Wednesday, July 27, 2016
Constructor: Natan Last, Finn Vigeland, and the J.A.S.A. Crossword Class
Relative difficulty: A-OK for a Wednesday
THEME: RING CYCLE — Theme entries are things with between 1 and 5 rings
Word of the Day: PATCHOULI (13A: Scent in incense and insect repellents) —
Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin (Blanco) Benth) is a species of plant from the genus Pogostemon. It is a bushy herb of the mint family, with erect stems, reaching two or three feet (about 0.75 metre) in height and bearing small, pale pink-white flowers...The word derives from the Tamil patchai (Tamil: பச்சை) (green), ellai (Tamil: இலை) (leaf). -- Wikipedia
• • •
This crossword gets the solver intrigued quickly: you hit 16A and the clue is (Place to find one O) and you say aha! Something is afoot here. Like a book passing the page one test; you want to see what happens next.
The answer there was THE HOBBIT, which does indeed have one O -- but it can't be that simple, of course. Soon you hit the clue for 22A (Place to find two Os) and the answer is VENN DIAGRAM. I got it there, and you probably did, too: these are not the letter O, but rings. The other three are:
CIRCUS TENT (28A: Place to find three Os), AUDI DEALER (40A: Place to find four Os) -- that's the automaker's logo -- and OLYMPIC FLAG (45A: Place to find five Os).
But wait, there's more! A reveal of RING CYCLE (59A: Wagner work ... or a possible title for this puzzle).
That's a nice Wednesday, don't you think? A little mystery, a theme idea you haven't seen before, a wide-ranging theme set, an apt reveal to tie it all together, and a little sense of self-satisfaction that you puzzled it all out.
Not to mention the clues, which are much more vigorous than the past two days. Let's try the best-three-clues test here: BOOYAH (8D: "How do you like dem apples?!"), SAGELY (19A: In a Yoda-like manner), and ECHO (3D: "Hello ... hello ... hello ..."). Also notice the (Snatched) and (Snatches) pair at 52A and 53A for STOLEN and NABS.
A nitpicker might pick the following two nits: 1) Wagner's RING CYCLE contains four works, so having five entries instead of four throws that off a tiny bit. And 2) the number of rings is set for 1, 3, 4, and 5, but a Venn Diagram can have three or four or more rings, so not quite as tight as it could be there. Maybe WEDDING HALL instead? Though perhaps the constructors didn't want to have two wearable rings as 1-2, so a reasonable decision. Very small dings there. And I'm not a nitpicker anyway, so I won't bring these two points up.
The fill is fine in retrospect, but you know what? I didn't even notice it while solving because I was so entertained by unraveling the theme. And incidentally the reveal was at the end, where it was supposed to be, so I got a chance to figure out what was going on before having it made plain.
Trying to decide between B+ and A-, and a final look over the puzzle pushes me to A- because I do dig that little trick with the letter O actually representing a ring. I bet the constructors realized that THE HOBBIT has one O in it, so we'd still go on thinking for a couple more minutes that it was going to have to do with how many O's the theme entries had. Also note the timeliness of the Olympics entry.
Signed, Matt Gaffney, Regent of CrossWorld for 4 more days
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]