Like some truths and flames / TUE 9-29-15 / Railroad engine, in old lingo / Minnesota range known for its mining of metal / Sure winner in blackjack
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
Constructor: Kurt Krauss
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: AGES of man -- Each theme answer begins with one planetary age
- STONEHENGE (17A: *English rock group?)
- ICE BREAKERS (24A: *Many party games)
- IRON HORSE (37A: *Railroad engine, in old lingo)
- SPACE NEEDLE (52A: *Seattle tourist attraction)
- BRONZE STAR (62A: *Medal for bravery, maybe)
- AGES (69A: A very long time... or a hint to the starts of the answers to the five starred clues)
The Mesabi Iron Range is a vast deposit of iron ore and the largest of four major iron ranges in the region collectively known as the Iron Range of Minnesota. Discovered in 1866, it is the chief deposit of iron ore in the United States. The deposit is located in northeast Minnesota, largely in Itasca and Saint Louis counties. It was extensively worked in the earlier part of the 20th century. Extraction operations declined throughout the mid-1970s but rebounded in 2005. China's growing demand for iron, along with the falling value of the U.S. dollar versus other world currencies, have made taconite production profitable again, and some mines that had closed have been reopened, while current mines have been expanded. (wikipedia)
• • •Hi, my name is Ben Johnston, and I'm your guest blogger today. Unlike the people who have been ably filling in for the past few days, I have zero experience with crossword construction. I'm a high school English teacher in Edmonton, Alberta, and my only crossword connection is that I got hooked on them last year and solve a lot of them. It's EERIE... almost like there weren't a lot of volunteers to blog a Tuesday puzzle, am I right...?
Actually, this isn't bad for a Tuesday puzzle. As has been noted here before, the problem with Tuesdays is that while they're supposed to combine the cleanliness of a Monday puzzle with the higher challenge of a Wednesday puzzle, AS A RULE they tend to be puzzles that aren't clean enough to be Mondays and aren't interesting enough to be Wednesdays. In this case, the theme works well enough... the answers are nicely varied, they're all real things, and I didn't spot the connection until I got to the revealer. It might have been more elegant to have the ages appear in actual chronological order, but otherwise it works nicely.
Unfortunately, while the theme is fine, the fill is weak. This is a very choppy grid -- except for the themers, there's nothing longer than seven letters. I was honestly surprised to discover that there were only 76 words here, because it sure felt like more when I was solving. I guess once you've settled on IRON HORSE as your only nine-letter theme answer, you're pretty much splitting the grid in half across the middle. And the accompanying string of 3-letter downs (IF I, ENG, SHE, SOO, EON) made for a pretty unpleasant midpoint in the solve.
I don't recognize the constructor's name, but there's an assortment of bad fill: random foreign words (CHERE, TRES, MES, NUEVO), abbreviations (SRS, BVD, RDA, OSS, USMA), and iffy partials (KEPT OUT, URGE ON [which I keep wanting to pronounce like STURGEON], COLOR IN). That last one is almost saved by its clue -- 25D: Fill with a Crayola, say. I'm torn on DOOR ONE (3D: "Let's Make a Deal" choice)... somewhat against my better judgment, I think I like it.
- 48A: Minnesota range known for its mining of metal (MESABI) — By far the most obscure thing in the grid (at least from my Canadian perspective). And it crosses the terrible ACE TEN (49D: Sure winner in blackjack). Side note: I was in Vegas for the first time this summer, did the math wrong on an ACE, and accidentally hit on 21. And I drew a TEN, so I won anyway. What can I say, I'm not used to drinking free screwdrivers...
- 40D: Mornings, for short (AMS) & 61D: Evenings, for short (PMS) — Yeah, putting these right next to each other doesn't save them. None of the grid is what you would call clean, but that whole SW section is particularly brutal.
- 30A: ___ Joe's (supermarket chain) (TRADER) — We don't have these in Canada, but we were at one in Vegas and it's great!
- 66A: Dillon or Damon (MATT) — What a lovely excuse to include this excellent trailer for the upcoming film version of The Martian.
- 10D: Denali's home (ALASKA) — Timely!
- 54D: Lyric poem (EPODE) — I wanted ELEGY.
- 1D: One checking you out (CASHIER) — Great clue.
- 26D: Like some truths and flames (ETERNAL) — Another good one. In fact the cluing in this puzzle is solid across the board.
Signed, Ben Johnston, Tutor of CrossWorld
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