Thursday, August 14, 2014

Thursday, August 14, 2014, Jason Flinn


Well, this was a toughie! Even though we have learned that "-" clues mean that the answer will be a continuation of a previous entry, it still took us until almost the very end–when we had all but the beginnings of those words on the left side–before we finally broke through. And then it was over in a flash.

One thing that held us up for a good long while was my guess of "Mr. Ed" for 19A: Lovable 650-pound TV character (GENT/LEBEN). It felt wrong from the moment I put it in, really, because we wanted DOLEOUT for 3D: Apportion, but I didn't see what else it could be until we finally got SHOPA/HOLIC (12A: One who gets a charge out of charging?), which Frannie had wanted from the moment she read the clue, and then everything started to fall into place.

Anywhoo, I guess it's a cute theme, even if it does trouble me a little that, in the first place, I think of the structure more as an "overpass" than an "underpass"–the "underpass" part is pretty much just a result of building the "overpass,"–and in the second place, there is nothing "under" there at all. We are to just accept that the words have a giant gap in them. I guess it would be very hard/impossible/totally unfair to create a grid where letters were simply assumed, but still, it troubles me.

The concessions to the theme were heavy in places - HUS (Czech reformer Jan), ABT (13D: N.Y.C.-based dance group) (?), HEL (15D: Daughter of Loki), and NOMAN (29D: Another name for Odysseus) (tough!), for example, but I guess that's to be expected, though not relished, in a puzzle this complex. And there were some good parts, too. I enjoyed the very easy TOOSOON (41D: "We're not joking about that yet"), and I like ANOMALY (33A: Outlier) and this use of REPAIR (6D: Withdraw (to)).

I guess in the end this is one of those puzzles that I enjoy not because it sparkles with WIT (57A: Wordplay, e.g.) (although ASL (61A: One way to see a talk, for short?) is very good), but because it presents a strong challenge. Thumbs up.

- Horace


  1. 44:03
    It took me at least 35 minutes to figure out the theme, and then, as Horace mentions, it was over in a flash. The erroneous erR instead of MAR at 30A had me stumped at 5A Divide by zero in a computer program, maybe (ERR) because it wasn't a Webster Times grid so there couldn't be two answers the same in it. (As an aside, the grid in the local Smart Shopper yesterday had two clues, both down, right next to each other that were ABET (I can't remember the clue, but it was nothing special) and "Plural of ---" (ABETS): poor. They were offset by one letter so that other words could be easily made of the arrangement, but still, poor.) I liked the reference to the First Lady's campaign against OBESITY, and also the two long answers: ELEVATEDHIGHWAY and RAILROADTRESTLE. The former because Boston was oh, so excited when the elevated highway was put in (before any of our times, I think), and the latter because of "trestle," which we don't hear often enough. I, being a fan of the GD, also like a mention of Delilah and LSD, so thumbs up from this camp, too.

  2. Around 36 minutes. I too was very late to the party with those "-" clues. I loved this puzzle, mostly for the many great longer answers. Frannie's SHOPAHOLIC was terrific, as was the ANOMALY that Horace has already mentioned. I also loved CITROEN,, DELILAH, OMICRON, GENTLEBEN--what a blast from the past!-- and OBESITY. I wonder if our friend Huygens got "One side in college football's Iron Bowl" immediately, as I did. In fact, that was the first answer I filled in. ALABAMA is always nice to see since it reminds me of my favorite song (and of course I don't mean "Dixie" or whatever their silly fight song is). Nice to see DELUISE in the puzzle. I haven't thought about that funny man in quite a while. As Ho notes, there was indeed quite a lot of three-letter dreck, but in exchange for the quality fill, I'll take that any day. Finally, I see the point about the underpass thing. How cool would it have been if the answers that went "under" were all 15s and the middle five letters just weren't there? Hmmm, seed of an idea for one of my next batch of puzzles . . .???

  3. One more thing, NOMAN was one of my favorite answers. So erudite! How many solvers would know the details of that episode with Polyphemus?

  4. 16:39. We (Cece, Hope & I) stared at the UNDER for a while before the second half struck us. I think it's awfully clever. I agree with you Horace - no way to have words hidden under the UNDER PASS. We giggled for a while that maybe the answer to 56A (Reflexive response to an accusation) was simply "IDIDN..." as the speaker quickly cut themselves off from self-incrimination.

    ABT is the American Ballet Theater, which we really should have gotten more quickly as Phoebe's into all that stuff. For Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn we went from "boys" to "lads" and finally PALS. I love NOMAN (I was trying to think whether there was a Latinate version of Odysseus' name). Cece immediately knew what it was referring to, ET59. Overall I liked it, although I dislike that huge stack of 3-letter answers the grid necessitates.

  5. Cece is not a typical child. Also, I recently read about Polyphemus, but it was in the Aeneid, and in Latin, so "Noman" was not used.