Friday, July 29, 2016
Constructor: John Guzzetta
Relative difficulty: Took me 8:46, so good for a Friday
Word of the Day: SPY KIDS (20A: 2001 fantasy/adventure film with three sequels ) —
Gregorio and Ingrid are the two greatest secret agents the world has ever known: masters of disguise, mavens of invention, able to stop wars before they even start. Working for separate countries, they are sent to eliminate their most dangerous enemy...each other. But in an exotic corner of the world when they finally come face to face, they fall in love instead and embark on the most dangerous mission they have ever faced: raising a family. Now nine years later, after their retirement, having exchanged the adventure of espionage for parenthood, Gregorio and Ingrid Cortez are called back in to action. When their former colleagues, the world's most formidable spies, start disappearing one by one, the Cortez's are forced to take on techno-wizard Fegan Floop and his evil, egg-headed sidekick, Minion. But when the unthinkable happens and they too disappear, unfortunately there are only two people in the world who can rescue them...their kids. -- IMDb
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Not today's constructor's fault, but I've been binge-solving a bunch of old New York Sun themelesses by Byron Walden this week and those things pack a punch. Crazy letter combinations everywhere, unexpected Z's and K's and J's all over, wicked cluing. Just kills it. So while this is a competently written themeless, I didn't get the same kick from it.
The two long 15s are good, TEACHABLE MOMENT (17A: Teen's fender bender, maybe) and BIOLOGICAL CLOCK (54A: Concern in family planning). But then there are a lot of dullish longs like INTERSECTS, ANGLOPHONE, COGITATING, STRENGTHS, and ONE PERCENT. Even the better ones seem a little old-fashioned (GRAY MATTER, CHEST HAIR, THE BEE GEES).
The grid itself is rather compartmentalized, so it felt a bit like solving three different crosswords. If not for the T's in THOUGH and NICEST it would've felt extremely compartmentalized. So not great grid flow. Not very Scrabbly, either -- the Q feels cheap because of QAID (52D: Muslim judge of North Africa) and the only other rare letter is an X tucked away in a corner. Buncha K's and H's, though, at least.
Some good stuff among the middle-length entries: QUICHES, INK BLOT, BAUBLES, CHURCHY, SPY KIDS. But overall this didn't amuse me like the best themelesses do. The only time I had one of those "How can this possibly be right? Do I have an error somewhere?" moment was briefly with SP?KI??. Thought "Nothing fits there, I must have an error," but then the penny dropped (see our Word of the Day).
Grid was very clean, too, as the three worst entries test shows: TORIC, QAID, and maybe BRASI? So not much there to object to.
Wavering between B and B-; let's go with a letter grade of B since it's not the constructor's fault that I stumbled upon this book earlier in the week in a box in my house (we're moving, so lots of boxes around).
Before I sign off for the evening, here's a note from puzzle friend Mike Selinker about a charity puzzle project he's created. Very successful so far -- over 4,000 puzzle bundles sold!:
This week, my team at Lone Shark Games and Humble Bundle launched a major feel-good puzzle project: the Humble Puzzle Bundle. It’s a collection of puzzle books by Patrick Berry, Francis Heaney, Brendan Emmett Quigley, Patrick Merrell, and many other legendary puzzle makers—and you can get them for whatever you want to pay, even a dollar. My book The Maze of Games (electronic and hardback) is in there too, with an all-new hint book called The Theseus Guide to the Final Maze. A lot of the books are brand new, never seen before. Best of all, a big chunk of your contribution goes to charities like Worldbuilders, the It Gets Better Project, and Child’s Play. We wanted to do something fun and positive for the puzzle community, which has been through a lot this year. So if you’d like to get about a zillion puzzles and contribute money to cool charities, head on over to the Humble Puzzle Bundle. I think you’ll be glad you did.
Signed, Matt Gaffney, Regent of CrossWorld for 2 more days
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