Sunday, July 26, 2015

Sunday, July 26, 2015, Ellen Leuschner and Jeff Chen


There's an awful lot to like about this puzzle, but there are also a few flaws that come close to being fatal. Let's take it one element at a time.

First of all, the theme. I figured out what was going on when I got to 44D: Tire hazard (POT[HOLE]). I had already filled in 36D: Tax dodger's discovery (LOOP[HOLE] - and I'm not sure that clue is exactly correct - after all, loopholes are legal), but initially assumed that it was some weird shorthand. I like this kind of theme in general - we've seen variations on it in the past.

But it definitely got better when I got to the East side of the central hole and realized that gravity had turned the answers backwards. That's a nice piece of crosswordery, if I can coin a word. Obviously, the answers in the South section go from bottom to top as well. The twelve examples of words or phrases ending in [HOLE] were all acceptable examples.
I also like the four long theme answers that relate in some way to black holes. HEARTOFDARKNESS,  FATALATTRACTION, and CENTEROFGRAVITY all act as sideways definitions of the phenomenon, while DISAPPEARINGACT is more of a description of what happens if you get too close.

So I liked the theme quite a bit. The fill worked for the most part. In fact, the puzzle was a bit of rapid romp for me, up until I hit the SW corner, which seemed like it was at a level of difficulty higher than the rest. Of course, if I knew that LEANNRIMES had written that song, it would have been easier. ORAN was unusually clued with reference to Casablanca. ENID was a name from Arthurian legend I was not familiar with.
But the fatal issue was this: 108D: "Darn!" (DRAT) had already been filled in. Then you get to 87A: "Aargh!" (DARNIT). That's not allowed. And it would have been so easy to fix by cluing 108D with something like "Curses!" 87A was not made easier by the arcane plural of IAMBI. That's acceptable, apparently, but it's not the standard choice. It should be iambs, and I'll stick to that.

Otherwise, there's good stuff elsewhere in the grid. 13D: Change places (COINPURSES) is fun. 28A: Remove a piece from? (UNARM) is clever, although I'd prefer "disarm". 93A: 50 or more people? (AARP) is also nice, except for the fact that you start getting mail from an association designed for retired people at the age of 50.
KRAKENS is a great word (although I thought it was a singular beast, not given to running in herds, as there was supposed to be only one). Weird to see SCALA without "la" and LATOSCA with it. Typically we would have cross-referenced the one to the other, except this time they're talking about the original French play instead of the Puccini opera. Speaking of which, I got my classical fix with DEBUSSY.

22D: Greens ___ (FEE) got a "huh?" from me: apparently it's the fee to golf. OHMAGE is also a head scratcher. I understand it's referring to the unit of electrical resistance. I'm pretty sure nobody outside of electrical engineers use it.

A mixed bag. I wanted to really like it, but the SE made it untenable in the end.

- Colum


  1. I'm more on the positive side of this one, despite the flaws you delineate. I really wanted it to be IAMBs too, and the fact that it isn't slightly diminishes what is really a fantastically clever and unusual clue. A few other things I liked: the singular RESIDUE for the plural "remains;" PARASAIL, CHERUBIM, and the floral definition of "mimosa" (ACACIA) after we just had the drink a day or two ago. Things I didn't like: the 31 (I think--I kept getting different counts, so eventually I gave up) 3-letter entries, which included CDC, ONS!, TKT, AGT, ETS, ANE, ANS!, OTT (not Mel), EKG, ISL, HEE, ING, ENT, the always lovely ASS, and AOK. Ugh!! I omitted BTW since it's at least modern and GSU because I don't have a big problem with well-known college initials. Also wasn't crazy about PEDXING, although I suppose that exact lettering is on a fair number of signs. For me, the very nice two-pronged theme makes this a thumbs up-- not just barely, but certainly not resoundingly.
    P.S. I agree with you, Colum, about LOOP(HOLE).

  2. I also enjoyed this one, although I completely agree with Colum about UNARM and the "darn" thing. I didn't know LEANNRIMES, but once I got that the SW filled in. The theme was right up my alley, both on the science side and with my enjoyment of these kinds of twists in a puzzle. Sue was very upset about the backwards and upside-down words and doesn't know why people would make a puzzle like that.