Bygone dagger / MON 7-11-16 / Material in fire starter set / Like some pond growths / ha ha elicitor
Monday, July 11, 2016
Constructor: Freddie Cheng
Relative difficulty: Medium (normal Monday)
THEME: WOW FACTOR (36D: Pizazz ... or what 18-, 23-, 46- and 56-Across each has?) — theme answers are three-letter phrases where first letters of the words involved are W, O, and W, respectively:
- WAR OF WORDS (18A: Heated argument)
- WALTZ OFF WITH (23A: Take while no one's looking, say)
- WALKS ON WATER (46A: Exhibits a superhuman ability)
- "WAY OUT WEST" (56A: 1937 Laurel and Hardy romp in the frontier)
- very small pieces or splinters of wood.
"their boat was shattered into matchwood against the rocks"
- light wood suitable for making matches. (google)
• • •
WOW FACTOR, I guess (my revealer was probably just S.O.S.). "WAY OUT WEST" seems at least mildly obscure for a Monday puzzle, but with WAY OUT in place, if I'd had to guess (and I did), I'd've guessed WEST (and I did). I'm surprised I finished this in normal (i.e. just sub-3) time today, because I felt thwarted at many turns. Got WALTZ (well, after I got ALGAL, ugh gag etc.), but couldn't immediately come up with OFF WITH. Brain wanted ON PATROL, so ON WATCH took a lot of hammering (9D: Doing sentry duty). Wanted EGAD for 32D: "By Jove!" ("I SAY!"), which slowed things down in the west.
The biggest issue for me, though, was MATCHWOOD. I just stared at the clue [Material in a fire starter set] wondering what any of it meant. What is a "fire starter set?" I googled it in quotation marks and all I got were Lego sets involving firemen. Also, what is MATCHWOOD? (I wondered). I had MATCH and no idea what to do next. As you can see, that WOOD is *the* gateway to the SE corner, so I had the door slammed in my face there. As you can see in the Word of the Day definition of MATCHWOOD, there's nothing about building a fire (assuming that's what a "fire starter set" does; tbh I'm still not really sure).
Fill was subpar a bit too often, with the gangrenous ALGAL leading the way (3D: Like some pond growths). ASSN over SNEE crossing ASWOON is crusty as well. Most of the rest is OK. Oh, plural NOONS? Come on. That's two times in recent memory that the puzzle has tried to pass this off as a word. OOF. Stop. Do better. So the theme seems fine for a Monday, even if the fill seems a little wobbly and bygone. Not bad.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
P.S. here is the problem that you can cause when you dabble in obscure junk like SNEE (15A: Bygone dagger)—since it has an entirely uninferrable spelling, if all those crosses aren't obvious, solvers who don't know what word are doomed:
He's right about SNARF v. SCARF—both are fair answers for 6D: Wolf (down). Now, you and I may think "SCEE ... why would you think SCEE was a word?" But honestly, why would anyone think SNEE was a word? It's not like it pops up in conversation, or print, or ... anywhere. It's crosswordese, therefore I know it. That is the Only reason I know it.
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