Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Wednesday, April 27, 2016, Jeff Stillman


One wonders, when seeing today's byline, whether or not it is, itself, a pen-name, to go along with the five male pen-names that make up this puzzle's theme. ELLISBELL (17A: Pen name of the female author of "Wuthering Heights") was used by Emily Brontë, ISAKDINESEN ("Out of Africa") by Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke, ROBERTGALBRAITH ("The Cuckoo's Calling") by J. K. Rowling, GEORGEELIOT ("Silas Marner") by Mary Ann Evans, and ANDYSTACK (True Detective stories) by Ann Rae Rule.

I did not know all of these, so I looked them up in Wikipedia, and it was interesting to see how the names are treated. In the write-up about "Out of Africa," for instance, there is no mention whatsoever of the name Isak Dinesen. In the write up on "Silas Marner," there is no mention of the name Mary Ann Evans, and for "The Cuckoo's Calling," the explanation is in the very first sentence. There's a thesis topic in there somewhere, kids, and you have my permission to go ahead and use it.

I applaud the theme, which I'm guessing probably started when Jeff Stillman (notice I opted not to use a personal pronoun here) discovered that ROBERTGALBRAITH was fifteen letters. What a happy coincidence that four other names could be placed symmetrically!

Now, let's get to the rest of it. Do you feel, as I do, that Mr. Shortz is trying to legitimize ALLOK (7D: "No problem here") by running it two days in a row? I'll give him that one, but CIRRI (65A: Wispy clouds) is a stretch. I actually do use the word cirrus, but I think of it as a collective noun. No one I know - not even those who will happily call MLI an ANNUM - would refer to those wispy clouds in the Latin plural.

Aside from that, though, and MINIM (19A: Tiniest bit), and maybe BARONY (41D: Noble's domain), and a few other standbys, the fill is decent. 1A: Grand Canyon, notably (CHASM), I will give a B+. And I will choose to believe that 1-Down was originally clued with "Noted crossword constructor and blogger Jeff ____." :)

I liked the feel of DIBS and CAVED, they contrast nicely with CARP and HIES. Overall, thumbs up.

- Horace


  1. 12:42
    OK theme. HAIKU is nice to see in there (whatever happened to that project?), but not a whole lot else that's great. I also don't like CIRRI, correct as it may be (cirrus clouds is more often heard). Did you notice that iviES fits where VINES belongs? I guess that's pretty good. Decent clue for OBITS. ALLOK must go.

  2. 8:46
    This is a fine theme. I too am impressed by finding the symmetric pen names. Perhaps this is why ANDYSTACK showed up, way out of line with the recognizability of the others. I like OBITS, although I think we've seen that clue before.