Sunday, May 24, 2015

Sunday, May 24, 2015, Kevin G. Der


FWOE (32:24)

No theme is worth this.

But let's talk about the theme first anyway. In a 23x23 grid (big for a Sunday, I think) we get eight very long down answers, two 14-letters, four 19-letters, and two 20-letters, each of which hides, not necessarily in consecutive order, the names of well known cities. The cities, San Francisco, New York, London, Suez, Bombay, Calcutta, and Yokohama, are organized in a west to east fashion as you would on a world map, split at the International Date Line. Turns out which cities have been chosen is an important point as well.

Next, to make things more complex, there are 25 circled letters, which spell out "Around the World in Eighty Days. It is clever that the starting and ending points of the book's title are in the long clue that contains London, as that is where Phileas Fogg starts the titular journey. The pathway outlined by the letters is not an attempt to recreate a map of the world, thank goodness. Fogg visits each of the cities listed above in the course of his circumnavigation. Which explains why Suez (at only 500,000 population, the smallest of the cities by several hundred thousand. SF is next at 875,000, and all the others are over 3 million), and why Mumbai is called Bombay. Finally, as an extra touch, JULES VERNE is in the puzzle at 1D and 141D.

The long answers are, for the most part, completely acceptable. SAINTFRANCISCOLLEGE is pretty obscure, but I was able to infer it relatively easily. THENEWYANKEEWORKSHOP ran from 1989 to 2009, so that's recent enough, and it's a nice complete title. I don't like the "one's" in LETTINGONESHAIRDOWN. LEMONSQUEEZERS is fine, despite the unnecessary plural.

BORNTOBEMYBABY and THELONGKISSGOODNIGHT are both acceptable in their entirety; the former made it to number 3 on the Billboard top 100, although I didn't recognize while listening to it just now. The latter I never saw, and it gets a 67% on Rotten Tomatoes, so that's not terrible.

YOUKNOWWHATIMSAYING is a nice piece of vernacular. SPECIALCOURTMARTIAL is exactly what the clue says: a midlevel military trial, rather than a summary (for minor misconduct) or a general (for major crimes). So overall, the theme does exactly what it sets out to do, and it's pretty clever, and clearly a lot of hard work.

The downside is the huge (and I mean immense) amount of junk you have to slog through in order to get there. There is no section of the puzzle that is free of stuff I do not ever want to have to see. And how many of them cross each other? FANON and RAO?! (The A was my FWOE). NAHUM and OSH?!?! UHOH, OHOK and OOH; NABE, YAWL, KCAR; ERIN, ERIS and IRIS; EROO; UHURA right above OHARA. I could go on. And on. And on. I did not enjoy it.

A few clues that raised my spirits a little: 89A: Act the rat (GNAW) - I was looking for "tell". 91A: It's folded before a meal (TACO). A Mikado reference (KOKO). 154A: One following an order (FRIAR), without any annoying question mark. 162A: Do a body scan? (OGLE). And the best one of all: 125D: A neighbor (GSHARP). That's fine stuff, there.

- Colum

1 comment:

  1. DNF (60:23)
    I disagree that GSHARP was the best one; clearly it was OGLE. Anyway, there was way too much nonsense starting at 40A and going down to 77A for me to fill that section of the eastern seaboard in. I mean NYRO? NOSOAP? UDE? ROTA? and what's that clue for RADIATE (42D Send off)? No good, and once I went over an hour I decided to call it. I also didn't know the YAWL/WEEB cross or the aforementioned (by Colum) NAHUM/OSH and FANON/RAO crosses. This was not a fun Sunday puzzle.