Sunday, March 6, 2016

Sunday, March 6, 2016, David J. Kahn


Well, I'd call this puzzle a hot mess. First off, I'm not in favor of having theme answers clued by "See blurb," even if in this case it became very clear what the theme was. Second, the answers EVILANTAGONIST and UNHAPPYMALCONTENT are redundancies. Third, Casca? I get all the other Shakespeare characters, but Casca's a pretty bit player as I recall it.

The best of the theme answers is BANQUETGHOST for Banquo, with MACABRETHANE close behind. Perhaps it's because they're symmetrically placed. I guess you could say about the theme in general that when you have character names that are at most 7 letters long, and you have anywhere from 11 to 20 letters to hide them in, maybe it doesn't seem that clever.

There are some other Shakespeare bits scattered around, such as Christopher SLY, BRUTE, SON (82A: Hal, to Henry IV), EER (113A: Always, to Shakespeare) and 83A: Titania or Oberon, in space (MOON).

But really, the main issue with the puzzle is that with 8 long theme answers, there is a ton of short fill, and a lot of it is pretty ugly. 1A: Spokesperson in TV insurance ads (FLO) is pretty painful. I'll give it a F. Commercial representation with random made-up character name. I love 1D: Rude thing to drop (FBOMB). That made me laugh out loud.

How can you have ABC (the television station) and ABCD in the same grid? That's sloppy. TRU, APAT, ITIN, ELOI, DADA, RELO, IONE, ADOS, NEOS. Anyway... AHEMS! I almost forgot that one.

I will also say that ONLINECHAT and VOICEACTOR feel like ad hoc terms. I did like ORRINHATCH (only because his full name was presented, not for his politics) and AUTOSTRADA, for memories of tooling down said roadways from Siena to Roma.

I've been reading The Year of Lear by Norman Shapiro. Outstanding explanation of the historical and political context for the early years of James I's reign, during which Shakespeare wrote King Lear, Macbeth, and Antony and Cleopatra (all in one year!). So I enjoyed the serendipity of coming across the bard's characters. The rest I could do without.

- Colum

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