Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thursday, November 28, 2013, Loren Muse Smith and Jeff Chen


Happy Thanksgiving, reader! Frannie and I hosted for nine, and had a wonderful time. It's a miracle, really, that I'm still conscious, but while I am, I will make use of these final waking moments to review the puzzle that Frannie and I did together late last night.

First off, the 14x16 grid looked very odd on the iPad mini. It didn't fit into the space allotted to it, and in the margins is visible blurred text, as though the puzzle were merely scanned from the paper itself and simply inserted into the software. That's not the case, I don't think, which makes the newsprint odder still. But that's really quite immaterial, is it not?

The SNAKESONAPLANE (61A: Cult classic whose title is depicted four times in this puzzle) seems a little ill-advised on a weekend when half the country is travelling, but the execution, with "ASP" appearing directly over different types of flying machines, is kind of cute. The fill, however, was not my favorite. PAS (1A: Not for the Parti Qu├ębecois?), for starters, bothered me. "Pas?" I'm no native speaker, but it just doesn't seem right to me. Wouldn't "Contre" be better? And then ISPS (4A: Comcast and CenturyLink, in brief), ETAS (8A: Terminal info), ODE (12A: Words of praise), and RIAA (13A: Org. that fought Napster) (?) all right in a row? That's not a great start.

The clues for HANGGLIDER (34A: One interested in current affairs?) and SEMINARY (41D: School at which students are collared?) were nice, and I always enjoy a chess-type clue like 6D: Future queen, maybe (PAWN). Also, I learned a little about old toothpaste brands and the name of yet another small antelope. But even with all that, and a nice Latin clue (63D: Bellum's opposite (PAX)), I still found this puzzle bland and full of crosswordese. I think maybe they figure a lot of people won't be doing this puzzle because they will be, as I will be in a minute or two, lying on the couch in a food coma.

- Horace


  1. Horace, I think you may be missing the intent of "Not for the Parti Quebecois." All it means, I think, is the word that members of that party use to mean "not." I know pas almost always comes in a package deal with "ne," but apparently there are times when "pas" is used alone. You and Frannie would certainly know a lot more about that than I. I found this puzzle extremely easy for a Thursday. And I must admit that it was something of a letdown after yesterday's Thanksgiving theme. I agree with you about the poor fill. Way too many egregious plurals: ASSNS, ETAS, AMS, ERS. And, yeah, what the hell is RIAA? Like the clues you highlight in your last paragraph, also absolutely love 25-Across "Base of a certain pole, figuratively." I too marked "Future queen, maybe" for distinction. One of these times I am going to remember that cottonwoods is ALAMOS. That was my only write-over on this one. I saw AL and tree and filled in "alder." BIKO is sure a name from the past, huh?

  2. 50 mins.
    I starred the PAWN clue, also, and I liked 19A Out, in a way (UNDER). After figuring out the theme and finishing the puzzle I was wondering what type of flying machine a "met" was, until I realized that the answer for 42A Gang Green member was NEWYORKJET, then it all made sense. The mention of BIKO reminded me, of course, of Peter Gabriel's song about that subject.

  3. Didn't time myself on this one, as I did it with help from my brother and mother while preparing Thanksgiving dinner in NYC. I completely missed the theme, thinking that somehow the first part of each long answer was a kind of snake ("brown", "hang", "New York"... that last one really made me question my theory). I liked LOWMAN, like et59, and SEMINARY was definitely well-clued. My oldest brother immediately supplied RIAA as he works in the business. It stands for Recording Industry Association of America. All in all, this one seemed like more work than it merited.

  4. et59 - Perhaps you're right. I never even considered it being a cryptic clue, and yes, "Pas" can be used without the "ne." There are a few times it can be done with specific verbs, but frequently that type of use is in conversational (slang) speech, and in incomplete sentences. Again, I might just not know certain things about its usage, but (with apologies to Frost) I think I know enough of French to know that for the puzzle, "pas" is not so great, and won't suffice.

    And yeah, BIKO is old-school. As is Peter Gabriel.