Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Wednesday, July 23, 2014, Howard Barkin


Everybody loves a BLANKCHECK (59A: Complete freedom … and a hint to each half of the answer to each starred clue)! The first half of the first theme answer, BODYDOUBLE (18A: *Movie stand-in) "body check" is the least familiar to me. Is that like a physical? Does anyone say that? But there's a bonus, non-starred theme entry TIMEOUT (20A: Toddler's banishment to a corner, say) - "time check" and "check out," (I know all the others come after…) so let's call it even.

The grid has some good non-theme entries, too. I particularly like TOCCATA (38A: Bach work), SWAGGER (32D: Walk with an attitude), ASKANCE (43D: With suspicion, as a look), BARTAB (1D: Tippler's account), and EQUATOR (10D: Where it's always zero degrees) (cute). It's nice, too, to see AGAKHAN (46D: Shiite leader who claims direct descent from Muhammad) in its entirety.

On the other hand, we see the startlingly awful RESEEKS (4D: Tries for again, as an office), and the chunks of threes in the NE and SW aren't too pretty. There's AMB, and DCIV, and can we all agree that we're oh, so tired of seeing ATRA (37D: First razor with a pivoting head) in a puzzle, even if we do learn something more about it with each clue? So, so tired of it.

But on balance, I think this had more good than bad. That's three good puzzles in a row! Now I've really got my hopes up for the turn. Here's hoping it delivers.

- Horace


  1. 6:13. The NW is the worst part of the puzzle, with ARTE (yuck), REOS (tired, and pluralized), and RESEEKS, which I agree is very poor. Not to mention OREIDA! Fortunately the rest of the puzzle picks up pretty quickly. Body check - isn't that referring to hockey? Although maybe not, as I look at it. Best word by far is ASKANCE. It's a lovely choice.

  2. 8:36
    Yes, well, Bach indeed. A body check, I believe, is what people do in hockey when they run into each other and one gets slammed into the side of the rink. I had BACKGROUNDnOise at first before I figured out the theme, then quickly changed it to BACKGROUNDSOUND, which I thought was kind of a stretch. Of course, only one of the crosses worked out of the last five with my original answer, too, so that was a hint that I was wrong. I agree it's time to retire ATRA for a little while. I liked SHORN (33A Devoid of wool, now). I enjoyed the puzzle in general, but there wasn't anything too standout or worthy of note other than the few things that Horace mentions.

  3. Right… body check. I guess I just think of that action as a "check." The one that needs further definition is a "stick check." But ok, I get it.

    1. Sorry, took me a little while to find you here.

      - Huygens is correct on BODY CHECK. It is a hockey term, but more generally in certain contact sports it is intentional contact made to the body in order to impede progress or cause the opponent to lose possession of the ball/puck.
      - C.A.: I agreed somewhat with most your assessment even while constructing this, although maybe "could be better" would be closer than "very poor". I've seen some serious ugliness before in airline puzzles (try partials such as "HE ON" or 2 obscure crossing names, places or words (SFAX by XERES). With that as a metric, that corner could use some spackle and duct tape, but it's still salvageable :).

      - I disliked RESEEKS but couldn't get around it. Would also have preferred an alternative to ATRA.
      These were the concessions made after several rewrites.
      A nostalgic fondness for Tater Tots has me still liking ORE IDA :).
      The toughest part was finding a 15-letter mate for PERSONAL BAGGAGE.
      BACKGROUND AUDIO would have been a better 'check' fit, but it's not a common phrase. While the SOUND version is less common than NOISE, there were enough spoken(to my ears), printed, and online definitions and references to the phrase that I could find to confirm it. And 'sound check' passes while 'noise check' did not.

      Happy solving,
      Howard B.

  4. Hi Howard, thanks for checking in! If airline puzzles are the standard, this one "shine[s] out like a shaft of gold, when all around is dark." And I, too, have a continuing fondness for Tater Tots, and only mind ORE IDA in so much as I dislike commercialism, especially in puzzles. I agree, too, about BACKGROUNDSOUND. It's not an unimaginable phrase, and it works with the "check" theme.

    When, and if, I ever do finish constructing a grid myself, I will probably start to be easier on things like RESEEKS, ATRA, and all other crosswordese, but until then, well…

    Thanks again for finding us! We look forward to seeing your byline again.