Thursday, September 3, 2015

Thursday, September 3, 2015, Merl Reagle


In memory of a beloved puzzle creator, this is a puzzle from 1999. It's a 17x17 grid, with an astonishing 11 theme answers. The puzzle as a whole feels very smooth, as befits an In Memoriam. It feels unfair to critique too much, so I'll just point out a few things I wish were different.

IRONERS and EXILER are words that only exist in crosswords, and therefore routinely make me wince. PREWRAP is an unhappy term, made more awkward by the strange cluing (Do before, as a gift chore). In fact, that was the last word I entered, deciding between WHERE and "there" for 18A. I think this is an example of the bias that comes from a puzzle being rerun 16 years after the fact. "You wanna go there?" was probably not in common currency at the time.

If I were to quibble with the theme entries, it would be mostly on those entries which are already Greek words, like GAMETES and TELEPHONE (which is made of Greek terms, although I suppose the word did not exist in the classical era). I really love ANTIBIAS and FOLLICLES. ENVELOPE pronounced with the extra syllable tickles me as well. Am I wrong to suggest that SPAREUS is more likely to have been a Roman God? NEMESIS is a surprise addition to the theme, as she was the Greek goddess of divine retribution.

The only other term that seems really dated is COURTTV. Does that exist any more? Otherwise, the grid could easily have been published in today's NYT as a new entry.

The way the grid is set up, 1A and 68D are in strange positions. 1A: Small group, as of trees (CLUMP) feels just off. I wanted "arbor" and then "grove" first. Does anyone say "a clump of trees?" I suppose, but I don't. The word is fine, but the clue is not. C-. 68D: "By yesterday" (PDQ) is pretty good, considering it's a 3-letter abbreviation. And it reminds me of my favorite P.D.Q. Bach. I'll give it a B.

- Colum


  1. 18:21
    I thought that WHERE was a little strange. Makes sense since it's such an old puzzle. I enjoyed the theme, but agree with the troubles that Colum mentions. I liked BOOZER and, of the theme answers, MANACLES the best. I thought that 45A Peeping ____ (TOM) was a nice way to enter that answer into the grid (but we'll see more of this in Friday's puzzle, which I've now finished). I liked, also, 58A Butler's last words (ADAMN), but should we be seeing JAI or ALMA in a Thursday grid? 11D Hawaiian goose (NENE) reminded me of the road signs telling us to watch out for said fowl on the various islands, and 29D Get through work (EARN) is a nice bit of misdirection. KEA pairs well with the aforementioned NENE. 66D String between B and F is one of those "Write CDE" here clues, and also should not be in a later-in-the-week puzzle.

  2. 16:35

    I just finished this one, having saved it to do with Frannie. That, however, never happened, so I thought I'd better catch up.

    I confidently entered "Copse" at 1A, and left it in almost until the end, despite a complete lack of traction up in the NW.

    What more to say? I thought it was funny that you, Colum, said that "You wanna go there?" was not in common currency, because of the answer that was common currency back then, but not today - LIRE. Heh.

    The REPRONUNCIATIONs were amusing. Nice to see TOM in the grid so much. :) And yes, ADAMN was great. My last thing in was some part of MCHALE. I actually tried "Nelson," but I think he was a major...