Ill in Lille / THU 2-16-17 / Religion with public shrines / Five-time grammy-winning duo from the 2010s / Civil war locale beginning in 2011
Thursday, February 16, 2017
Constructor: Keith Redwine
Relative difficulty: Easy (probably more like Medium, but I've seen this exact gimmick before ...)
- [BLACK]BOARD / [BLACK] BEAR
- [BLACK] SEA / [BLACK]HAT
- [BLACK] CAT / [BLACK]MAILED
- IN THE [BLACK] / THE [BLACK] KEYS
The Black Keys are an American rock band formed in Akron, Ohio, in 2001. The group consists of Dan Auerbach (guitar, vocals) and Patrick Carney (drums). The duo began as an independent act, recording music in basements and self-producing their records, before they eventually emerged as one of the most popular garage rock artists during a second wave of the genre's revival in the 2010s. The band's raw blues rock sound draws heavily from Auerbach's blues influences, including Junior Kimbrough, Howlin' Wolf, and Robert Johnson. (wikipedia)
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I can't say anything bad about this puzzle—it seems pretty well made. But solving it made me a little sad because I'd seen it before. The identical gimmick. And that puzzle is one of the few puzzles that has stuck in my mind forever: an example of one of the truly killer themes. It was a New York Sun crossword (ed. Peter Gordon) from (I canNOT believe it's this old) January 11, 2008, entitled "Squares Away" and constructed by Francis Heaney and Patrick Blindauer (read about it here).
Solving that puzzle was a revelation. "Oh, crosswords can do This? Wow." And it was hard—really hard. It never gave you a revealer (like ASYMMETRY here) to *explain* to you that what looks like simply a hard "black"-square rebus puzzle actually uses the "black" squares to bring symmetry back to the grid. And it had *five* "black" squares (one more than today's). Heaney and Blindauer are top-notch constructors and solving their puzzle was formative for me, so this puzzle had no chance. It just seemed like an easier, paler imitation of the one I did nine years ago. I imagine if you've never seen such a thing, it probably looks pretty cool. It did to me once. When the New York Sun had a daily puzzle, it was very often better than the NYT (don't believe me? Ask around). I miss having a daily puzzle so consistently well edited and daring. Peter Gordon is now the editor of Fireball Crosswords (a tough weekly that's well worth your time). I can't believe Will didn't know the Blindauer/Heaney puzzle existed. I guess he didn't care. It's been nine years after all. And the ASYMMETRY revealer is new.
Started in the NW. I knew the Maine mascot was a BEAR and I immediately thought of a sidewalk BOARD for 1A: Menu holder at many a cafe (though clearly a non-sidewalk [BLACK]BOARD was what the clue intended). Since I was sure of BEAR, but the answer was five letters, I thought that one of the squares was to be left blank or skipped for some reason, and started working crosses with that in mine. Turned out the blank/skipped square was square one, and bam, there's the "black" rebus gimmick. About a minute later I hit the ASYMMETRY clue and experienced that sinking deja-vu feeling. Clue on ASYMMETRY made things easy, since it essentially told you where the "black" squares were—find the ASYMMETRY, fix it. Nothing else about this puzzle was terribly memorable to me, although I will say that the grid is admirably clean and sturdy.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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