Friday, August 21, 2015

Friday, August 21, 2015, David Steinberg


I enjoyed this offering from the reigning ACPT "C division" champion. It's a somewhat uncommon grid, with tight passageways from one section to another, but the whole thing flowed pretty well, thanks, in part, to APPLECIDER (5D: Drink sometimes served hot) and BRONXCHEER (29D: Show of disrespect) both being common, gettable-with-a-few-crosses answers.

I enjoy the slanted fivestack of nines in the center. Mmmm.... CLAMBROTH (25A: New England stock)... and 32A: Supreme leader? is a great clue for DIANAROSS. It would be even better if they had been called "The Supreme" instead of "The Supremes," but I think the effect is pretty much the same.

Of the couple of paired clues today, I prefer the "15A: Sea menace" set (PIRATE/ORCA). I also prefer an H on my MOOLA (13D: Kale), and beside that, even with an H, ORBACH (12D: Jerry of "Dirty Dancing") is a pretty obscure name.

But even though it sounds like I'm doing a lot of grousing, I enjoyed this puzzle as I solved it. Maybe because it went by so fast I barely had time to notice the soft spots. As I look back through the clues now, though, I find I have to complain about question marks. Others have been vocal about them before, and I go back and forth on the topic, but today, I side with those who favor fewer. Take "20A: Backing for some U.S. currency?" (LINCOLNMEMORIAL). It's almost a dead giveaway that it will be something depicted on the back of a bill, isn't it? And that takes away a little of the joy of discovery when you finally do get it. A question mark on a clue is like somebody telling you a joke, but preceding it with a long litany of "Boy, you're going to love this one." "I laughed and laughed for days after I heard this." "You'll bust a gut..." ... "14A: Call girl employer?" (AVON), "1A: Place to lead a private life?" (BASE), and even "33A: Underground, perhaps" (HIDINGOUT), where the "perhaps" is basically a question mark, these are funny and unexpected. Or they would be if you hadn't already been set up to start thinking about a perverse answer.

Boy, I really am doing a lot of complaining today. Let's end on a few more nice bits, and then I'll stop NATTERing. 33D: Ear coverings (HUSKS) was good, QUERIED (34D: Asked) is always fun, "52A: States in Monopoly, e.g." (AVENUE) was tough, and would probably have been tougher if I hadn't just gone through the mental exercise of trying to come up with all the property names on a standard Monopoly board when I was out at Huygens' house recently.

Overall, I guess I like it less after having reviewed it, but I still think I come out on the positive side today.


  1. Totally agree with you about the question marks. But even without the question marks almost all of the misdirection attempts here are way too easy. When I read "Place to lead a private life," I immediately thought "army." The switch to BASE was pretty quick. Same for "Supreme leader;" immediately thought of DIANAROSS. Maybe there no question mark would have made it harder. "Not down very much" is another whiff. The way that's worded, the four-letter answer could really only be a verb. CLAMBROTH is a nice lon answer, but that was way too obvious too. Couple other beefs: The Minnesota mascot is a GOLDEN gopher, not just a gopher. The distinction is important to us out here in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. In fact, the mascot's name is "Goldy Gopher." Really; I've met him. And how bad is "Deli item that's 14-Across backward"? Horace, isn't that just a slight variation on your Monday cluing joke that they should just write: "Fill in _ _ _"? Of course, we need such a ridiculous clue since NOVA probably isn't known to anybody except New York City deli regulars. Don't like ORCA for "Sea menace;" it's just a carnivorous mammal. Maybe "aquatic theme park menace" but not "sea menace." I would have preferred a 90s/2000s cyclist to ALDRIN for "Armstrong contemporary," especially on a Friday. One thing I do kind of like is "One may be put in the corner of a classroom. That works for an actual speaker for the PA system, as well as what I assume is the intended sense-- a disruptive student relegated to a chair facing the corner. Dated and pedagogically unacceptable though that practice has been for decades. Thumbs down from this quarter. Way, way too easy for a Friday (I expect Colum to come in with a 5 or 6-minute time!) Also, for me, lacking in entertainment value. David, if you read this, it's nothing personal ;) You still have to your credit my favorite puzzle of the year to date (Sat., March 28). Keep 'em coming!

  2. I also flew through this, although I didn't time it. All of the question mark (and "perhaps") clues were especially easy.I knew Jerry ORBACH right away and filled in DIANAROSS without hesitation. I enjoyed 39A Stab (GORE) and one of its crosses: 37D Square, in a way (REDRESS). I filled in Lock for 6D Security measure at first before getting PIRATE and changing Lock to the correct LIEN, but other than that, this was a pretty easy Friday. I guess that TSHIRTS are shot from cannons somewhere?

  3. 12:55
    Some time spent figuring out that I had mistyped PREENED. BRONXCHEER for the win. I knew Jerry ORBACH. Did you know he played Lumiere in Beauty and the Beast? That fake French accent...