Saturday, July 30, 2016
Constructor: Lily Silverstein
Relative difficulty: 11:36, slightly tough for Saturday (not a humblebrag, just telling you my time)
Word of the Day: ALSTON (29A: Charles who created murals for Harlem Hospital and the American Museum of Natural History) —
Charles Henry Alston (November 28, 1907 – April 27, 1977) was an African-American painter, sculptor, illustrator, muralist and teacher who lived and worked in the New York City neighborhood of Harlem. Alston was active in the Harlem Renaissance; Alston was the first African-American supervisor for the Works Progress Administration's Federal Art Project. Alston designed and painted murals at the Harlem Hospital and the Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Building. In 1990 Alston's bust of Martin Luther King, Jr. became the first image of an African American displayed at the White House. -- Wikipedia
• • •Eerily similar to yesterday's puzzle: competently written, very clean, perfectly pleasant to solve...but lacking much punch, noticeably un-Scrabbly, and highly compartmentalized. The clues were more interesting than yesterday's, though, so this is safely a B instead of on the line between B and B-.
The three showcase answers are fine but not more: CHANCE MEETING (32A: Start of many a romantic comedy), A HUNGER ARTIST (34A: 1922 Kafka short story), and PLATELET COUNT (35A: Hematologist's measure).
That 34-A is a nasty trap; raise your hand if you plunked METAMORPHOSIS down there like I aaaaalmost did until I hesitated since my hazy memory was that that's a novella or novel. I vaguely recalled the right answer, but even at ?HUN?ERARTIST I wasn't sure. THUNDER ARTIST? Finally the A fell into place. But not a story I recall reading and 11 of 13 letters are Scrabble 1-pointers, so kinda meh. 11 for 13 also on PLATELET COUNT.
Once you had the center nailed down it was a matter of knocking out the four peripheral sections one by one. As with yesterday, not good grid flow since it plays like a series of mini-puzzles. All four are pretty snappy, though, and feature pleasantly wicked cluing, especially the SW corner, where FISTS was (Sparring partners?), AMOEBAS are (Slide presentations?) and BIT PART is (It doesn't have much to say). Nice.
To illustrate the cleanliness of the grid let's apply a five-worst-entries test: ITAL, ENG, ALBA, SIM, ABA. So that's good. Best fill was CHALK UP TO (32D: Attribute as the cause of), amusing TINA FEY (18A: "Mean Girls" screenwriter), AEROSOL CAN, RIGHT ANGLE, and PAPER THIN. Which are all good, but as a best-of list in a themeless, a little underwhelming; none is really a marquee answer.
Letter grade of B.
Signed, Matt Gaffney, Regent of CrossWorld for 1 more day and then Rex is coming back and we're all gonna be in trouble! Let's clean the house really fast and nobody tell him about the lawn parties.
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