College in Down Under slang / WED 3-30-16 / Flopper in basketball / Part of insects body that holds legs / Calvin Hobbes conveyance / Arcade game played on incline / Trumpet guitar effect
Wednesday, March 30, 2016
Constructor: Andrew Reynolds
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: CLIMATE CHANGE (34A: Environmentalist's concern ... or a hint to the circled letters) — contiguous circled letters are, in four different answers, a jumble (or "change") of the letters in "CLIMATE"
- CHEMICAL TESTING (17A: Some lab work)
- MEAL TICKET (2A: Source of income)
- DIRECT MAIL (49A: Like some ad campaigns)
- SATELLITE CAMPUS (56A: School branch)
Erik Thorvaldsson (Old Norse: Eiríkr Þorvaldsson; 950 – c. 1003), known as Erik the Red (Old Norse: Eiríkr hinn rauði), is remembered in medieval and Icelandic saga sources as having founded the first Norse settlement in Greenland. The Icelandic tradition indicates that he was born in the Jæren district of Rogaland, Norway, as the son of Þorvald Ásvaldsson, he therefore also appears, patronymically, as Erik Thorvaldsson (Eiríkr Þorvaldsson). The appellation "the Red" most likely refers to his hair color and the color of his beard. Leif Erikson, the famous Icelandic explorer, was Erik's son. (wikipedia)
• • •
here's a CHANGE OF HEART puzzle from three years ago. Anyway, you get the picture. You can probably imagine a lot of phrases around which one could, theoretically, build this type of theme. This one is solid, for sure, with very decent theme answers. But it was a bit of a letdown to solve because you get the gist of it right away—I actually got the revealer before I got any of the themers, but even if I'd uncovered CHEMICAL TESTING first, I would've known *right away* what the revealer was. This happened to me today with a different puzzle in a different paper, where, one answer in, I not only knew the revealer would be BREAK BREAD, but I could easily go down and fill in the other "broken" breads, just by inference, with no crosses or anything (PITA, RYE...). Conceptually solid, this one is—a serviceable example of a well-worn concept. But the AHA came early, not late, and it came as an "Oh, you again," not a "Whoa, who are you!?"
Longer Downs in the NW and SE corners are nice, actually. I do want to say something about some subpar short fill here, not because it's particularly bad today (it isn't; not particularly). I want to be clear that when I grouse about stuff like ASSN, CUL, AAH, OTIC, -IER, SSE, LOC, ATO, TOBE, etc., first, it's not that any one of those is a dealbreaker (though honestly -IER is close). It's that when they pile up, they become irksome. And second, they become more irksome the easier the grid is to fill. If the puzzle is not terribly theme-dense, then these kinds of one-star answers should be at a bare minimum. In a theme-dense puzzle (esp. a very good one), I can put up with more. In a sparkly themeless, I can put up with more. But in a fairly ordinary themed puzzle, I expect the constructor to polish The Hell out of the grid. Just so we're clear.
I did my first ever Twitter poll tonight. Just a one-hour poll asking readers which is the better cross: TEAM / -IER (which is actually in this grid) or TRAM / IRR. The results aren't as surprising as my mild change of heart (!) about the vast superiority of TRAM / IRR. Hang on, let me check the final results now ... Well, with 7 minutes left, and 58 votes in, TRAM / IRR. is still crushing, with 74% of the vote. But puzzle whiz Jeffrey Harris claimed that IRR. was a "crossword invention," like SOR. for "sorority." I find IRR. a perfectly normal abbr., having seen it on clothing tags in outlet stores when I was growing up. Or So I Thought. Trying to find visual evidence on line is proving well nigh impossible. I still believe that abbr. is legit, but Jeffrey, as usual, appears to be something other than wrong. So while I'm still #teamtram (as opposed to #teamteam), I'm less indignant than I was at the choice that was made in this grid.
Lastly, it's worth noting, in case you didn't catch it up top, that ERIC the Red appears to be an ERIK, in actuality. Is this a fudgeable spelling? Strikes me as at least mildly IRR.
Lastly lastly, if you mentally reparse NORSEMEN, you might get a phrase that makes you giggle like the 8th grader that
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]