EVEN A PERFECT SQUARE!!1!"
- But E. Cooper writes: "Wasn't as bad as I was expecting based on your tweet. Overreaction." Asked for further comment: "meh, I prefer my puzzles POO-free but nothing jumps out to me. i think sq rt theme was done recently but not constructor's fault."
- And E.B. writes: "... don't know why 14 of them. 16 would make more sense, but 14 was already way too many, so why not just go with 9? #LessIsMore"
Oh, and maybe you'll find this interesting—the WSJ appears to be getting a daily crossword.
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