Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Tuesday, May 6, 2014, Alex Bajcz


A very nice Tuesday puzzle. The theme was well-hidden for most of the solve, and it played more like a themeless, which, frankly, I prefer. Is it just me? Do people need these little themes to stay interested in puzzles? Do constructors like making them more than they like making themeless? What is driving it?? I mean, a great theme can make a puzzle better, but things like vowel progressions, things like this, where the last word of every theme can be connected somehow, and even circles, like yesterday's, well… they aren't all that exciting most of the time. You say, "Huh," and then you move on.

Anyway, today, the almost unexpected revealer PICKUP (47D: Learn … or a word that can precede the ends of 20-, 29-, 44- and 53-Across) finally gave this puzzle meaning and purpose, and there was much rejoicing. By some. I guess. No, that's too harsh. I liked it, really I did. I just wonder sometimes about why we need themes five out of seven days of the week.

But with or without the theme, this is a fine puzzle. It starts out on shaky ground with NES and OLE, but ELICIT (2D: Bring out) saves that NW corner, and then things generally PICKUP from there. PICAYUNE (6D: Paltry), ANIMATE (7D: Bring to life), and TENTHS (8D: Kind of a place to the right of a decimal) (somewhat tortured clue, but still I like it) are all lovely in the North, and there's more good fill scattered all around.

If Huygens liked "ALG," he will certainly also like PRECALC (9D: Advanced algebra class, informally), not to mention BIKINI (32D: Pageant wear, at times). CUTSINLINE, SWIZZLESTICKS, GIZMOS… it's crammed with good fill. I can swallow a lot more IMRE, APIA, and ETAL when a puzzle has so much ZIP. Nice job.

- Horace


  1. 15:55
    I was bogged down with the "A" in the cross of SAKI/APIA; that wasn't too fair of a cross, I didn't think, but I guessed correctly, so it's OK in the end. Yes, I liked PRECALC and the two "decimal" clues (ONES and TENTHS). I think I've seen enough of STYES (64A Eye problems) for awhile, and I was stumped for too long on the "T" of TIL (17A Up to, informally), a cousin of which has tricked me in the past. I did enjoy, though, the double zed in SWIZZLESTICKS along with the requisite crosses of ZIP and GIZMOS, but BALLPIT ruined that section for me. All in all, a good Tuesday puZZle. (I don't mind a theme.)

  2. 8:09. I agree with Horace: a theme can be great when it's tight, but when it's just a raised eyebrow, and it necessitates a whole bunch of less than shiny fill, then you begin to wonder what the point is. I think the theme is helpful for people who aren't crosswordy types to help them with those long clues. OTOH, when it's a theme like this, it's not going to be of much assistance.

    Nonetheless, this is an okay good themed puzzle. I agree it's rough starting out with a stack of 3-letter answers, and I don't like NOTIME. And what's with that clue for ARCING? What do they mean by "a pop-up hit?" That being said, the four long answers are good. Actually, the more I look at it, the less enamored I am. LOOKLIKE is meh, ITISSAID is worse, and CAMEEASY I'm not too fond of. ASSTDA has shown up twice now in recent days.

    Answer of the day is PICAYUNE.

    1. Isn't that just a baseball reference? I agree with the terribleness of ITISSAID.

    2. Duh. Of course it is. Still don't like it.