Sunday, March 22, 2015

Saturday, March 21, 2015, Frederick J. Healy

Untimed, completed with my mother and Cece in NYC.

Apologies for the delayed post today, but it was a busy day yesterday. We got into NYC at 9:25 PM, completed the puzzle by 10:30, and then off to bed.

I was concerned when I saw the grid: three stacks of three 15-letter answers. And we all know my particular aversion to stacks. I am always disappointed in the short fill necessary to make the stacks work. In addition, the 15-letter answers themselves are typically hit or miss.

Well, I was pleasantly surprised by today's puzzle. Let's take the 15-letter answers first. The first one we were able to get was ONEAFTERANOTHER, and I can thank my mother for that one, because when I asked "What does 'seriatim' mean?", she immediately answered "one after the other." As is typical in a stack puzzle, once you get one of the answers, the others come pretty quickly. Both GETSTOFIRSTBASE and ISTHISSEATTAKEN are very acceptable phrases.

A typical feature of these stack puzzles is that they tend to split up into mini-puzzles, and that is true here as well. Once you solve a section, you have to start essentially anew on the next one. We moved upwards to the middle section, where ORANGEPOPSICLES was the first to fall. That's a thing, I suppose, but not any more of a thing than grape or cherry popsicles, but whatever. TURNEDTHETABLES works well, although I don't think that the clue actually defines it well enough. Yes, if the picked on person goes to picking on the person who bullied them, that's turning the tables, but I initially took it to mean graduating from the hazed to the hazer, which has a much less acceptable tone. ATTENTIONPLEASE is a fine answer.

The top section has JUMPINJACKFLASH, which I ought to have gotten from the clue, but which needed a lot of crosses to figure out. AHOOSIERHOLIDAY is the only 15-letter answer I had no clue about, while NOCAUSEFORALARM is great.  So to summarize, out of 9 15-letter answers, 7 are high quality, 1 is high-medium quality, and 1 is medium quality, but only because I'd never heard of it. That's good work.

The crosses are for the most part also very high quality. I don't like the two "genus" clues (bluegrass, POA; Virginia willow, ITEA). There are a couple of partials, like IAL and ENES, and your typical abbreviations, such as SHAK, EDT, ADAS, and TBA. There's also EFS, which I find questionable. But there's also some fine cluing. 5D: Trooper, e.g., didn't become clear for a very long time (ISUZU). 15D: Service lines? (HYMN) is very good. 28D: Ally in a partnership (MCBEAL) is a nice hidden capital, even if quite dated at this point. 53D: Start of treason? (LESE) is pretty erudite.

On the whole, I was very pleased with this puzzle, and gratified at the point of completion.

- Colum


  1. 40:38, but FWOE

    Thought first of Sympathy for the Devil for 1A, but when that didn't fit, the right answer went in pretty quickly. I think it was as soon as I got the J of JEEP.

    I liked the stacks, too, but I was a little more annoyed than you by the short stuff. And really annoyed by the two genus clues. Also, I didn't know AHOOSIERHOLIDAY either, but guessed it when all I had left were the POA and NISAN crosses. NISSAN, I've seen before, but not POA. But really, at that point, it the book title couldn't have been much else. My FWOE came over at MAGE. I had put in SAGE, and never really understood the MCBEAL (yes, excellent cluing) clue until I was reviewing it looking for an error. Oh well. I've got to be more careful next weekend! One mistake costs a lot more than one extra minute of solving time.

    1. Funny thing about NISAN: both my mother and I misread the clue as saying Lyar, rather than Iyar (Capital I and lower case l looking exactly the same in the NYT font. My mother would immediately have gotten that answer had I pronounced it correctly when reading it aloud.

  2. 45:20
    I normally enjoy the stack-type puzzles, and this was no exception. I agree with Colum on the quality of the fifteens, for the most part, although when I read the clue/answer for ORANGEPOPSICLES to Sue, she wasn't impressed. I put MAGi in at first at 28A, but, of course, iSSES made no sense for 31D Indicators of possessiveness. And I'll say it now: I hate genus clues. The Webster Times puzzles are always rife with them, and they often cross in those terribly-constructed abominations. I loved at least one of the shorter answers: 22A Means of maritime defense (INK).

    1. Yes, I meant to mention INK. Very nice clue that until I was forced to put the K in, I had no idea what it meant.